55 Chapter 15: Visitation And Concessions Operations In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present

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


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CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Visitation And Concessions Operations In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


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As one of the “jewels” of the embryonic National Park System, Crater Lake National Park became the focus of Park Service publicity efforts to promote visitation. In 1917 the bureau issued an automobile guide map (a copy of which may be seen below) for the park. The map showed automobile highways leading to the park as well as the park road system, visitor accommodations, trails, and points of interest.

At the behest of NPS Director Mather, the Crater Lake publicity effort was supported by the Southern Pacific Railroad and the National Parks Highway Association. The railroad promoted travel to Yosemite, Sequoia, Lassen Volcanic, and Crater Lake national parks with various excursion fare offers. As a result of negotiations between Mather and the railroad, tickets between Portland and California points during 1917 entitled purchasers to stop over at Medford for a trip to Crater Lake. If a traveler entered the park via one gateway and left by another, his ticket was honored for continuation to his destination. Hence it was possible to go to the park from Klamath Falls and exit out the western gateway to Medford in connection with a trip to Portland. On the other hand, a party bound for California was permitted to stop at Medford, go through the park, and connect again with the Southern Pacific Railroad lines at Klamath Falls.

The National Parks Highway Association, with headquarters in Spokane, assumed leadership in designating a park-to-park highway connecting the major national parks in the West. During the spring of 1917, the association mapped and sign-posted a route from its terminus of the previous year in Mount Rainier National Park to Crater Lake, thus connecting Yellowstone, Glacier, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake national parks by what was known as the National Parks Highway.

In addition to these efforts, the National Park Service continued the practice of the Department of the Interior in publishing annual general information circulars for the parks. The 1917 circular for Crater Lake not only described the park’s scenery and resources in glowing terms but also its visitor accommodations, transportation facilities, and means of reaching the park. The circular described the lake as an “unforgettable spectacle”:

Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful spots in America. The gray lava rim is remarkably sculptured. The water is wonderfully blue, a lovely turquoise along the edges, and in the deep parts, seen from above, extremely dark. The contrast on a sunny day between the unreal, fairylike rim across the lake and the fantastic sculptures at one’s feet, and in the lake between, the myriad gradations from faintest turquoise to deepest Prussian blue, dwells long in the memory.

Unforgettable also are the twisted and contorted lava formations of the inner rim. A boat ride along the edge of the lake reveals these in a thousand changes. At one point near shore a mass of curiously carved lava is called the Phantom Ship because, seen at a distance, it suggests a ship under full sail. The illusion at dusk or by moonlight is striking. In certain slants of light the Phantom Ship suddenly disappears–a phantom, indeed.

Another experience full of interest is a visit to Wizard Island. One can climb its sides and descend into its little crater.

The somewhat mysterious beauty of this most remarkable lake is by no means the only charm of the Crater Lake National Park. The surrounding cliffs present some of the most striking pictures of the entire western country. These can best be studied from a boat on the lake, but the walk around the rim of the lake is one of the most wonderful experiences possible.

The circular provided considerable information on the services and accommodations provided by the Crater Lake Company, which had agreed to a revised five-year concession contract with the Department of the Interior effective January 1, 1917. The company operated daily automobile service between Medford (83 miles from the park) and Klamath Falls (62 miles from the park) and Crater Lake. Automobiles left the Hotels Medford and Nash in Medford each morning, stopped for lunch at Prospect, and reached the lake in the evening. Returning automobiles left Crater Lake each morning, reaching Medford in time to connect with outgoing evening trains. Automobiles left the White Pelican Hotel in Klamath Falls each morning and arrived at the lake at noon. Returning automobiles left the lake after lunch and reached the White Pelican Hotel in time for supper. The rates for these automobile services were:


Medford to Crater Lake and return
One way (either direction)
Klamath Falls to Crater Lake and return
One way (either direction)
Medford to Crater Lake, thence to
Klamath Falls, or vice versa

The circular described the hotel and camps operated by the Crater Lake Company in the park. These accommodations, along with the rates charged for such services, were:

Crater Lake Lodge, on the rim of the lake, is of stone and frame construction and contains 64 sleeping rooms, with ample bathing facilities as well as fire protection. Tents are provided at the lodge as sleeping quarters for those who prefer them, meals being taken at the lodge.

At Anna Spring Camp, 5 miles below the rim of Crater Lake, the company maintains a camp for the accommodation of guests, a general store (with branch at Crater Lake Lodge) for the sale of provisions and campers’ supplies, and a livery barn.

The authorized rates are as follows:

Rates at Crater Lake Lodge
Board and lodging (lodging in tents), one person:
    Per day $ 3.25
    Per week 17.50
Board and lodging, two or more persons in one tent:
    Per day each 3.00
    Per week each 15.00
Lodging in tents:
    One person, per night 1.00
    Two or more persons in one tent, per night each .75
Board and lodging (lodging in hotel), one person:
    Per day 3.75
    Per week 20.00
Board and lodging, two or more persons in one room:
    Per day each 3.50
    Per week each 17.50
Lodging in hotel:
    One person, per night 1.50
    Two or more persons in one room, per night each 1.25
In hotel rooms, with hot and cold water:
  Board and lodging, one person
    Per day 4.25
    Per week 22.50
  Board and lodging, two or more persons in room
    Per day each 4.00
    Per week each 20.00
    One person, per night 2.00
    Two or more persons in one room, per night each 1.75
  Baths (extra) ,50
  Fires in rooms (extra) .25
  Single meals 1.00

Rates at Anna Spring tent camp
Board and lodging, each person:
    Per day 2.50
    Per week 15.00
    Breakfast or lunch .50
    Dinner .75
    Children under 10 years, half rates at lodge or camp

The Crater Lake Company operated a general store at Anna Spring Camp and a branch store at Crater Lake Lodge. The stores sold provisions, tourists’ supplies, gasoline, motor oil, hay and grain, fishing gear, drugs, Kodak film supplies, and bakers’ goods.

