The observation tower at the top of Thunder Mountain is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and completely open to the public. This fire tower is 100-feet tall, with a viewing platform at 80-feet.
Due to the abundance of forests in Missouri, the state began putting up these fire towers on ridges and hilltops. They allowed people to see for miles, keeping a lookout for lines of smoke that would indicate a forest fire. These wooden fire towers began going up as early as 1927 in state parks, but there were not a lot of them.
The History of Missouri's Fire Towers
The federal government got involved in the 1930's. They put the Civilian Conservation Corps to work building over 50 towers made of steel in Missouri's national forests. This was a great improvement, but there was still much land, both in the state forests and private areas, that was not visible.
In 1939, money became available from the federal government that was allowed to be used for fire protection outside of national forests. The Missouri Department of Conservation started buying land to put new fire towers on. They eventually erected 31 state fire towers.
A lot of these new towers had to be made from wood, due to the limited availability and restrictions on steel because of World War II. The fire tower above Bridal Cave was one of the first two of these built in the Lake of the Ozarks area. It was completed in early 1942.
There was a small, 7-foot square cabin at the top of these fire towers. The were only big enough to hold a small heater, since most fires happened in the dry, colder months, a stool for the tower man to sit on, and on Osbourne Fire Finder. The Osbourne device is what the tower man used to determine the location of a possible fire. He then had to climb down the tower to phone a dispatcher with that location. The phone was located in the tower man's house at the base of the fire tower.
Eventually, steel replaced the wood. The new towers would arrive as kits that had to be bolted together and mounted on concrete footings. In the mid-1980's, many fire towers were no longer necessary. Airplanes could cover much more ground. Once the pilots spotted a smoke line, it was easy to radio the location to the local fire department quickly. Still, on days that the planes are unable to fly for one reason or another, the fire towers that are still standing come in handy.
Stop by & enjoy the view!The fire tower at Thunder Mountain Park is one of the few remaining in the lake area. Visitors are invited to climb to the observation deck and enjoy the breathtaking view that it offers. The next time you are planning to be in the Camdenton area, we highly recommend taking a trip to the tower. This is just one of the many unique reasons that our fun, family attraction at the Lake of the Ozarks stands out among the rest.
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526 Bridal Cave Road
Camdenton, MO 65020