Osborne Fire Lookout Panoramas

The Osborne Panoramas

Between 1933 and 1935, the Forest Service in Oregon and Washington undertook an ambitious project to collect high quality panoramic photos from every fire lookout in the region. The survey crew carried their 75-pound, custom built camera to 813 sites. At each station, the crew collected at least three 120-degree photos covering the entire horizon. The project's goal was to increase the effectiveness of fire suppression by providing a communication aid between fire lookouts and ranger stations.

More than 80 years later, the photos are an invaluable record of the effects of management on ecosystems across the Pacific Northwest. The Nature Conservancy, with funding provided in part by the Oregon Department of Forestry, is working with photographer John Marshall to scan and eventually retake many of these photos. Comparing the historical photos with those from today, like the one on this page looking at the south side of Mount Hood, show the forest has undergone dramatic changes.

The photos on this website were scanned by John Marshall from the National Archive in Seattle. John plans to revisit many of these sites to retake the panoramas soon. Until then we encourage you to use the photos and table pages to explore your favorite places and see what they looked like in the 1930s.