While visitors were permitted to provide their own transportation and to camp in the park, subject to regulations, the Crater Lake Company operated in-park concession automobile, saddle horse, and stage transportation services. Fares and rates for these services were:

Fare between Anna Spring Camp and Crater Lake Lodge:
    One way $0.50
    Round trip 1.00
Transportation, per mile, within the park .10
Special trips will be made when parties of four or more are made up, as follows:
    To Anna Creek Canyon, including Dewie Canyon and Garden of the Gods, 24-mile trip, for each person 2.00
    To Cloud Cap, including Kerr Notch, Sentinel Rock, and Red Cloud Cliff and Pinnacles, 40-mile trip, for each person 3.00
    The Sunset Drive, from Crater Lake Lodge to summit of road at Watchman, at sunset, 10-mile trip, for each person 1.00
Saddle horses, pack animals, and burros (when furnished):
    Per hour 0.50
    Per day 3.00
Service of guide, with horse:
    Per hour 1.00
    Per day 3.00
Launch trip:
    Wizard Island and return, per person .50
    Around Wizard Island and Phantom Ship and return (about 15 miles), per person 2.00
    Around the lake 2.50
    Per hour .50
    Per day 2.50
    With boat puller, per hour 1.00
    With detachable motor
        Per hour 1.00
        Per day 5.00

The circular also contained a section on the principal points of interest (a copy of which may be seen on the following page) in the park and nearby areas. Arrangements for trips to these points in the park could be made at the Crater Lake Lodge. For trips to Mount Thielson, Diamond Lake, and other remote points camp equipage, pack horses, and a guide could be secured at the lodge. [1]


Distances from Crater Lake Lodge by road or trail to principal points.

Name. Distance
and general
Best means of

Llao Rock

Diamond Lake
Devil’s Backbone

Glacier Peak
The Watchman
Garfield Peak

Dyar Rock

Vidae Cliff

Sun Notch

Dutton Cliff
Sentinel Rock
Cloud Cap

Scott’s Peak

The Pinnacles
Garden of the Gods
and Dewey Falls
Anna Creek Canyon
Union Peak

Wizard Island

Phantom Ship


8 north

18 north
6.5 north

6 north
5 north
1 east

2 east

3 east

7 east

9.5 east
18 east
20 east

22 east

15.5 southeast

10 to 13.5 south
10.5 southwest

3.5 north

3 east














Auto to Glacier Peak,
then on foot.


Auto and foot
Foot or horseback



Auto and on foot


Auto and on foot


Auto and foot

Foot and boat


Fine view. Point from which Llao’s
body was thrown into lake. All-day
trip. Pretty lake.
Near view of Mount Theilson.
Fine view of formation and coloring of
Glacier Peak.
Highest Point on rim of lake; fine view.
Fine view; easy climb
Hard climb on foot. If taken on horse-
back distance is 6 miles. Fine view.
Monster bowlder, 100 feet high.
Hard climb on foot. If taken on horseback
distance is 6 miles.
Fine view. Easy trip by horse; distance
7 miles.
Fine view of Phantom Ship. View of
Vidae Falls. Walk 1 mile. Easy trail.
Fine view; 7.5 miles by auto, 2 miles on foot.
Most comprehensive view from rim of lake.
End of auto road. Fine drive. Good
2 miles by trail from end of road at Cloud
Cap. Highest point in the park.
Grotesque formations. Nice trip.
Waterfalls, meadows, pinnacles,
and pretty canyons.
Beautiful canyon, 300 to 400 feet deep.
4 miles by trail from road. Hard peak
to climb. Good view.
Extinct volcano crater in summit. Trail
to top.
Grotesque rock, pinnacled island.

Despite these publicity efforts, visitation to Crater Lake declined in 1917, primarily because heavy snowfall in late spring delayed regular tourist travel by several months. After considerable “shoveling of snow” by Crater Lake Company employees, automobiles arrived at park headquarters on July 7 and at Crater Lake Lodge on July 18. The roads, however, were not in condition for regular travel until August 1. The number of visitors and automobiles that entered the park in 1916 and 1917 were:







East Entrance 859 1,174 193 293
West Entrance 9,571 5,368 1,293 1,234
South Entrance 1,835 5,103 1,163 1,229





A total of 1,766 automobile and 15 motorcycle licenses were issued during 1917, and $4,433 in receipts were collected from vehicles entering the park. [2]

Among the visitors to the park during 1917 was a large group of members of the Knights of Pythias Order. On August 14 the group held initiation ceremonies in the crater of Wizard Island–a practice that had been commenced several years earlier. [3]

Weather continued to play a major role in determining the extent of park visitation. The light snowfall of only ten feet during the winter of 1917-18, combined with warm weather early in the spring, made it possible for automobiles to reach the lake by June 18, one month earlier than the preceding year. As a result visitation to Crater Lake increased to 13,231 in 1918. The numbers of visitors entering the park were:

Pinnacles Road 1,193
Fort Klamath Road 5,625
Medford Road 6,413


The statistics relating to the means of transportation of the visitors were:

Crater Lake Stage 516
Automobiles 11,471
Wagons 1,022
Motocycles 10
Mounted on Horse 185
On Foot 27


The number of motor vehicles entering the park were:

Pinnacles Road 267
Fort Klamath Road 1,305
Medford Road 1,533



In 1919 visitation increased by more than 25 percent to 16,645, while the number of motor vehicles entering the park rose by some 50 percent to 4,637. Several delegations of visitors toured the park in 1919, thus showing the increasing popularity of the park Among the visiting contingents were 66 members of the Massachusetts Forestry Association on July 28-30 and 17 members of the Travel Club of America on August 16-18. The most illustrious visit, however, occurred on August 11 when nearly 400 members of the National Editorial Association visited the park. Since the lodge could not accommodate all of these guests, the Ashland and Medford chambers of commerce furnished blankets and camping supplies and the park contributed tents for the convenience of the group. [5]

The 1919 general information circular advertised several new attractions in the park that were designed to enhance the visitor’s experience. The public camp grounds on the rim west of the lodge had been enhanced, one of the principal improvements being the installation of a large tank and pumping equipment to furnish an ample water supply not only for drinking and cooking purposes but also for showers. Sightseeing opportunities had been improved by a

splendid new trail from Crater Lake Lodge to the shore of the lake. . . [It] has given pleasure and refreshment to thousands, and, as was expected, elderly people and visitors wholly unaccustomed to climbing availed themselves of the opportunity to make the delightful trip from the lodge to the edge of the lake, thence in motor boats around the lake to Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship, and to other points of interest. The new trails to Garfield Peak and the Watchman were also exceedingly popular during the past season. A trail to the summit of Union Peak was constructed last year.

