The Dee Wright Observatory And Viewing Tubes

Sep 20, 2016 1 comments

Google Maps and GPS tracking apps are of great assistance when hiking in the wild, but they still fall short when it comes to identifying distant landmarks such as mountains and peaks.

A clever solution to the problem is a “viewing tube” consisting of a metal tube welded to a rigid object, such as a pole, and pointing towards the distant landmark. When a viewer peers through the tube, he sees the landmark through the other end. Ingenious, isn’t it?

This is what a viewing tube looks like.


Photo credit: leloupdujura/Imgur

This particular viewing tube is located somewhere in the Swiss mountains. As you can see, there are a bunch of tubes attached together, each labeled and pointing towards a different peak. Similar viewing tubes can be found at many other locations around the United States, positioned at vantage points on popular hiking trails such as those near Mount Whitney and Mission peak in California, and Brigham Butt in Utah.


Viewing tubes in the Swiss mountains. Photo credit: leloupdujura/Imgur


A viewing tube near Mt Whitney. Photo credit: Research-Indicates/Reddit


Mt Whitney through the viewing tube. Photo credit: Research-Indicates/Reddit


A viewing tube near Brigham Butte. Photo credit: bolhuijo/Reddit

The Dee Wright Observatory, located at the summit of McKenzie Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, is an observation structure consisting of a number of “viewing tubes”, among other things. Built of lava stones, and located in the midst of a large lava flow, it resembles a tiny mediaeval castle.

The observatory has a number of small windows cut on the sides through which views can have exceptional views of a numerous Cascade peaks — Mount Jefferson, Cache Mountain, Dugout Butte, Black Butte, Bluegrass Butte, Black Crater, North Sister, Middle Sister, Little Brother (and ridge west), Condon Butte, Scott Mountain, South Belknap Cone, Belknap Crater, Little Belknap, and Mount Washington. If weather permits, you can even see Mount Hood, Bald Peter, Green Ridge, and Horsepasture Mountain.

Aside from the viewing windows, the observatory has a 36 inch diameter, bronze azimuth-like "peak finder" to help visitors locate nearby geologic features as well as the surrounding mountain peaks.

The observatory was built during the Great Depression by a Civilian Conservation Corps crew, and named after the construction crew’s foreman who had died the previous year after serving 24 years as a Forest Service packer and crew foreman at Camp Belknap.


Photo credit: Kirt Edblom/Flickr


Photo credit: Tinkurlab/Flickr


Photo credit: George Bremer/Flickr


Photo credit: Greg Willis/Flickr


Photo credit: Michael/Flickr


Photo credit: Kirt Edblom/Flickr


Photo credit: Jeremy Riel/Flickr


Photo credit: Greg Willis/Flickr


  1. I think the photo caption should read Brigham Butte... :)


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