Gunderson Mountain Lookout Site
Elevation: 1,200 feet
Gunderson Mountain is a low lone mountain rising just north of Forks and the former site of a fire lookout. In 1947, a road to the Gunderson lookout site was cleared and constructed before winter set in, so it would be ready by the 1948 fire season. In 1948, a 75 foot surplus Navy steel tower with a 14- x 18-foot ground house was erected on Gunderson Mountain, establishing use of radio communication for the first time in our area. (Annual Report of the Division of Forestry).
During the Great Forks Fire of 1951, Glen S. Merchant was working the overnight shift as a fire lookout at the State Division of Forestry post on Gunderson Mountain. He was an expert woodsman, trapper, hunter, and legendary fly fisherman; reportedly, he once fought off a cougar with a fishing pole.
That night at about 3 a.m., Merchant surveyed the scene from his observation cabin. He looked across the Sol Duc River Valley to the Calawah Ridge and beyond that to the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. Roughly 18 miles northwest from Forks, the horizon was glowing red. Merchant reported the fire to John LeRoy MacDonald, the district warden for the state forestry division. It started at Camp Creek, and it was believed it originated from the smoldering remains of the Sol Duc fire behind Heckelsville which burned that summer.
The summers of 1964 and 1965 the lookout was staffed by Linda Pickering. The lookout was described by her as a seven-foot square viewing cab on top and a tiny little wood cabin below. Getting up the lookout was memorable as there were two 40 foot sections of straight-up ladder.
The lookout was gone by 1969 and dismantled, but the location remains an important location as a repeater site to help with better radio communications in the West End.