Five small launches, ten steel rowboats, and a 36-foot boat had been ordered by the Crater Lake Company to replace seven rowboats and a small launch that had been damaged in a storm the previous September. In addition to these boats that were available for rent by the hour or day, an expanded schedule of launch trips on the lake was provided:

Launch trips:
  Wizard Island and return, on regular schedule, launches leaving lake shore at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m., per person .50
  Wizard Island and return, special trip, per person 1.00
  Around Wizard Island and Phantom Ship and return (about 15 miles), per person 2.00
  Around the lake 2.50 [6]

Visitation to Crater Lake increased by more than 20 percent in 1920 to 20,135. NPS Director Mather reported on the reasons behind this increase:

Travel to Crater Lake Park has each year shown a healthy increase over the previous year, and again this season we have a most gratifying increase over last year, despite the gasoline shortage and other circumstances that threatened several times to discourage or curtail long tours by automobile. It was noted also that motorists were more inclined to stop over in the park, and camp with their own outfits longer, than it has heretofore been their custom to do. There certainly exists here a splendid opportunity for the development of interest in camping and fishing, but to get the very best results in encouraging this use of the park the Diamond Lake area should be added. With a road from Crater Lake to Diamond Lake the park would become at once one of the best recreation areas of the Pacific coast and would be patronized by motorists from Canada to Mexico.

Weather conditions again played a significant factor in the increased visitation. In this regard Superintendent Sparrow observed:

After strenuous efforts, snow plowing and shoveling, the road to Anna Spring via the south entrance was opened for cars on June 13, and from the west entrance on the 17th. The road from Anna Spring to the lodge was passable for automobiles June 26, and the Rim Road around the lake on July 26. This is the earliest opening of roads within the park of which we have any record.[7]

Statement showing automobile travel, by States and entrances, season of 1920.

States. East entrance. South entrance. West entrance. Total.
  Cars. People. Cars. People. Cars. People. Cars. People.
Alabama …. …. 1 4 …. …. 1 4
Arkansas 1 4 …. …. 2 6 3 10
Arizona 1 3 6 23 6 19 13 45
California 128 410 556 1,800 567 1,814 1,251 4,024
Colorado 5 17 6 23 9 29 20 69
Connecticut …. …. …. …. 1 2 1 2
Florida …. …. 1 4 …. …. 1 4
Illinois 2 11 1 4 7 36 10 51
Indiana 1 4 3 10 4 18 8 32
Iowa 3 10 5 14 2 16 10 20
Idaho 15 46 9 35 9 34 33 115
Kansas 3 10 …. …. 2 5 5 15
Kentucky …. …. …. …. 3 8 3 8
Louisiana …. …. …. …. 1 2 1 2
Maryland …. …. …. …. 1 4 1 4
Massachusetts …. …. …. …. 3 19 3 19
Montana 2 7 1 4 1 8 4 19
Michigan …. …. …. …. 3 14 3 14
Minnesota 1 1 2 4 6 28 9 33
Missouri 8 16 1 2 6 18 15 36
New York 1 1 2 5 5 45 8 51
New Mexico 1 3 …. …. 1 2 2 5
New Jersey …. …. …. …. 2 2 2 2
Nebraska 4 18 …. …. 6 26 10 44
Nevada 4 17 13 39 9 29 26 85
North Carolina …. …. …. …. 1 4 1 4
North Dakota …. …. …. …. 1 4 1 4
Oklahoma …. …. 1 5 2 11 3 16
Ohio 4 11 2 4 10 34 16 49
Oregon 320 1,163 1,177 4,340 1,899 6,675 3,396 12,178
Pennsylvania …. …. …. …. 5 32 5 32
South Dakota …. …. …. …. 2 7 2 7
Texas 2 6 …. …. 6 18 8 24
Tennessee …. …. …. …. 1 5 1 5
Utah 2 4 6 20 4 16 12 40
Virginia 1 3 …. …. 2 4 3 7
Washington 31 97 46 172 70 204 147 473
Wisconsin 1 3 …. …. 1 8 2 11
Wyoming …. …. 6 16 5 12 11 28
District of Columbia 1 4 …. …. …. …. 1 4
Hawaiian Islands …. …. …. …. 2 4 2 4
    Total 542 1,809 1,845 6,528 2,667 9,220 5,054 17,617
Automobile travel unclassified by States …. …. …. …. …. …. 104 274
    Total all motorists, classified and unclassified …. …. …. …. …. …. 5,158 17,891
Total visitors, other means of transportation …. …. …. …. …. …. …. 966
Total visitors hauled by Crater Lake Stage …. …. …. …. …. …. …. 1,278
    Grand total visitors, motorists and all other …. …. …. …. …. …. 5,158 20,135


Annual Report of the Director of the National Park Service, 1920, pp. 279-80. The year 1920 was the first in which a statistical breakdown of automobile travel by states and entrances was compiled.

A visit to the park during July 17-19, 1920, by members of the House Appropriations Committee, accompanied by NPS Director Mather and E.O. McCormick, vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, brought to a head a smoldering dispute between the Park Service and the Crater Lake Company. Although reservations for the visitors were booked in advance, the lodge was not prepared to adequately care for them. This led to considerable criticism, particularly from Mather who reprimanded Crater Lake President Parkhurst and threatened to cancel his concession contract. One of the causes of the dispute was attributed to the fact that the lodge “was not opened in time to get things in working order or the crew organized before tourists began to arrive in larger numbers than had been anticipated.” The incident had a negative impact on park visitation, according to Superintendent Sparrow, because “in some manner the impression got out, about July 15, that this park was closed, and many intending visitors passed us by.” Sparrow took the opportunity to elaborate on some longstanding problems park management had been having with the concessioner:

During the early part of the season the service at the lodge came in for considerable criticism, most of which was justified. This was due, in part, to lack of preparation before the season opened, and inefficient organization, and lack of sufficient supplies. The lighting system was inadequate and the water system failed.

