Volunteers Needed to Preserve the Historic Harkness Peak Fire Lookout in Lassen Park

Although most historic fire lookouts aren’t in service anymore, Lassen Volcanic National Park still has a working and is looking for volunteers to help preserve it.

HistoriCorps is looking for two groups of volunteers for five-day sessions working on the historic Harkness Peak Fire Lookout. The volunteers would be provided with everything needed on this intermediate-rated job throughout the week.

Here are the details of the job from HistoriCorps:

PROJECT PARTNER:  Lassen Volcanic National Park

SESSION DATES:  September 15-20  |  September 22-27

ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE TIMES:  Plan to arrive between 5pm and 7pm on the first day of your project session. Because of the extra time required to hike in and out of the jobsite, we will plan to end the session around 5pm on the last day of the session. We may start work earlier than 8am to take advantage of cooler temperatures.

PROJECT DIFFICULTY:    This project receives an “orange” difficulty rating because of the steep hike to and from the jobsite daily.

LOCATION:  Our campsite is located on on the edge of the wilderness that contains the lookout, and we will hike up to the lookout each day, carrying our own water and personal gear. The path to the lookout is steep – climbing 1,300′ over 1.5 miles. An adequate level of physical fitness is required for this project. Email volunteer@historicorps.org with any questions.

GOOD TO KNOW: No prior experience is required. HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, and equipment for volunteers on this project. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to and from the lodging site. If a project requires a commute, we will plan to carpool to and from the jobsite. More general information is at the bottom of this page. 

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. The majority of project costs are covered by our project partners and grants, but as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Project Site Description & History

When we got the chance to preserve an active fire tower lookout located just inside a wilderness in this Northern California national park, we couldn’t say no! According to the National Park Service, “Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes.” Though most historic fire lookout towers are not in service anymore, the Mount Harkness lookout is still staffed and utilized. We plan to camp near the trailhead to the lookout, and hike in to the project site daily (about 1.5 miles one way). The path up to the lookout is steep, and volunteers should ensure their physical fitness is adequate for this project before registering.

Lassen Volcanic National Park amazes and perplexes visitors with its incredible array of geologic and other and environmental features. The park’s jagged, seemingly unsteady landscape is entirely formed by volcanic eruptions. In fact, each rock in the park originated from a volcano. The park’s volcanoes have been active for more than three million years, and they aren’t dormant yet: only one hundred years ago, Lassen Volcano erupted! Check the park’s real-time seismic activity as measured by USGS here.

If volcanoes aren’t enough to attract you, the park also boasts hydrothermal areas. Just reading the park’s list of these natural features – “roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), thumping mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground” – will remind you of the science-fiction classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Be sure to take time before or after your project session here to enjoy a long hike through this stupendous park! 

The goal of this project is to preserve the park’s Harkness Peak Fire Lookout Tower. Though most historic fire lookout towers are not in service anymore, the Mount Harkness lookout is still staffed and utilized. We plan to camp near the trailhead to the lookout, and hike in to the project site daily (about 1.5 miles one way). This scenic commute will certainly be one to write home about! The path up to the lookout is steep (climbing 1,300′ over 1.5 miles), and volunteers should ensure their physical fitness is adequate for this project before registering. We will carry our own water and personal gear in and out daily.

Scope of Work

Volunteers will work alongside expert field staff to learn the skills necessary to undertake and accomplish this significant preservation project.

  • Remove and repoint failing mortar – 50%
  • Replace deteriorated running boards on catwalk – 30%
  • Repair deteriorated window trim â€“ 10%
  • Repair deteriorated door frame and door jamb – 10%

Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.

The fire tower has gained some modern features, like solar panels, but its historic character has been preserved over the decades!

Brokeoff Peak towers over the park, just one of many stupendous features. Photographed by Flickr user Don Graham.

Logistics & More

  • Read our Volunteer FAQ! If you still have a question that’s not answered there, above, or below, please email us at volunteer@historicorps.org. We’re always happy to help.
  • Once you register you will receive an auto-confirmation in your email inbox. If you do not receive this confirmation, contact us at volunteer@historicorps.org to let us know. 
  • Each project session has one volunteer slot for a Kitchen Helper. If you’re interested in lending our Crew Leader & Camp Chef a hand in meal preparation, choose the “Kitchen Helper” position when you register. Kitchen Helpers are welcome to participate on the preservation work if they like, but are not necessarily expected to.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own tent or other sleeping setup (unless indoor lodging is provided), as well as sleeping gear and other personal gear including sturdy work clothes and work boots. Volunteers are also responsible for their own transportation to and from this project. 
    • Note: If you have a large RV/trailer, please contact us to confirm that your rig will fit in the available space. 
  • All volunteers are required to review and agree to the HistoriCorps Waiver & Release and Code of Conduct during the registration process.
  • We help you prepare for your preservation project through providing a “pre-arrival packet” via email. The packet contains a lot of information like: logistics, safety precautions, a suggested packing list, benefits for volunteers, and more.
  • HistoriCorps projects are multi-day sessions, where you will develop your skills over the course of the session, as well as build camaraderie with your crew and make a significant contribution to the preservation of this building. We can only very occasionally accommodate volunteers who require a shorter session. Please email us at volunteer@historicorps.org for more information.

We are always ready to answer your questions. Once you register, expect us to be in touch a few times before your project begins to confirm attendance, offer advice, and share updates. Thank you always! Really, we can’t do it without you.

Register Online

We are so glad you decided to join this project’s crew! Please choose your preferred session below:

After registering, you should receive an auto-confirmation via email. If you do not receive this confirmation, please contact us at volunteer@historicorps.org.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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