CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Construction, Development, And Planning Activities In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present

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

 CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Construction, Development, And Planning Activities In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present

When Crater Lake was placed under the administration of the National Park Service in 1916 construction and development of park facilities became the major components of the park program. During the first year that Crater Lake was under the Park Service three new trails were constructed, all of which radiated from Crater Lake Lodge–one to the boat landing, 1-1/4 miles, descending 900 feet on a relatively easy grade; one to Garfield Peak, 1-1/4 miles, ascending 1,000 feet and affording magnificent views of the lake and the surrounding country; and one to the Watchman, 4 miles, affording “extraordinary views” of the lake along a winding trail that was passable by horses. Whereas the old trail to the lake had been narrow, steep, and subject to washouts, the new trail was constructed “with the idea of making it possible for men, women, and children of all ages and conditions of health to get down from the rim of the crater to participate in the sports of boating and fishing on the lake itself.” The trail, according to Mather, would “result in lengthening the stay of every visitor to Crater Lake Park.”

Road construction and improvements in the park, which had been underway for several years, continued under the National Park Service. In 1917 Superintendent Sparrow reported:

A few years ago an appropriation was made by Congress for the survey of a comprehensive system of roads within the park, the main feature of which consisted in a road entirely around the lake, close to the rim whenever possible. This survey was made under the direction of the Secretary of War, two seasons being required to complete it, and a report thereon was submitted to Congress, estimating the total cost, including $65,000 for a sprinkling plant, at approximately $700,000, and recommending that it be placed under the continuing contract feature in a manner similar to certain harbors. Of this amount an appropriation was made of $50,000 for use during the season of 1913, $75,000 for 1914, $85,000 for 1915, $50,000 for 1916, $50,000 for 1917, and $50,000 for 1918, making a total to date of $360,000.

Under these appropriations grading has proceeded steadily, resulting in the reconstruction of old roads and the building of new ones, until at this time there are 51 miles of well-constructed dirt roads in use, leaving 6 miles of construction for the season of 1918, when the road around the rim will be complete, providing an excellent highway that will soon become famous throughout the world for its unsurpassed scenic beauty and grandeur.

Despite the progress in road development Mather felt that all roadwork at Crater Lake and other Park Service areas should be carried out under the direction of the Department of the Interior rather than the War Department. This would insure

that uniform policy in the improvement of all parks may be formulated and followed and for the further reason that it is most desirable to have all park roads maintained for the benefit of the tourist solely and with his interest constantly in mind.

In addition to the development of roads within the park, Mather devoted considerable attention to the problem of adequate approach roads to Crater Lake. In 1917, for instance, he reported:

The roads leading to the various gateways of the park from Medford, Klamath Falls, and Kirk, Oreg., have not been in good condition during the past season. The road from Medford to the park boundary, a total length of 72 miles, was not built as an automobile road in the beginning and must be largely reconstructed. Jackson County and the citizens of Medford have spent large sums of money in improving sections of this road, and their work is of such a permanent character that the surfacing of their improvements is all that now remains to finish them. It is a fact that Jackson County and its citizens have aided in the improvement of this road to the limit of their capacities, and the time has now come when the State of Oregon and the Federal Government must combine to permanently improve this main highway into the park. It is my understanding that the State of Oregon has already arranged to cooperate with the Federal Government and that the basis of Federal assistance under the good roads act is all that is necessary to be determined before improvement work is begun.