Earth Notes: Mormon Lake Guard Station

Sep 26, 2018

The Mormon Lake Guard Station was the first ranger station on the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona. It was built in 1908 and saw a variety of uses through the 20th century, but had fallen into disrepair. Recently though, volunteers gave the historic structure a facelift.

The Mormon Lake Guard Station
Credit USFS

By 1915, the cabin had a telephone line, a well, and a barn with a large fenced pasture. From this modest lodging, forest rangers managed timber sales, grazing, and homestead permits—and strategized to suppress wildfires in the Mormon Lake area south of Flagstaff.

The station even served as a polling place.

Seasonal wildland firefighting crews, including the fledgling Mormon Lake Hotshots, were housed there.  Over the years, the main residence was the communal location for fire crews to convene and prepare meals—and it became known as the “cook shack.”  After a newer ranger station was built closer to Flagstaff in the 1970s, the site became a base for a helitack unit for aerial firefighting.

With funds from the “Rooms with a View” cabin rental program, in collaboration with the Coconino National Forest and the non-profit Historicorps, volunteers finished reroofing the cabin, replacing exterior siding, and rebuilding  porches.

The current Mormon Lake Hotshot Crew was onsite when an old sign used as a tack board was removed from a wall. On the reverse side was a painting of a firefighter from 1976, the year the Hotshots lost two crew members.

Now, the restored Mormon Lake Guard Station preserves a strong connection to the many people who have lived, worked … and died there.