About Us

Although the group is called the Friends of Clay Butte, we feel the website should focus on Clay Butte Lookout Tower. We do not actively recruit members to join the Friends, but rather ask people to support the tower through donations of time, money or other skills they may have. We operate under a partnership agreement with the Shoshone National Forest, USFS office at Cody, WY. 

Our Mission

"to preserve and protect the tower and provide staff to keep the tower open for visitation by the public"

The Friends of Clay Butte and the Shoshone National Forest recently received notice that Clay Butte Lookout Tower was approved for listing on The National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation and protection. Many steps were involved on the road to the listing. Information about the tower was compiled; Historical consultants prepared the nomination; the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office reviewed and approved it before forwarding it to the National Register for consideration.

The history of Clay Butte Tower spans more than sixty years. In 1942, Civilian Conservation Corps crews constructed the road to the tower and may have begun construction of the tower. Supporting documentation of the actual construction has been difficult to find. The need for military personnel at the onset of World War II caused the closure of CCC camps in the area. In 1943, Shoshone National Forest Service crews laid a phone line to the tower, completed its construction and Clay Butte Tower began operations as a fire lookout. 

Although Clay Butte Lookout tower once played a major role in fire detection and suppression, modern fire detection methods reduced the need for fire observation towers. No longer needed, the tower ceased operations as a lookout around 1975.

Because of its proximity to a road and the lore of fire towers, Clay Butte Tower was an ideal choice for a visitor attraction. In 1963, an addition housing an interpretive fire display was completed. The tower was open to the public for several years until loss of funding caused it to close once again. In 2006, the Shoshone National Forest formed a partnership with a volunteer group, The Friends of Clay Butte Tower. Their mission is to preserve and protect the tower and provide staff to keep the tower open for visitation by the public. After almost sixty years in a harsh climate, the tower needed major repairs. In 2011, the Shoshone NF acquired funding and supervised restoration work on the tower while maintaining the historic character of the building.

This historic fire lookout is located in the Beartooth Mountains on the Clarks Fork District of the Shoshone National Forest. The volunteer staff welcomes the public during the short Beartooth summers. In addition to the panoramic view from the glassed-in upper deck, visitors can observe the operation of an Osborne Fire Finder, used to establish the exact location of a fire. Contact the Wapiti Ranger District in Cody during the summer season for information regarding hours of operation at the tower.

The Lookout now serves as an interpretive center, and summer volunteers are generally onsite to interpret Clay Butte Lookout to visitors.