After much fault finding and criticism passed along orally and through newspapers, conditions were very much improved and for the remainder of the season but few complaints were received. A Delco lighting plant was installed which gives satisfactory service. A new pumping plant was installed, which was guaranteed to do the work, but failed entirely, and another unit is now in transit and will be installed at an early date. During this time water was furnished the lodge from the Government plant, which proved adequate for all occasions, but sometimes required a night shift to keep up the supply. Too much of the lodge is used to house employees, and it is my opinion that tents or separate buildings should be provided for the help, and if this were done the lodge, with some tents, should be sufficient to care for guests for another season or two. . . . Regardless of what the plans are for the future, there must be some temporary arrangement made to take care of tourists during the 1921 season.

The public operator has many good boats and launches on Crater Lake, but as yet there is absolutely nothing in the nature of a dock or boat landing. It is recommended that a loose-rock and concrete pier or boat landing be constructed for the convenience of tourists and protection of boats, which are always grounded on rocks when taking on or discharging passengers. . . .

Director Mather was so incensed by the problems with the lodge that he devoted considerable attention to the matter in his annual report for 1920. He described his personal dissatisfaction with the services being offered by the Crater Lake Company:

Although this is the first year I have recorded the fact in print, the management of the Crater Lake Lodge and Anna Springs Camp has never been satisfactory to me. When I first visited the park in 1915 I found an attractively planned but unfinished hotel, especially far from complete within the structure, insufficient furnishings, a scanty larder, and very ordinary dining-room service. I observed that the plant was not being operated at a profit, and upon inquiry found that the owner had invested all of his available funds in the enterprise and was unable to secure more financial assistance.

I endeavored to help him by offering suggestions regarding inexpensive improvements that would better service and make visitors to the hotel more comfortable, while further efforts were made to secure financial aid to complete the building. I secured the services of an experienced hotel operator, who visited the park and suggested perfectly feasible yet inexpensive betterments in kitchen and dining-room service. There were always promises of action on the suggestions and bits of advice, but no improvements worthy of the name were made. Year after year I visited the park, found the usual indifferent service and unfinished accommodations. I pleaded for improvement, got more promises, but never any fulfillment of agreements or understandings.

Last year I visited the park with the National Editorial Association, and although the number of members of this party was well known months before, as well as the time they would spend at Crater Lake, the management was entirely unable to care for the party in a satisfactory manner. Again I remonstrated with the owner and got more promises, only to find absolutely no compliance a year later when, last July, I visited the park with the Appropriations Committee.

Conditions this year were worse than last season; certainly no better in any respect. I concluded the time had come for action, and accordingly I gave the owner of the hotel property notice that recommendation would be made for the cancellation of his franchise, and that the park would only be kept open for motorists bringing in their own equipment. This had the effect of materially improving service for the remainder of the season, but I feel that a change in the operation of this enterprise must be made.

At Mather’s request, Oregon Governor Benjamin W. Olcott appointed a nine-member commission in August 1920 to investigate the status of Crater Lake concessions and develop a “practicable plan” for securing improvements. The committee, consisting of businessmen from Portland and Southern Oregon towns, was given a mandate by the governor to take “care of the interests of the present hotel management” and devise “plans for placing the accommodations at the lake on a basis which will be satisfactory to the national park management and to the thousands of tourists who annually visit this natural wonder.” It was Mather’s hope that with the results of the study funds could be raised in Oregon to purchase the property of the Crater Lake Company and rehabilitate the enterprise, the “parties subscribing the funds to organize and operate in much the same way as similar groups are now organized for the development of the Yosemite and Mount Rainier properties.” [8]

In September 1920 the Department of the Interior informed Parkhurst of its intention to have improvements made in the Crater Lake Company facilities. After listing a series of alleged violations of his contract, the department stated its desire to have Parkhurst answer each charge and propose remedial measures to correct each criticism. If his response were “not timely made” or was “not deemed sufficient to overcome these charges,” a hearing would be held. If evidence demonstrated that the company had not fulfilled its contract obligations, its lease would be annulled and revoked. [9]

Meanwhile, the Crater Lake Committee appointed by Governor Olcott conducted its investigation under the direction of its chairman, Sydney B. Vincent. The committee investigated each of 26 charges which had been leveled against the company:

1. That the manager of the Crater Lake Hotel and Anna Springs Camp failed in the year 1919 and 1920 to furnish the guests with ample and proper food supplies.

2. That the Crater Lake management failed to furnish first-class accommodations to the traveling public.

3. That he failed to maintain and keep in good repair Crater Lake Lodge and other buildings in connection with the resort.

4. That the leasee failed to complete Crater Lake Lodge prior to 1915 and since that year.

5. That the windows of the hotel were not kept in proper adjustment.

6. That suitable and adequate toilet facilities were not provided.

7. That the toilet facilities existent were not properly cared for and were improperly arranged.

8. That sufficient porter and bell boy service was not provided.

9. That all of the bed rooms were not made available for the guests.

10. That proper and clean linen and bed coverings have not been provided.

11. That the bed rooms are not completely or well furnished.

12. That an adequate supply of water was not available at all times.

13. That a sufficient number of boats for the accommodation of the guests was not provided. That guests were not supplied with sufficient information regarding the use of such boats.

14. That the management of the resort was generally lax.

15. That at the time of the visit of the National Editorial Association in 1919 the visitors were compelled to sleep three and four in a room.

16. That fire escapes had not been provided.

17. That the lighting system obtaining at the hotel was wholly inadequate.

18. That the taxes due Klamath County by the leasee had not been paid for several years.

19. That the leasee is not and has not been able properly to finance his operations.

20. That fresh milk was not available for the use of guests. available.

21. That horses for the accommodation of tourists were not available.

22. That ice was not to be had at the Lodge during the summer season.

23. That the sale of souvenir, or Crater Lake novelties, was not pushed.

24. That visitors at the Lodge on and about the 4th of July of this year were not all served with meals.

25. That an existing outside fireplace was not properly sheltered from the wind.

26. That garage accommodations were not afforded the guests.

Regarding the accommodations and services provided by the Crater Lake Company, the committee noted that high costs, short seasons, and large crowds made it extremely difficult to bring park concession operations up to the standards desired by Parkhurst himself and others. The committee concluded its report with a sympathetic discussion of the plight facing Parkhurst:

Your Committee has carefully considered all the phases of the situation coming within its knowledge, has read letters of endorsement of Mr. Parkhurst’s treatment of his guests and of the general atmosphere at Crater Lake Lodge. Probably our greatest criticism may be directed against the toilet system which prevails at the hotel. We believe that Mr. Parkhurst had made a faithful and earnest effort to make Crater Lake Lodge a resort of merit and note and that he has in a measure met with success, as indicated by the increasing attendance at the resort since 1910. . . . We find that Mr. Parkhurst has received little or no cooperation from any source whatsoever, except banking accommodations. The National Park Service through the Superintendent of the Park has extended numerous small courtesies, but so far as we were able to ascertain the financial burden has been borne by Mr. Parkhurst alone.

