The Upper Sandy Guard Station Cabin, situated on the Mt. Hood National Forest near Ramona Falls, was built in 1935 to house an administrative guard who was tasked with preventing the intrusion of hikers into an area which was integral to the City of Portland’s water supply. Its uncommon design, including the integration of both log and native stone, has been impossible to identify elsewhere in Oregon despite the Forest Service’s tendency to employ standardized plans and construction techniques during this era. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
The Upper Sandy Guard Station Cabin is a regionally-significant expression of the rugged, rustic architectural style often employed by the U.S. Forest Service in the first few decades of the 20th Century. Like many others across the agency, the building was constructed by skilled local carpenters and laborers assisted by men employed under one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal work relief programs. Funded by the Emergency Relief Appropriations (ERA) Act of 1935 and funds from the City of Portland, the cabin was built for nearly $1,500. Erected along the newly constructed Timberline Trail, the cabin was specifically intended to provide housing for an administrative guard charged with protecting the Bull Run watershed, the source of the City of Portland’s drinking water supply.
Upper Sandy Guard Station
Year Built: 1935
Location: Near Government Camp, Oregon
Since 1978, the Forest Service has not employed the site for an administrative use and its location near the Pacific Crest/Timberline Trail allows access by passing hikers. The Zigzag Ranger District manages the site as part of the Mt. Hood Wilderness. In the decades since it ceased to serve an official purpose for the Forest Service, the Guard Station has been a popular waypoint for hikers and equestrians. Many used the cabin as a place for shelter, rest, and caching of supplies until its deterioration prevented those uses.
The cabin faces many serious threats to its long-term stability, the most serious of which is gradual neglect. Since the building currently serves no purpose for the Forest Service and is not maintained, the structure is continually exposed to extreme mountain weather and the intrusion of moisture due to failure of the roof. While the structural integrity of the cabin has not yet been compromised, each passing year of rain and snow collecting inside the cabin adds uncertainty to its future. The site’s location within designated wilderness has also proven an administrative hurdle to the Forest Service and its management of the building. Some advocates believe that no human structure should exist within wilderness boundaries. While this reading of the law is questionable, the threat of lawsuit has prevented the Forest Service from actively maintaining their inventory of heritage sites located within wilderness.
Vandals have also caused substantial damage to the building, pilfering original hardware, damaging interior and exterior walls, and using the site’s original benches as firewood.
Immediate intervention and a plan for ongoing use and maintenance are needed to ensure that the cabin does not suffer eventual demolition by neglect.
Restore Oregon joins HistoriCorps in a visit to the Upper Sandy Guard Station Cabin. Detailed documentation, including photographs and measurements, is completed.
The Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service contracts with HistoriCorps to visit multiple heritage sites located within Oregon wilderness on the west side of the Cascades to ascertain condition and suggest maintenance prioritization.
A federal court ruling regarding heritage sites within the Olympic Wilderness paves the way for more effective management and maintenance of similar sites across the Northwest.
Restore Oregon staff met with the regional Forest Service staff to discuss next steps. In subsequent official correspondence with the agency, Restore Oregon reiterated its concerns about Forest Service compliance with federal regulations relative to the maintenance and management of historic places.
Listed as one of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places.