Round Top Mountain's forest fire tower sits on top of a windswept knoll aptly named Buena Vista Peak.
At 8,575 feet above sea level, the solitary structure overlooks the much of the 72-mile-long Yampa River Canyon in Dinosaur
On June 2, the National Historic Lookout Register, maintained by the American Resources Group of Washington D.C., honored
Round Top's lookout for 50-plus years of seasonal fire watch.
"The Colorado-Utah Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association and the National Historic Lookout Register recognize the
many years of fire-watching from this place," said Susan Epstein of the Association. "Round Top Mountain's lookout oversees
hundreds of miles of resources in three states."
The view encompasses a panorama to the north of Flaming Gorge in Wyoming, east and south to the Bears Ears and Blue Mountains\
in Colorado and west to Utah's High Uintas.
Early fire rangers at the Round Top lookout were John and Jean Polhamus. In 1953, they began their fire-watching career when
there was no tower, just a plywood cabin.
The winds, according to Jean Polhamus' journal entries, were brutal.
"Everything was held down by a piles of rocks, but the cabin was bolted to the rock. Behind the cabin and some distance away
were the remains of a previous cabin which had been blown apart by the wind. Very little was left," she wrote.
A series of fire-watch rangers for Dinosaur National Monument have operated the tower over the years, including Steve
Rasmussen in the 1980s, whose children beat hours of tedium by building a stone memorial.
The plaque "Deeds, not stones, are the true monuments of the great" is set on top of their monument overlooking the cliffs of
the Yampa River at Castle Park some 3,000 feet below.
Today, tower ranger Phil Schultz, who has manned Round Top's seasonal fire lookout since 1990, says accommodations have
In 2002, the old cabin was replaced by a newer structure that stands 20 feet above the cliffside, with a mobile-home trailer
at the base.
Over the years, fire-watching technology has changed. Satellite phones, radios and cell phones assist in early detection.
As does an electronic repeater powered by solar panels situated at the base of the Round Top tower.
Still, romantic solitude remains.
Susan and Lenny Epstein of the Colorado-Utah Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association met and married over a season of
fire-watching in the early 1970s while acting as fire spotters in northern California.
Through it all the trials of operation have changed and the duties of the fire lookout remain the same. From their high
vantage point much of the day is spent surveying the landscape for the telltale smoke of fire.
Access to the Round Top fire tower is not open to the public because the roadway crosses private land. Still, the tower may
be seen from the roadway Moffat County 14 that traverses the Yampa Bench below.