MARLINTON, W.Va. (WBOY) — Want to stay the night in an 80-foot fire tower on top of a mountain? An old Monongalia National Forest fire tower in Webster County is under construction to become a new overnight tourist attraction.
The Red Oak Tower is on top of Red Oak Knob near the Cranberry Wildlife Management Area. The 80-foot tower was built in 1964 to replace a 30-foot tower at the site that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934, according to the Mon National Forest website. The current Red Oak Tower is made completely out of metal and is the newest standing fire tower in the Mon Forest. It is also the second-tallest tower in the Mon Forest, second only to the 100-foot Olson Tower on Backbone Mountain in Tucker County.
Matt Edwards, Recreation Manager of the Monongahela National Forest’s South Zone, told 12 News that the Red Oak Tower project is approximately 80-90% complete. Although there is no official opening date yet, Edwards said that he hopes that the rental can open for the 2025 season, which generally starts in April.
In addition to renovating the 12×13-foot cabin at the top of the tower, forest officials have also added an RV pad and hookup at the bottom of the tower. Edwards said it gives people who might not feel comfortable staying 80 feet in the air a chance to enjoy the site.
Edwards clarified that the tower cabin will have electric outlets and lights and that there will be a bathroom for the site on the ground.
Those who want to stay in the tower once it opens in the next few years can expect to pay roughly $75-100 per night, pending approval, Edwards said.
Although at one time there were nearly 100 fire towers across the state that served as lookouts for forest fires until the 1970s, fewer than a dozen remain today, Edwards said.
“The opportunity to restore sites on the Monongahela National Forest has been taken on with enthusiasm by both Forest staff and partners. The goal is to restore the Red Oak Fire Tower so that it may be utilized as a recreation rental site for the public to enjoy while becoming better connected to the past.”
Edwards said that partners like HistoriCorps, Appalachian National Forest Heritage Area, Appalachian National Forest Heritage Area Hands On Team, AmeriCorps and US Veterans “have all been instrumental” in the restoration.
So far, those partners have completed phase one, which included painting, caulking, installing flooring, replacing windows and repairing tower footers, and phase two, which included some roof repairs, installation of safety fencing along the stairwell and repairs to doors, and contractors have installed lightning protection and additional lighting.
As part of the project, the Forest will also be installing educational signage and interpretive displays explaining the role the fire tower played in the Forest Service history.
Currently, the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower in the Seneca State Forest offers a similar opportunity to spend the night in a converted tower, but due to high demand, stays in it often sell out a year or more in advance. And at only 65 feet, the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower is not as tall as Red Oak.
Other old fireman’s lodging in the Mon Forest, such as the Hopkins Mountain Fireman’s Cabin, are also available to stay in overnight starting at $75 per night.