It is the understanding of our committee that at other national parks the government has expended considerable sums of money in various ways, not only to improve park conditions, but to provide for the accommodation of guests at these resorts.

Your committee understands that the government has spent something over $100,000 for the installation of an electric lighting system in the Yosemite National Park, but has not spent anything for this, or other developments at Crater Lake Lodge.

In conclusion your committee begs to state that it is its opinion that there is room for great development at Crater Lake; that most of the complaints directed against Mr. Parkhurst might be attributed to the fact that he has not been properly financed and that were he afforded the necessary financial assistance Crater Lake Lodge would become one of the noted resorts of the country. Mr. Parkhurst has almost impoverished himself to keep Crater Lake Lodge going from year to year, making such improvements as his financial capacity would permit. He has invested a large sum of money and should he be retired as lessee, we believe he should be adequately reimbursed for his expenditures of time and money. Mr. Parkhurst is not a hotel man of the modern type, and we believe in some particulars the management has been lax, and that perhaps if satisfactory arrangements could be made for the buying out or other disposal of Mr. Parkhurst that Crater Lake Lodge properly financed might go ahead more rapidly under different management. We say this in all kindness realizing the tremendous burden that one man has had to carry without material help from any source. Mr. Parkhurst is entitled to great credit for what he has accomplished. In all kindness and respect to the Hon. Stephen Mather, your committee begs leave to express the opinion that Mr. Mather expected too much of Mr. Parkhurst under the conditions; also that Mr. Mather has been a little too harsh and abrupt in his handling of the situation. We realize the wonderful work that Mr. Mather has accomplished for the national parks of our country also that carrying the burden of so many national resorts, hampered as he probably is by some of the proverbial red tape of governmental operations, and that the embarrassment caused him by the inadequate toilet and lighting facilities, especially while the congressional party was at Crater Lake, magnified the shortcomings of Mr. Parkhurst’s management and precipitated the condition which lead to the appointment of your committee. . . .

We believe it to be the duty of the people of Oregon, either to get behind Mr. Parkhurst financially and otherwise, or in lieu of that, have someone to organize a corporation which will buy out the existing corporation on a fair basis of return to the stockholders and to fairly compensate Mr. Parkhurst for the ten years of nerve racking toil which he has undergone. We also are of the opinion that the government, through Mr. Mather’s department, should carry some of the burden of improving the Crater Lake situation, aside from the road work which the Forestry Department is doing. [10]

Through the efforts of Mather a conference of Oregon businessmen was held during the winter of 1920-21 to work out arrangements for the refinancing and reorganization of Crater Lake park concessions. In his annual report for 1921 Director Mather described at length the financial reorganization and subsequent improvement to concession accommodations and services:

The outstanding achievement of the year in Crater Lake National Park was the improvement of hotel accommodations, transportation facilities, and miscellaneous service along progressive lines, thus solving the most serious and aggravating problem that has confronted me in this park since entering upon my present duties. This important accomplishment was brought about by the Crater Lake National Park Co., a new corporation formed and financed by several public-spirited citizens of Portland and other Oregon cities, headed by Mr. Eric V. Hauser. This new corporation leased the Crater Lake properties from the old Crater Lake Co., which originally built the lodge on the rim of the crater, and pioneered in the furnishing of other service, the lease to be effective until March 1, 1922, on or before which date the lessee company may exercise an option to purchase the properties as provided in the agreement of lease. It is confidently expected that the option will be exercised, and that under the new ownership and management the present policies of improvement and development will be continued.

In the agreement of lease covering the change in management of the public utilities, it was provided that the sum of $20,000 was to be expended in the improvement of the properties, this fund to be regarded as a loan to the Crater Lake Co., secured by a first mortgage on its equipment and other personal property, and payable in three equal annual installments if the option to purchase is not exercised, but to be canceled if the option is exercised. The fund, of course, was to be expended by the new company. With this money the new management has completed the Crater Lake Lodge, improved the water and lighting systems, installed necessary sanitary fixtures, erected 30 tent houses or bungalow tents at the lodge and 10 at Anna Spring Camp near headquarters, procured and placed on the lake a launch with a capacity of 40 passengers; and in many other directions provided the means of rendering excellent service and meeting the public demand for proper accommodations in this park.

Mather concluded his remarks on the new concession arrangements by discussing its wide support by Oregon business interests. He noted:

Considering the short season and other serious handicaps under which the new enterprise has been developed, the success that it has achieved has been most remarkable, and has been the subject of widespread favorable comment. The work accomplished has stimulated the pride of the State in the park as nothing else has done. The results of the season are bound to be far-reaching, and I feel very sure that when the properties are finally purchased by the new company, and more funds are needed for further development, additional capital will be freely offered in all sections of the State, thus bringing to the aid of the park the interest and energies of many more such able men as are now identified with this progressive work. Such a consummation would place Crater Lake Park in a position identical with Mount Rainier and Yosemite Parks, which are being improved with funds subscribed from all parts of Washington and California respectively, by business men who are intensely proud of the chief scenic areas of their States, and appreciate their value as playgrounds for the people.

That the support of every section of the State might be gained in this project was anticipated by the organizers of the new company, who conferred with business men of southern Oregon and interested several prominent citizens. Some of these men are now officers and directors of the company and very active in its affairs. Mr. Eric V. Hauser, of Portland, is president of the new corporation; Mr. R.W. Price, of Portland, is the first vice president; Mr. V.H. Vawter, of Medford, is the second vice president and treasurer, and Mr. C.Y. Tengwald, of Medford, is the secretary. [11]

In April 1921 the lodge and other concession operations in the park were placed under the day-to-day management of E.E. Larimore, an experienced hotel manager on the Pacific Coast. The change of management had an immediate impact on lodge operations. On August 29 the Medford Mail Tribune described these changes in atmosphere and efficiency:

In former years everyone was impressed by the natural beauties of Crater Lake, but after the first gasp, there was an awkward pause. It was like entering a beautiful residence, expecting to greet an old friend, but finding no one at home. There was no one at home at Crater Lake inside the lodge or out. After a few “Ohs” and “Ahs” and a leaving of cards, as it were, one was eager to get away.

