Plan – 03 Visitor Use Trends and Developed Area History

Visitor Services Plan, Crater Lake National Park

 Visitor Use Trends and Developed Area History


Crater Lake National Park is a vital element in a diverse regional recreation complex. Many visitors stop at the park as part of a north-south trip to various parks and scenic areas in Oregon and northern California. In southern Oregon, Crater Lake has historically been the leading visitor draw. Approximately 60% of the park’s visitors are from Oregon and California. Annual park visitation reached a plateau of a half a million in the early 1960s, but can fluctuate as much as 25% from year to year. In 1996 park visitation was in excess of 525,000. However, the park is principally a day use area, with the majority of visitor use (greater than 75%) occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Day use accounts for about 80% of visitation, with two-thirds of the day users spending less than four hours in the park. Three quarters of all visitation comes during a five-hour period in the middle of the day (10 A.M. to 3 P.M.) and occurs predominately from Rim Village to Mazama Village. Less than 15% of park visitors remain overnight, and less than 5% stay two or more nights. However, during the two peak months of July and August, camping and overnight lodging facilities operate near capacity.

The development and level of concessioner and NPS visitor services and facilities have generally mirrored and been tailored to visitation levels and visitor characteristics.

Visitor access through what is now the Mazama Village and the Munson Valley headquarters area to Rim Village was facilitated by the development of a road in 1905. In the subsequent decades the road was ultimately upgraded to a paved surface to the rim and lodge. Designated parking in Rim Village along the road to the lodge (Rim Village Drive) first occurred in 1926 and was a desired component of the visitor experience.

In 1907, as a result of the signing of the first concession contract, two campgrounds were developed in the park. Camps Arant and Crater were constructed at Annie Springs and at Rim Village, respectively. The Annie Spring campground remained in existence until 1969, and Rim campground, with 54 sites, evolved into a popular overnight facility that remained until 1975. The latter campground was a favorite among visitors because they could sleep among the trees and wake up to a beautiful sunrise over the lake. However, the short summer season on the rim and the impact of the campground on the natural resources of the area ultimately led to its abandonment.

The central portion of Crater Lake Lodge was completed in 1915 to provide for visitor overnight accommodations. A large wing to the lodge was added on in the 1920s to further meet visitor overnight needs. It was a major attraction to visitors with its spectacular views of the lake and rustic architecture. However, the quality of lodging and dining varied over the years depending on the concessioner and the terms of the concession contract.