DOINews: NPS: Website Explores Historic National Park Service Fire Lookout Photos

Last edited 09/05/2019

Then and now photos of Apgar Lookout in Glacier National Park
The view from Apgar Lookout in Glacier National Park on July 29, 1937 (top) and August 21, 2008 (bottom). Top: NPS photo by Lester Moe; Bottom: USFS photo by Ian Grob.

A new section has been added to the National Park Service Fire and Aviation website that promises to interest a broad audience, including national park and history enthusiasts and the tech savvy.

Exploring a little-known National Park Service story, the new section is titled "Panoramic Photographs from National Park Service Lookouts" and focuses a story that began more than 75 years ago.

The web page tells the story of a photographic project that took place in the 1930s from lookouts and lookout points at 200 locations in national parks across the country for the purpose of mapmaking for wildfire detection. Many of the 1930s photographs taken by junior forester Lester Moe still exist today, though some are still hidden away in national park museums, libraries, and archives. They are immediately recognizable due to their unique format.

National parks are recognizing the significance of the photographs in that they can be compared with present-day photographs to understand change over time. Both Yellowstone and Glacier national parks were very important to the project, as they have pursued repeat photography in the same locations as the 1930s project.

Some of the Yellowstone images have been uploaded to Gigapan®, a website that allows interactive viewing of the image. When present-day repeat photography images are viewed side by side with the 1930s images, viewers obtain a clearer picture of changes related to land cover, topography, and human infrastructure in the parks.

The website compiles stories, history, and imagery and tells the story through the use of interactive elements. In addition, it encourages action by the public to participate as citizen scientists in repeat photography projects, or other related projects such as invasive species monitoring.

If your park has a collection of photographs taken by Lester Moe, we would like to hear from you. Contact us at to share your information.

If you would like to learn how to participate in this project as a citzen-scientist, go to http:/

The work on the website was completed as a Master's Capstone project for the Quinnipiac University Interactive Media Programand can be viewed on the NPS Fire and Aviation website at

More Information

By: Tina Boehle, NPS

Jan. 24, 2014

This story appears in the Jan. 21, 2014, edition of InsideNPS.

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