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Castles and Towers in the West

Lookouts, watchtowers, and a touch of poetry in stone help visitors to think tall and see far.

Via Contributors
Robinson Jeffers' Hawk Tower at Tor House in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Photo caption
The poet Robinson Jeffers built Hawk Tower as a retreat for his wife, Una, in less than four years.


Desert View Watchtower Though it looks ancient, Desert View Watchtower was actually built in 1932 to resemble a prehistoric Indian lookout. At the end of 25-mile Desert View Drive in Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, the 70-foot tower occupies the South Rim’s highest point. East lies the Painted Desert, and north and west the meandering Colorado River. Inside, paintings by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie evoke traditional rituals. (928) 638-7888,

Tor House Tor House, built by poet Robinson Jeffers in 1918 and 1919, crouches on rocky benchland in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., and looks south to Point Lobos. Adjacent Hawk Tower, constructed later from stones Jeffers hauled from the shore, stands 40 feet tall and offers views of the craggy Monterey County coastline. (831) 624-1813,

Astoria Column Astoria Column, the last of 12 historical markers placed early in the 20th century by Great Northern Railway President Ralph Budd, honors Oregon explorers. Exterior murals start with the primeval forest—the Native Americans who occupied the land notably absent—and end at the top with the railroad’s arrival. (503) 325-2963,

Harney Peak Lookout Tower Built in western South Dakota on a 7,242-foot crag—the continent’s highest point east of the Rockies—Harney Peak Lookout Tower offers views into Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Mount Rushmore is four miles northeast; south lies Custer State Park, origin of a three-mile trail to the summit. (605) 673-9200,

Photography courtesy of Wikipedia/Celeste Davison


This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.