Fire tower project needs summer volunteers

Photo by Dion Ogust

If you like climbing mountains, love talking to people, and relish spending time above the treetops, think about joining the Catskill Fire Tower Project as a Volunteer Interpreter this summer.

The Catskill Park is home to five fully restored fire towers. Located on Balsam Lake Mountain (in Hardenburgh), Hunter Mountain (near Hunter), Overlook Mountain (just outside Woodstock), Red Hill (in Denning) and Mount Tremper (near Phoenicia), they once played a key role in detecting and pinpointing the location of forest fires. Modern fire-spotting techniques have replaced them. The structures fell into disrepair and deteriorated; by 1990, New York state had declared all five off limits. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers who supplied everything from engineering expertise to building skills, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and nonprofit groups including the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, they were all restored and reopened in 2000 and 2001.

Today, the soaring, 70-foot-tall structures offer visitors stunning 360-degree views of neighboring peaks and the surrounding landscape, as well as a thrilling “climb back in time.”


Volunteers (about 90 in all) work in pairs to meet and greet visitors and answer their questions about the towers, the Catskill Mountains, and related topics. Each volunteer works a minimum of three weekend days, plus a day or two of on-site training, during a season that runs from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

The trails leading to the towers are all moderate hikes of one to three miles. Volunteers may hike in and out on the same day or stay overnight in summit cabins.

Volunteering for the Catskill Fire Tower Project is a fun and fulfilling way to meet people, share the experience of the beautiful Catskill Mountains, and help preserve a key piece of Catskills history.

For more information, email or call the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development at (845) 586-2611. Web site: