Towers used to be at the top of a lot of Maine mountains.
When I was a kid, my grandfather took me up Chick Hill in Clifton for the first time. We treated it like it was pretty much a Mt. Everest expedition, as far as out level of preparedness. I had a canteen, a knife, a first-aid kit, a whistle, and a survival blanket.... for an afternoon "hike" up the hill. I even have a photo...
When we got to the top, the thing that I thought was the coolest wasn't the view, or how high up we were. It was that I could actually go 30 feet higher, because there was still an old lookout tower at the top. It had been de-commissioned years before, but there was still a tower with a ladder, and a platform at the top. I felt like the king of Maine up there. Sadly, it's long gone now. Although, there's still a killer tower in Bar Harbor too.
Times have certainly changed.
That's because lookout towers, much like lighthouses, were one of the first things to go by the wayside as certain kinds of technology came into being. Lighthouses no longer needed people to keep them lit, and lookout towers no longer needed people to scan the horizon for flames. As fire detection technology grew, the need to have folks in towers diminished.
And now, it's the towers themselves that are going away. Over the years, there have been 144 manned lookout towers across the state. Now there are 3. And it's hard to say how often people are actually in those towers. But the state is just maintaining these three down in southern Maine. There are still over 50 standing around the state, according to FireLookout.org, but they are no longer in service. And for whatever reason, just haven't been torn down.
Maybe most of them are gone, but I know a lot of folks like myself, still think they're pretty cool. So follow the Forest Fire Lookout Association Facebook page. They are a steady resource for what is going on with all the standing towers around the state. And exploring a bit of Maine's history is a great reason to get outdoors and do something this summer.