This year there is a decidedry homelike atmosphere at the lake. One feels it immediately upon entering the lodge. You are not greeted as if you were merely an animated five dollar bill, welcome solely as a contributor to household expenses, but as a human being on a pilgrimage of devotion. Will Steel, the father of Crater Lake, puts this over. He is behind the counter to greet you, not as another customer, but as another candidate for initiation into the Mystic Order of Crater Lake enthusiasts.

Moreover the entire hotel staff is on its toes. They are all new and have the enthusiasm of fresh recruits. Not only is the table excellent, but the service combines beauty and efficiency to a remarkable degree.

At night the guests gather around the fire like a large and happy family. There is music furnished by members of the hotel staff, and there is dancing entered into even by those who climbed Garfield Peak in the afternoon.

Then Will Steel usually gives a little talk on Crater Lake, its history and formation, which is just what the visitors are eager to hear, and about ten o’clock everyone trots off to bed.

It may be merely the difference between good hotel management and no hotel management at all. But there seems to be something more–the creation of atmosphere in it. This appears to be the supreme achievement of the Crater Lake management of 1921. [12]

Park visitation increased by more than 40 percent for a total of 28,617 in 1921 despite the late opening of park roads due to late spring snows. The increase was attributed in part to the concessioner arrangements as well as improvements to the three public campgrounds in the park. Water facilities were installed at the Rim Campground, and toilets were constructed in each of the campgrounds. Some 14,000 persons, or 50 percent of park visitors, used the campgrounds. [13]

The Scenic America Company, a Portland-based firm headed by Fred H. Kiser, opened a photographic studio west of the lodge on August 25, 1921. Prior to the erection of the stone building the studio had operated in a tent. Under the terms of its concession contract the company sold photographic souvenirs, post cards, oil enlargements, and camera supplies. According to Mather, the establishment of this studio brought “to the park permanently the genius and artistic influence” of a man “who knows the national park system as well as anybody in the Northwest, and who for many years has aided this bureau by supplying pictures, by lecturing, and by writing on the parks and other western mountain regions”. [14]

In June 1922, just prior to the opening of the tourist season, the Crater Lake National Park Company formally acquired the concession facilities leased to them by the Parkhurst interests the previous year. The lodge was improved, and on July 11 construction was begun on an $80,000 eighty-room addition. Under a two-year subcontract to William T. Lee of Klamath Falls a fleet of six “powerful new seven-passenger [Packard] touring cars” was introduced to provide improved service between the park and Medford and Klamath Falls. A five-year subcontract was let to the Standard Oil Company of California to construct and operate a gasoline service station at Anna Spring, thus filling a long-felt need by the motoring public. [15]

To protect the investment of the new concessioner and to encourage the development of plans for further comprehensive improvements and extensions in accommodations for park visitors a new franchise was granted the Crater Lake National Park Company by the Department of the Interior. The contract, signed on December 7, 1922, but made retroactive to January 1, provided for a twenty-year arrangement to cover hotel, camp, transportation, and other visitor services. While the contract offered “inducements for progressive development of the Crater Lake properties,” it also contained, according to NPS Director Mather, “reciprocal obligations on the part of the owner to keep abreast of the demand for increased facilities, in so far as this can be done with due regard to the short season, reasonable return on the investment, and similar considerations.” [16]

The detailed provisions of the contract were designed to circumvent problems that had arisen with the former Crater Lake Company. Among other things the contract stated:

Term of the lease to be for twenty years from January 1, 1922, authorizing the Company to establish, maintain and operate in Crater Lake National Park hotels, etc., for the accommodation and entertainment of tourists and others; to install and operate laundries and barber shops, Turkish baths, bath houses, swimming pools; provide facilities for skating, sleighing, skiing and other winter sports; establish and maintain hot houses and gardens; to sell newspapers and other articles of merchandise; also to establish, maintain and operate a transportation service; to maintain for use and hire, row boats on the lake; to conduct a general livery business; to establish and operate lodges; also to establish a dairy service and to operate general merchandise stores.

The new company was given the right to occupy certain portions of the park to maintain its facilities and operate them. All plans for construction were to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior. The company was authorized to use timber, stone, and other building materials taken from the park for construction purposes, establish electric light plants and telephone and telegraph service, and graze horses. Provision was made for the renewal of the contract for a period not to exceed twenty years. The company was allowed to earn annually 6 percent in the value of its physical investment in the park, the 6 percent to be in the nature of a priority and if not earned was to be cumulative. The company was required to submit a schedule of all charges above 50 cents for the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, who could make such modifications as he deemed necessary so long as they were consistent with a reasonable profit on the investment made by the company. Concession employees were required to wear an identification badge, and the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to declare any person unfit or objectionable for employment by the company. [17]

The publicity surrounding the new concessioner and provision of visitor services, together with the removal of snow and opening of park roads by late June, contributed to an increase of visitation of more than fifteen percent in 1922. All told some 31,119 visitors entered the park in 9,429 private automobiles. In addition 995 visitors entered the park via transportation company stages, and 897 entered by other means, thus making the total park visitation 33,011. [18]

NPS Director Mather reported on the increasing popularity of Crater Lake National Park in 1923. With obvious pride in his accomplishments in terms of improving visitor facilities and services he stated:

Park facilities in every way equaled the unprecedented demands upon them. The tourist camps were enlarged early in the season, ample sanitary facilities installed, and additional water supply provided. The operators kept apace similarly, so that at no time were the hotel, transportation, or launch facilities jammed. Early in the season, as it became apparent that visitors preferred accommodations in view of the lake, the lodge management removed the tent houses from Anna Spring to the Rim and were thus able to take care of all demands for lodging. The only difficulty encountered in handling the greatly increased travel was a temporary shortage of water at the Rim, a crisis being avoided by installation of two additional 20,000-gallon storage tanks. . . .

