A brief history of the Sproat Mountain Fire Tower and the club’s involvement in it.
In September of 1939 a trail was constructed to the top of Mount Sproat above the town of Arrowhead and just south of Revelstoke. In the summer of 1940, the first fire lookout station was established in the form of a tent being erected for the lookout man. In 1948 an 8ft x 8ft prefabricated lookout building and cabin were purchased for $600 and $400 respectively and was transported up by pack horse and remained in use until 1955 when the present building was flown up by helicopter and assembled for use by a Forest Service carpenter crew in 1956. 1964 saw a road completed to the tower for use by four-by-four vehicles only. The lookout was managed by the Arrowhead Ranger District until it was closed in 1968 due to the flooding of the High Arrow Dam. From 1968 until the lookout was finally closed in the 70’s it was operated through the Revelstoke Ranger District.
It had been suggested that the club ‘take over’ the road to the tower. Fortunately two club members were flown up to the tower by the Revelstoke Forestry Museum who wanted to take the fire finder out. They then hiked back down to check out the road and to see if any sections of it had been washed down the mountain. It was still all there but very overgrown. In 2002 after discussions at club meetings it was decided to apply for permission to reopen and restore the road but only through official sanction of the Ministry of Forests. The application was made and was initially well received. There was some opposition and concern about ATVs in the alpine. Face to face meetings with MoF resulted in a draft plan of responsibilities the club would have to meet. These were:
Stay on trail signs installed.
A Section 105 restriction at the tower to eliminate use of areas beyond the tower by ATVs and motorbikes.
Water barring the trail.
Policing of the area by the club.
Educating users of the importance of keeping on the defined trail.
These were accepted and we then entered into an agreement with RSTBC to clear the road and maintain the tower.
Over the years the club has lived up to those responsibilities and has put a considerable amount of time and effort into bringing the trail back into usable condition. Safety of course being our utmost concern, a lot of work was done on the crossings at creeks and avalanche paths, as well as having pullover locations on the trail itself. Grants were applied for through various organizations such as the National Trail Coalition, Tourism Infrastructure, Columbia Basin Trust, OHV Trail Fund, ATVBC and the Revelstoke Credit Union. Work proceeded on the trail.
In the meantime, once we had accessed the tower, it was determined that it should be better maintained and throughout the years a few painting work parties were formed. Various repairs to the tower were done as well as the installation of new stairs in 2019. But over the years we could see that a more professional paint job was needed, so with that in mind, in 2022 we contacted Gord’s Painting, a local company, to see if they would be interested in doing the job. We managed to talk them into coming to the top of the mountain with us and looking over the project. We thought this would be very interesting for him, painting an isolated and not easily accessible fire tower. At first, he was very hesitant but with assurance that we would take him and his crew up each day and stay with them throughout the day, he agreed. We also were in touch with Dave Ottenbreit Construction, another local company, to come up to the tower and look over the floor damage. He was keen on taking part in this repair. In the early part of summer, 2023 (part of our agreement was not to access the summit until July 15 as this is grizzly bear spring habitat) we took the painting contractor up and got started on the job. Scraping, undercoating, sanding, grouting the cracks and spaces in the cement foundation blocks and more painting both outside and inside. Four days later this part of the renovation was completed. And as promised, we stayed with him throughout the day and gave him some help.
The next part of the job was to repair the floor. This proved to be a little more work intensive, especially getting the plywood to the tower. After removing all the old linoleum, it was determined that the old floor was not in bad shape, but a new layer of plywood would strength it even further. A flight was arranged with Glacier Helicopters, a local helicopter company, to airlift the materials to the tower. This of course, was weather dependent. When the day finally arrived where the weather cooperated with us, a couple of members took their side by sides up and were there when the chopper delivered the plywood. A week or so later the contractor came up with us and we got busy getting the new plywood laid as well as patching the hole in the floor by the entrance and weather-stripping the door. It took only the day.
RSTBC had also hired Moraine Recreation to design informational displays for the tower. We worked on the design of these displays with the company through 2021 and 2022 by providing historical documentation and feedback to them. Once the displays were received in the Revelstoke MoF office, we transported them to the tower. A couple of weeks later the owners of the company hiked to the tower and installed the displays. These were very professionally done and added that extra touch. A flip book with historical information about the tower was also added to the displays. About a week later we were back at the tower putting it in order. Adding a second coat of paint to the floor, installing the fire finder, putting other items such as the old single bed frame back into place, painting the shutters and generally getting it all back together. So, after over 900kms in eleven trips up and down Sproat, the job was completed.
Since 2015 we have received $65,000 in grants, not including RSTBC direct spending along with our in-kind contributions during the same time period being just over $32,000 for a total investment in this project over the past 8 years of almost $100,000.
The work over the past 8 years on this project alone has put us into more of a caretaker mode and less of an active maintenance mode.
The care and maintaining of the trail and the tower itself has been at times a challenge but it has also been an accomplishment by having the chance to restore this historic building of a past era. It has brought together members of the club for a common purpose, gained us considerable respect from the community and has established a good relationship with RSTBC.
We welcome visitors to the tower, the trip is certainly worth it but please keep in mind that riders should have at least intermediate skill levels to do the trip as the trail goes through open steep paths, tight switchbacks, some of which may require a 3+ point turn depending on the size of the unit being operated. Remember it is NOT a race and there is no prize for getting to the top first. Use caution, be careful and you’ll have a very enjoyable day. Allowed use on the trail includes motorbikes, quads and side by sides. On- highway type vehicles are not allowed under the Forest and Range Practices Act, Forest Recreation Regulations. A sign has been installed by RSTBC at the trail head. There is also a hiking trail adjacent to the motorized trail for those wanting to hike up.
So, make the trip, enjoy what we have accomplished, you will not be sorry.
Sproat Tower Project – Submitted by Ron Laroy & Bob Holland – Revelstoke ATV Club