Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Panther Top Lookout Tower Open to Public Nov. 1

 Panther Top Lookout Tower

The Tusquitee Ranger District will host an access day for the Panther Top Lookout Tower in the Nantahala National Forest this coming Sunday, November 1 for visitors to enjoy the fall foliage. Normally gated 0.75 mi. below the tower, FS 85 will be open to allow vehicular access to the summit from early morning to 6:00pm. USFS archaeologist Michael Orberndorf will be on-site staffing the tower and allowing visitors up to the cab and catwalk.

The 30 ft. former live-in Panther Top lookout tower was constructed by the CCC in 1940.  Standing atop a 2,293 ft. summit, Panther Top is perfectly situated to take in the fall color during their peak at lower elevations. Its elevation makes it the lowest situated lookout tower in western North Carolina, and it is also the most western lookout in the entire state.  The Panther Top fire tower is one of only a few WNC lookouts still in possession of its original Osbourne Fire Finder, which can be viewed this weekend inside the tower cab.

Osbourne Fire Finder Inside Panther Top

To visit Panther Top from Murphy, NC, drive west on US 64 about 7 miles and turn right on Ranger Rd. (SR 1300).  Drive 2.3 mi. and turn right on Panther Top Rd. (SR 1303).  Continue 1.0 mi. until the pavement ends and the road forks.  Take the right fork, FS85, signed for the Panther Top Shooting Range.  Zero your odometer and follow the gravel road 1.2 mi. to where FS 85 actually turns left and uphill and FS 85A continues straight.  The junction can be missed easily if you are not watching for it.  FS 85 is normally gated, but will be open to vehicles on Sunday until 6:00pm.  Drive 0.75 mi. uphill to the summit and tower.

 Brock Fouts of Ellijay, GA

Of course, don't forget your copy of Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers.  Remember to send me your photos if you visit.  Above all, make sure to thank USFS archaeologist Michael Orberndorf and the Tusquitee Ranger District for making Panther Top available to visitors each fall.

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