Wakely fire tower repaired

The public can again hike the trail to the summit of Wakely Mountain, climb the fire tower and enjoy a full 360-degree panorama available from the tower’s cab, affording views of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness to the south and the High Peaks to the north. (Photo provided by Davana LLC)

INDIAN LAKE — The public can again hike the trail to the summit of Wakely Mountain, climb the fire tower and enjoy a full 360-degree panorama available from the tower’s cab, affording views of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness to the south and the High Peaks to the north.

The tallest fire tower in the Adirondacks, at 70 feet, and the trail to Wakely’s summit were both closed during the winter of 2017. High winds had damaged the tower and its underpinnings to the point that public safety was a concern. Due to the risk of the tower toppling over, the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed the tower and the trail to the summit until repairs could be completed.

A DEC crew and the project’s contractor, Davana LLC Fire Tower Restoration of Bloomingdale, spent eight days on the Wakely Mountain summit.

David Vana of Davana LLC said it took a state police helicopter crew eight trips to fly his gear to the top of Wakely Mountain in June: “6,000 pounds of tools, concrete, barrels of water, camping gear and food for 10 days.

“Then all personnel were flown into the landing zone near the tower. Camp was set up, the old original observers cabin was cleaned … and set up as our kitchen and supplies shelter, tents were erected, work tables built and we got to work.”

A worker helps prep the new footings at the Wakely Fire Tower. (Photo provided — Davana LLC)

Davana replaced all eight concrete footings: four for the tower itself and four for the tower’s staircase. In addition, they installed new hardware and fasteners, examined and tightened all nuts and bolts on the structure, removed guy wires and installed a new roof on the tower’s cab. Trees and brush were cut back around the summit’s helipad, and the trail was brushed out. DEC forest rangers, the State Police Aviation Unit and Student Conservation Association backcountry stewards provided assistance in the project.

The repair cost of $47,500 was funded through NY Works Infrastructure funding. The improvements are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Adventure NY initiative, launched last year to connect more New Yorkers with nature.

The Wakely fire tower is listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places. The AerMotor model No. LL-25 was constructed in 1916 and replaced a wooden fire tower constructed in 1911. Located in the Wakely Mountain Primitive Area in Hamilton County, it is one of only four fire towers of this model that remains standing. It was staffed and used for fire observation until 1988.

Today, investment in restoration initiatives are the result of the realization that fire towers represent a piece of history of state forest protection and a resource with tourism potential.

The new footers are put in place at the Wakely Fire Tower. (Photo provided by Davana LLC)

If you go…

From the intersection of Route 28 and Route 30 in Indian Lake, follow Route 28/30 toward Blue Mountain Lake. Just over 2.25 miles from the 28/30 intersection, make a left on Cedar River Road. Continue on Cedar River Road for about 12 miles to the trailhead on the right.

The climb: Wakely Mountain has an elevation of 3,477 feet, but the ascent using the trail is 1,650 feet. The trail is 3 miles to the summit and is best understood in two sections:

¯ The first involves about 2 miles of hiking on an old dirt road while ascending only 500 feet.

¯ The second section is a relatively steep 1.2-mile climb along a trail to the summit while gaining 1,150 feet in elevation. Despite a few switchbacks, this section is described as a moderately difficult climb.

One should expect the round-trip hike to take five hours or more, depending on the time spent admiring and enjoying the view.

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