Polk County High Point Trip Report

Date: May 5, 2003
Author: Bill Jacobs

The FAA facility on top of Laurel Mountain provides long-range radar for the air traffic control centers moving aircraft that transit offshore and en route between airports. Each such site has a 200 mile radar range, or 400 miles across the band, and they are uniquely situated to have overlapping radar coverage. These are also co-shared NORAD sites. Since 9/11, facility security has become more intense.

The phone number I was given by an FAA contact (we have an embedded FAA operative who has 44 state highpoints - we only touch base with him on critical items to minimize blowing his cover) was to the wrong FAA radar facility in Oregon. However, these folks gave me the correct number and were quite pleasant in providing answers to all my questions. The security had tightened in response to 9/11 to the degree that entry to these facilities was much more difficult, but the land surrounding the sites was not restricted. Their only caveat was if you lingered too long you would raise suspicions and they would call the FBI thinking you were casing the joint. Turbans should probably be left at home. My impression was they were speaking of procedures presently governing all sites.

When I called the Laurel Mountain facility (the FAA uses names for these sites of something other than the mountain or the county), there was not a similar air of pleasantness. I was basically told it was a government facility and visiting even the grounds was not permitted, and, besides you had to get through Weyerhauser lands first. I asked if the Weyerhauser access problem was overcome, would visits to their mountain top be all right. The answer was no.

My guess would be it is legal to visit the mountain top at Laurel but we are dealing with an empire-building mindset there. Here are the phone numbers to the Laurel Mountain facility. Perhaps, speaking with a different watch-stander would yield more positive results: 541 787-3582, and from the 253 exchange area, 253 351-3390.