Skinner Butte Lookout
Size: D, Beauty: B, Activities: D, Overall: C
Skinner Butte (also called Skinner's Butte) is a prominent hill on the north edge of downtown Eugene, Oregon, United States, near the Willamette River. Skinner Butte is a local landmark and the location of Skinner Butte Park, a municipal park. It is named for Eugene Skinner, the founder of Eugene. During the latter 20th century, it was the location of a controversial religious symbol which was removed in 1997.
Skinner Butte's elevation is 682 feet (208 m), approximately 200 feet (60 m) above the surrounding city. A winding road leads to the summit, which provides a comprehensive view of the city. The public park features hiking trails, as well as open lawns. The butte is also the location of a giant "O" emblem (representing the University of Oregon) visible from the air and the city. Less visible is the "Big E" symbolizing the former Eugene High School (now South Eugene High School). These emblems were erected in the early 20th century. A small reservoir sits on public land on the east flank of the butte below the summit.
The butte was known as "Ya-Po-Ah" in the language of the Kalapuya, who inhabited the Willamette Valley prior to the arrival of Euro-American settlers in the 19th century. In 1846, Eugene Skinner, an American settler who had arrived in the valley after traveling overland to California, erected a cabin on the butte on the advice of the Kalupuya, who warned him about floods on the Willamette. Skinner's cabin became the basis for his Donation Land Claim. The site of the cabin is commemorated today by a marker on the hillside. A replica of the cabin has been located in various places in the park over the years.
Skinner Butte Park was dedicated in 1914. According to the Register-Guard, "at one point, the park...included a car camp, a zoo and, during the Depression, a Civilian Conservation Corps regional camp."
The park is a popular site for rockclimbing (on "The Columns" the site of a former basalt quarry on the west side of the butte that operated from the 1890s through the 1930s ) and birding, among other recreational activities. In July 2006, the City of Eugene opened a new playground, RiverPlay Discovery Village Playground, in the park.
The butte is also the site of the Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson House, a Queen Anne Victorian residence built in 1880 by the family that once owned the entire butte. Before trees grew up and obscured it, the house was known as the "Castle on the Hill". It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.  The name "Ya-Po-Ah" lives on in "Ya-Po-Ah Terrace", a controversial high-rise retirement home built at the foot of the butte in 1968.