. . . public facilities are in excellent condition and balanced nicely against requirements. With a few exceptions, sanitary provisions and water supply are well ahead of demands, trails are adequate and well maintained, sufficient dockage is provided on the lake, and auto camp grounds are well distributed and were splendidly maintained all season. Firewood has been available in all camp grounds. A number of new signs designed to reduce speeding at critical points were put up and traffic so regulated that no one was injured throughout the entire season, only two minor collisions occurring.

The reaction of visitors to the efforts of the park forces was beyond praise, nearly all being imbued with the finest possible spirit–that splendid spirit that tends to highest development among men and women who gather nightly around camp fires in the mountains.

The visitor facilities and physical improvements alluded to by Mather included the construction of a large combination mess hall and bunk house at Lost Creek for the use of early park visitors entering from the east. A 70-foot log boat landing had been constructed at Wizard Island. Two new flush toilet facilities with lavatories and oil-burning water heaters for hot showers were constructed at each of the campgrounds at the rim and Anna Spring.

An upgraded publicity program for the park was also initiated in 1923. The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Crater Lake National Park Company led the campaign. Superintendent Sparrow contributed to the publicity initiatives by preparing articles for publication in four national periodicals and various newspapers.

The new visitor facilities and the publicity efforts contributed to making 1923 the highest visitation year in Crater Lake’s history to date. The total number of visitors increased by some 57 percent to 52,017. The western entrance continued to be the most popular. A new record for the largest single day’s visitation through an entrance was established on September 2 with 235 cars carrying 884 visitors entering the park via the western gateway. Visitors came from every state but two, and from such places as Hawaii, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. There was a notable increase of visitors from California, the “number of first entry cars from that State during July equaling first entries from Oregon itself.” [19]

Visitation to Crater Lake increased by another 24 percent in 1924 to 64,312. This increase, according to Mather, was the result of four factors: an early opening; the park’s location almost midway in the Pacific Coast chain of parks extending from Sequoia to Mount Rainier; the improvement of approach roads; and “increased publicity, largely spontaneous, given by lovers of this Cascade gem.”

Improvements to visitor facilities by the Crater Lake National Park Company continued to lure visitors to the park. During 1924 the addition (north annex) to the lodge was completed on the exterior, and 22 of the 85 new rooms were completed and furnished. A new 40-passenger launch was placed in service on the lake, and a new boathouse was constructed on Wizard Island. In addition the Kiser studio added a small wing to provide a one-day film developing and printing service. [20]

During the summer of 1924 the Community House was completed at the Rim Campground. Funds for the structure had originally been intended for construction of a new home for the superintendent, but Thomson diverted the money toward the visitor activity structure. The Community House had a large rustic fireplace and was provided with a Victrola by the Medford “Craters,” a booster organization dedicated to promoting park development. The structure became the setting for informal evening gatherings, lectures, dancing, and musical programs, the latter featuring the “Kentucky Rangers” quartet consisting of four seasonal park rangers from that state. [21]

Prior to the 1925 travel season, R.W. Price, who had become president of the Crater Lake National Park Company, began an advertising campaign for the park. The campaign, which took the form of an annual trip that he continued until 1941, consisted of visits to railroad passenger and tour agencies throughout the eastern United States. His annual tours took him from Chicago to Washington, D.C., north to Boston, west to Buffalo and Cleveland, and back to Chicago. [22]

Travel to Crater Lake increased slightly to 65,018 in 1925. Of this total, some 98 percent traveled in their private automobiles. For the first time in its history Crater Lake entertained guests from every state in the union, as well as several foreign countries. This travel increase was significant because the 1925 season was five weeks shorter than that of 1924 because of adverse weather conditions.

Only minor improvements were made to visitor facilities in 1925. These included the completion and furnishing of nine rooms in the lodge, thus bringing its total to 92, eight new rowboats, and a complete sewage-disposal plant. [23]

With the increasing visitation the National Park Service implemented an extensive road sign information program at Crater Lake during the mid-1920s. In 1925, for instance, the park information circular, stated:

As fast as funds are available for that purpose the National Park Service is having standard signs placed along the roads and trails of this park for the information and guidance of the motorists and other visitors that use the park roads and trails.

These signs, in general, consist of information signs, direction signs, elevation signs, and name signs, all of which are of rectangular shape and mounted horizontally; and milepost signs, rectangular in shape but mounted diagonally; all of which usually have dark-green background and white letters, or vice versa; and danger or cautionary signs, most of which are circular in shape and usually have red background and white letters; and comfort station, lavatory, and similar signs, triangular in shape, having dark-green background and white letters. These last signs are so mounted that when pointing downward they designate ladies’ accommodations and when pointing upward they designate men’s accommodations.

The text on the standard road signs is in sufficiently large type to ordinarily permit their being read by a motorist when traveling at a suitable speed; however, as an additional safeguard, the motorist must always immediately slow down or stop or otherwise fully comply with the injunctions shown on the circular road cautionary signs.

Because of lack of funds, it has not been possible to place cautionary signs at all hazardous places in the roads; therefore the motorist must always have his car under full control, keep to the right, and sound horn when on curves that are blind, and not exceed the speed limit, which is 20 miles per hour on straight, fairly level road and 12 miles per hour on curves, narrow, or steep descending sections of road. [24]

Visitation to Crater Lake continued its general upward trend from 1926 to 1931 with the exception of a slight decrease in 1927, the result o a shortened travel season because of some 51 feet of snow during the winter of 1927-28. During this six-year period visitation nearly doubled from 86,019 in 1926 to 170,284 in 1931, while the number of private automobiles entering the park more than doubled from 26,442 in 1926 to 56,189 in 1931. While the number of private automobiles entering the park increased, the number of persons entering by auto stage declined from 792 in 1926 to 535 in 1931.

