The early 1900s saw an epidemic of forest fires across the White Mountains. In 1903, 10% of the forests in the White Mountains burned. At that time, there were no fire lookout towers, communication systems or even an organization to fight forest fires. The Weeks Act of 1911 authorized the Federal Government to partner with the State of NH and NH Timberland Owners Association to cooperate in controlling the menace of forest fires. The unified effort trained and equipped firefighters and established fire tool caches around the state. Fire lookout stations were constructed to detect fires early and phone lines were built for communication. This all contributed to preventing the small fires from growing into large conflagrations.
The fire look-out towers kept an eye on the forests with overlapping coverage across the mountains. After World War II, airplanes became the preferred tool in fire detection, and towers were gradually phased out. Today, the summit of Kearsarge North, which is also called Pequawket, is home to one of the few remaining federal fire towers in the White Mountains. The original tower was built in 1909 and was replaced by the current structure in 1951. This tower operated until 1968, and was placed on the National Historic Fire Lookout Register in 1991. Today, the tower is open to hikers for 360 degree views, some of the most spectacular in the White Mountains. The trail spans 3.1 miles from trail head to the 3,251 foot summit and is a moderate to strenuous hike.
Directions to Next Site:
The next stop on the Weeks Act Legacy Trail brings us to a testing ground for forest management. Return to Route 16/302 and follow it north/west 3.5 miles to where the roads separate at an intersection in Glen. Continue straight at the traffic light, staying on Rte 302 west for 6.2 miles. The Bartlett Experimental Forest will be on your left.