Imagine a hike where the coolest feature was at the very beginning of the trail, and everything after that was of decreasing interest. Welcome to Trail 10, where the Fire Tower is as good as it gets.
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Trail 10 (FireTower) trailhead. From the north park entrance, head south on Brown County State Park Road two miles. Continue .8 miles on Horseman Camp Road. Between the park office and the fire tower is a small lot for parking, and the trailhead is at the fire tower.
$7/vehicle (in-state), $9/vehicle (out-of-state)
Allowed on 6-foot leash
Dense tree canopy
Copperheads, timber rattlers, ticks
Hiking Trail 10 (Fire Tower)
I don’t mean to hate on this trail, but it is probably one of my least favorites. The fire tower itself is really neat – I just wish the tower was the ultimate destination for Trail 10.
Instead, it’s right next to the parking lot. From there, Trail 10 points northeast for about a mile down into a fairly uninteresting ravine before looping back.
There isn’t much more to discuss other than the fact that there is also a small shelter along the way, which might normally pique a modicum of interest had you not just scaled an awesome rickety old fire tower.
Oy, some trail report, huh? I got nothin’ here. Go see the fire tower. The trail? You can skip it.
On the other hand, there may actually be a better way to do this hike so that the fire tower IS the ultimate trail destination, but we need to investigate …
But What About This Fire Tower?
Built in the 1930s on the highest ridge in southern Indiana to help protect against the spread of fires, the fire tower in Brown County State Park now serves as a radio communications and public observation tower.
From the Indiana Department of Natural Resources:
This fire tower was part of a network of towers that once protected Indiana.
In 1930, Indiana began constructing a series of fire towers with the goal of having no visibility gap. By 1952, Indiana had 33 towers, most of them in the southern half of the state.
Fire towers were generally equipped with communication equipment (radio and telephone), a psychrometer to measure humidity and determine fire danger, and an alidade to determine the exact location of a fire.
An alidade, sometimes referred to as an Osborne Fire Finder, consisted of an oriented topographic map on a circular disk. Moveable sighting apertures were opposite each other on the disk. The fire lookout lined the apertures on a plume of smoke and determined the line on which the fire was located.
Another fire tower lookout did the same process, and the fire was located where their two lines crossed.
Many Indiana lookouts were local farmers, recruited when the fire danger was high. Sometimes a wife or other family member would serve as lookout. Lookout duties included watching for smoke, locating and reporting suspicious smoke plumes, taking weather readings, communicating with fire crews during a fire, recording fires, keeping the area around the tower mowed and keeping the outhouse clean.
Lookouts had to pass a vision test and be able to climb the tower several times. During WWII, many of Indiana’s lookouts were women.
By the 1970s, planes replaced fire towers as the means of locating fires. Today, fire are reported by local residents.
The fire tower at Brown County State Park stands as a sentinel, reminding us of the time when Indiana was protected by a series of towers staffed by dedicated lookouts.
Use map for real-time navigation
Load this web page on your phone before heading to the trail. Once there, be sure to put your device in airplane mode in order to save battery life.
Simply tap the map marker icon on the map to show your current location and follow along.
Tap the layers icon to switch between topographic, satellite and other helpful map layers. Be sure to check out the Heatmap overlay to see where others have gone before you!