Jersey Jim: Experience the high life

Online auction for lookout tower nights raises funds for library

Jersey Jim is an historic fire lookout tower. Enlargephoto

Courtesy Photo

Jersey Jim is an historic fire lookout tower.

Have you ever wished you could spend the night, along with up to three of your favorite people, in a historical fire lookout tower in the San Juan Mountains with incredible views? The Mancos Friends of the Library once again presents an opportunity to win a night at the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower! There are two nights available: Friday, Aug. 9, and Saturday, Aug. 10. Place bids now by going to www.mancosfriends.org. Bidding has already started and closes at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.

These nights are hard to come by and the Jersey Jim Foundation has generously donated these nights to the Friends. All proceeds benefit the Mancos Public library and its programs.

More information about the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower can be found at our display in the library or call the library at 533-7600.

Here is a description of the history and what it's like inside the tower from the USDA Forest Service Website:

A Room with a View

Live a little bit of history and enjoy the incredible views of the Four Corners with an overnight stay at the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower. Formerly used by the U.S. Forest Service to spot wildfires, the live-in tower rises 55 feet above an aspen-lined meadow at almost 10,000 feet in elevation.

History

The Jersey Jim Lookout Tower is named after an early cattleman who ran Jersey cattle in the area. Today, cattle are still grazed in the area under permit. Many nearby trails were established by loggers seeking timber or by miners accessing hard-rock ore deposits in the La Plata (Spanish for silver) Mountains. Hesperus Peak, a sacred mountain to the Navajo Nation, is visible, as is Sleeping Ute Mountain of the Four Corners. The Jersey Jim Lookout Tower was home to U.S. Forest Service fire lookouts from the 1940s to 1970s. Historic log books chronicle their experiences.

The tower was renovated and saved from demolition in 1991 by the Jersey Jim Foundation, a nonprofit local volunteer organization, which operates and maintains the tower under permit with the San Juan National Forest. Rental income is earmarked for maintenance of the facility to offer this unique experience to the American public.

What to Expect

Guests should be in sufficient physical shape to negotiate five flights of stairs with 70 steps at high elevation. Some people experience a touch of vertigo ascending or descending the stairs and arriving upon the deck. Once inside the cab, or living quarters, most are at ease.

Be prepared for high-altitude weather. Summer daytime temperatures average 75 degrees but can drop as low as 40 degrees at night and during thunderstorms. Spring and fall temperatures are cooler, and snow and hail can occur even in summer. The cabin is grounded so lightning is not a danger if you are in the cab and not touching anything metal.

The one-room tower cab includes the original furniture, and propane heating and lighting. However, there is no electricity or running water.

A sink, propane refrigerator, and oven/stove are in the kitchen area. The dining table seats four, and there's a double bed, and dresser. With windows all around, views are 360 degrees.

In the middle of the cab is the historic fire finder, which early lookouts used to spot fires, and which you can use to orient yourself to surrounding landmarks. In the cabinet below are materials offering information about the tower and the area.

There is no water available at the Jersey Jim, so plan to bring your own. Water is available from a hand pump at the Transfer Campground four miles before the tower on Forest Road #561.

Services are available in the nearby town of Mancos.

How to Get There

The tower is 14 miles north of Mancos on Forest Road #561, a gravel-surface forest road accessible to two-wheel-drive vehicles. Watch for livestock and wildlife, and keep speeds under 30 miles per hour. The San Juan National Forest Recreation map is recommended for specific directions.

Popular trails on the San Juan National Forest, which are accessible from Forest Road #561, include the Sharkstooth, Gold Run, Transfer, West Mancos Canyon, Box Canyon, Chicken Creek, and Aspen Loop trails.

As you drive up, you will be following the western slope of the La Plata Mountains. At the Transfer Campground, you may want to make a stop at the West Mancos Canyon Overlook to take in the view or walk the nearby Big Al Trail, which leads to a deck overlooking the same canyon.

Safety

Because the cab and deck are 55 feet off the ground, visitors to the Jersey Jim do so at their own risk and must observe the following safety rules:

Groups occupying the tower overnight are restricted to a maximum of four persons, including at least one adult over 21.

Children under 8 years old are not allowed on the tower.

Smoking, alcoholic beverages, drugs, fireworks and firearms are not allowed in or around the towers.

Overnight guests have access to a stove and refrigerator for their stay in the lookout tower. Enlargephoto

Courtesy Photo

Overnight guests have access to a stove and refrigerator for their stay in the lookout tower.