Tamarack Lookout Cabin offers outdoor enthusiasts a cozy cabin with epic views atop Tamarack Mountain. The cabin can accommodate four guests, and awards a unique opportunity to view miles of the Umatilla National Forest from sunup to sundown.
The site was originally used as a fire detection lookout. The original structure was a platform built on a high tree in 1925. It was replaced with a 96-foot Aermotor tower in 1933, and a neighboring cabin was built to house Forest Service employees. A utility shed was also built. When the cabin burnt down in 1966, the shed was converted into housing. That same shed is where guests can stay today. The tower is also still standing, and visitor are welcome to climb up and enjoy the view.
At 4,979 feet above sea level, Tamarack Mountain overlooks the John Day River basin, between Spray and Kimberly. The lookout and the mountain it tops are named after the western larch, a tree that is particularly fruitful in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains. Western tanagers and dusty flycatchers frequent the area and purple-blue spikes of lupine, white and pink yarrow and yellow balsamroot add bursts of color to the landscape.
Over 26 miles of trails throughout the Heppner Ranger District can be accessed from the cabin for hiking or horseback riding. Plentiful fishing opportunities abound in streams, Penland Lake and Bull Prairie Lake. Many roads are open to off-road vehicles, and 28 miles of designated trails are available. Other activities include hunting, wildlife viewing and bird watching.
Winter recreation is uncertain in this area. Snowfall varies, and patchy snow and rough terrain make snowmobiling and cross country skiing difficult.
The cozy converted shed offers one room with amenities including propane lights, a heating stove and cook stove, refrigerator, cookware, silverware and dishes. Furnishings consist of a set of bunkbeds and a wood table with five chairs. No water is onsite, so visitors must bring plenty for drinking, cooking and washing.
An outhouse is outside, along with a picnic table. A campfire ring may only be used when fire restrictions are lifted.
Guests must bring food, water, bedding, a first aid kit, flashlights, matches and all other basic camping gear.
Heppner is the nearest town with a general store, which is about an hours drive away.
Off-road vehicle enthusiasts enjoy Morrow County OHV Park, located 14 miles southwest.