Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987

 CHAPTER THREE: Crater Lake Administered By The General Land Office As Part Of The Cascade Range Forest Reserve: 1893-1902


While the legislation to provide for adequate protection of the forest reserves languished in Congress, President Benjamin Harrison continued the policy of withdrawing lands from the public domain as national forest reserves. In 1892, the Oregon Alpine Club, headed by William G. Steel, circulated a petition for submission to the president calling for establishment of a forest reserve along the entire crest of the Cascades in Oregon. By the summer of 1892 the petition had received the endorsement of the governor, secretary of state, state printer, auditor, mayor of Portland, and the president and secretary of the Portland Chamber of Commerce.

Accordingly, in July 1892 Secretary of the Interior John W. Noble appointed R.G. Savery, Jr., as special agent of the General Land Office with instructions to report on the proposal. Based on meetings with Oregon officials and travels over the state Savery reported on July 23 “that the future welfare of the State of Oregon demands the withdrawal and protection of said proposed reservation.” In support of his recommendation he noted:

The summit of the Cascade Mountains embraces a narrow strip of land running north and south through the State, nearly all of which is unsurveyed and unoccupied. The surface is rough and broken and entirely unfit for cultivation. The altitude ranges from six to twelve thousand feet. Dense forests of very fine timber cover nearly the entire tract. Snow falls to a great depth on these mountains in winter, remaining until late in the summer, and in some places the snow-capped mountains can be seen the year round. . . .

Not only will Western Oregon be greatly benefited by this reservation, but the same facts and conditions can be properly applied to all of that territory lying east of this range of mountains in Oregon. In this proposed reservation are included several points of interest, which in the near future will become places of great interest to the American people. Mt. Hood, a mountain rising to an elevation of nearly thirteen thousand feet, whose snow-capped peak can be seen from nearly every portion of the State the year round, is heavily timbered and is the source of thousands of small streams, and in the immediate future this mountain will become the source of water supply for the city of Portland. The region surrounding this mountain is rugged and elevated and not valuable for agriculture or minerals. There are also included Mt. Pitt, Mt. Scott, Union Peak, Mt. Theilsen, Old Baldy, Diamond Peak, Three Sisters, Black Butte and Mt. Jefferson, all of which are rough, broken and unfit for cultivation.

Besides these mountains, numerous lakes are included, among which is Crater Lake. . . .

This lake, as stated in the petition herewith enclosed, is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. The surface of the water is 6,239 feet above the level of the sea. Its depth will average two thousand feet. It is entirely surrounded by precipitous walls or cliffs of great height, being at some points nearly two thousand feet. The diameter of this lake is six and one-half miles.

Among the lakes of lesser importance are Diamond Lake, Crescent Lake, Wold’s Lake and Bull Run Lake, all of which add to making this proposed reservation include several of the great natural wonders of the world.

Elk, deer, and other noble game of the country, which have been quite plentiful in that country, are partly disappearing, and unless some reservation of this kind is made it is only a question of a few years when they will become entirely extinct.

While he found that most citizens in the state were in favor of the proposed reservation, he reported rumors that sheepherders from eastern Oregon were opposed. He observed that the sheepherders

from the eastern portion of the State would oppose the proposition from the fact that they penetrate deeper into the mountains each year where they find excellent grass on territory formerly burned over for that purpose. The deliberate setting out of fires and consequent destruction of vast bodies of timber cause constant encroachment of sterility of what is now a source of moisture. [18]

On February 17, 1893, the Oregon state legislature added impetus to the campaign for a forest reserve or reserves in the Cascades by adopting a memorial to the president. The gist of the memorial, copies of which were sent to the Secretary of the Interior and the members of the Oregon congressional delegation, read:

First. The immediate establishment of two reservations, viz: one of Mt. Hood, to be called Mt. Hood Reserve, and the other of Crater Lake, to be called Crater Lake Reserve, with such contiguous territory about each as shall seem proper.

Second. The enlargement and extension of each said reservations so as to include the entire crest of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, with a convenient space on each side thereof, just as soon as the same can be intelligently done after a prompt but careful investigation by the Interior Department, of any vested rights there may be in such territory. [19]