Various factors contributed to this major increase in travel to the park. Road improvements both within and outside the park facilitated travel. In 1926 the Cascade line of the Shasta route of the Southern Pacific Railroad, connecting Eugene with Klamath Falls, was completed, thus bringing a rail terminal within about twenty miles of the park. That same year the Crater Lake National Park Company negotiated a fifteen-year contract with the Standard Oil Company to construct and operate a “stone-and-rustic” service station at the junction of Sand Creek and Anna Spring roads at Government Camp, thus providing a more centrally-located station for park visitors. Winter recreation opportunities in the park began receiving attention in 1927 with the commencement of the first annual ski race from Fort Klamath to Crater Lake Lodge and return sponsored by the Fort Klamath Community Club on February 22. Thereafter the ski race and accompanying winter carnival became an annual event, generating considerable interest in winter sports in the park and increasing pressures to keep park roads to the rim open as long as possible during the winter to afford tourists the opportunity of viewing the “beautiful and inspiring spectacle” of the lake in its “winter garb.” [25]

The growth of park visitation was encouraged by the continuing development of improved visitor facilities in the rim area. In 1927 Park Service officials and representatives of the Crater Lake National Park Company and the Bureau of Public Roads developed a plan for rim area development. The plan provided that the concessionaire would construct and operate in the next year a cafeteria with a connecting general store for the sale of camping supplies and a group of rental cabins in the campground area away from the rim edge. Other improvements scheduled were an asphalt trail along the edge of the rim the full length of the village area; restoration of the soil between this promenade and the revetment to natural grasses and wildflowers; and construction of a wide parking area alongside a thirty-foot dustless road.

During 1928 the rim area was vastly improved. It was opened at the west boundary by the completion of a new road emerging at the rim edge. From there a new oiled drive led to the new cafeteria/general store and cabin group, campground, and lodge at the opposite end of a half-mile plaza. On each side of the boulevard an 18-foot parking strip was provided for several hundred automobiles. Along the edge of the rim a wide asphalt promenade was built for pedestrians and between this and the log parapet limited parking along the boulevard was an area of varying width graded for plant restoration. The group of fifteen housekeeping cabins was opened on July 15, and the new cafeteria/general store on July 20. A new Crater Wall trail was constructed from the west end of the Rim Campground to the lake “on high standards to permit the use of saddle animals, enabling many thousands to enjoy the lake who were heretofore denied that pleasure by physical incapacity.” The trail was opened on July 6 with Secretary of the Interior Ray L. Wilbur leading the first party ever to descend to the lake on horseback. That same year the company added a veranda on the lake side of the lodge, introduced a 35-passenger launch on the lake, and made saddle horses available for rental. [26]

As a result of the rim area development in the 1920s park visitor facilities and accommodations became centered in what was referred to as Rim Village. A Park Service circular for 1930 described the physical development of the village:

A large majority of visitors first reach the rim of the lake at the Rim Village. This is the main focal point of park activities, containing the lodge, post office, cafeteria, general store, studios, a rental cabin group, auto service, emergency mechanical services, ranger station, etc. From the Rim Village a number of the most important trails take off, including the spectacular new trail, just completed, down the crater wall to the lake shore, where launches and rowboats are available for pleasure trips and fishing excursions. This fine trail is 6 feet wide and on a holding grade of 12 per cent, permitting its use by people unaccustomed to much physical effort. For those who prefer not to walk, saddle horses and saddle mules are available for this and other trail trips. The trail to the summit of Garfield Park, directly overlooking the lake and giving a magnificent panorama of the Cascades, also takes off from the Rim Village, as does the trail to the Watchman, and another trail to Anna Spring.

A fine free camp ground, equipped with hot and cold shower baths and modern sanitation, is located here on the rim; its community house, comfortable with fireplace and with a small dance floor, is the center of evening recreation. A near-by cafeteria and general store cares for campers as well as for users of the rental cabins which are grouped near by. [27]

The introduction of modern snow removal equipment in the park during the winter of 1929-30 aided the increasing park visitation. In 1930, for instance, the equipment permitted opening of the park on April 14, the earliest date for travel to be checked in the park’s history. The new removal equipment allowed the park to publicize its intention to keep the park open until December, thus affording visitors the opportunity to view the lake throughout the fall season. [28]

The Crater Lake campgrounds became increasingly popular attractions for park visitors during the late 1920s. In 1927, for instance, Superintendent Thomson reported that 70 percent of the park visitors “took care of themselves in one or more of the ten campgrounds.” The Rim Campground was the most popular, an average of 300 people using it each night. [29] By 1930 the number of visitors using the three principal park campgrounds were:

Rim 5,129 14,373
Anna Spring 568 1,829
Lost Creek 240 739



In addition a number of visitors used less structured camping places along the roads at White Horse, Cold Springs, and Sun Creek. [30]

Since the mid-1920s medical problems involving visitors and park employees had been referred to Dr. R.E. Green in Medford. With the increase in park visitation, however, it became imperative that a doctor and nurse be stationed in the park during the travel season. Accordingly, a three-year contract was awarded in 1930 to Dr. Fred N. Miller, head of the medical service at the University of Oregon at Eugene, to provide such services at Government Camp from June 15 to September 15 each season. [31]

During 1931 various new visitor facilities and services were introduced that served as further inducements to park travel. These included the introduction of naturalist-conducted boat trips on the lake and automobile caravan tours, launching of a new boat on the lake, construction of twenty new tourist cabins near the cafeteria and new docks at the bottom of the lake trail, location of a new organized campground at White Horse Creek, dedication of the Sinnott Memorial, and development of new trails to Garfield Peak and on Wizard Island. [32]

After more than eight years of operation in the park the Kiser Studio was closed when its concession contract expired on December 31, 1929. As a result of financial difficulties and increasing competition for the photographic souvenir market by the Crater Lake National Park Company, the studio was operated during 1929 by the stockholders of Kiser’s, Incorporated, the successor of the Scenic America Company. Although Fred H. Kiser and the Bear Film Company applied for a new studio franchise in 1929, the Park Service did not issue a new permit, and the studio was converted into a visitor contact/information facility in 1930. That year the Crater Lake National Park Company opened a photographic studio in the general store/cafeteria building in addition to a small photo shop in the lodge. [33]

Visitation to Crater Lake slumped to 109,738 in 1932, a decrease of some 35.6 percent compared with the totals for the previous year. Travel by automobile stage totalled 302, a reduction of 42.5 percent from that of 1931. The five main park campgrounds (Rim, Annie Spring, Lost Creek, Cold Spring, and White Horse) were utilized by 11,324 visitors, a drop of 30.7 percent. The volume of business of the park concessioner was cut by approximately 50 percent, and the company’s ledgers showed a net loss for the season s operations.

The reduced travel figures were attributed to various causes by Superintendent Solinsky, the chief of which was the national economic downturn. Cold and unusual weather played a significant role in the reduced travel figures. All snowfall records were broken during the winter of 1931-32 as an estimated 85 to 90 feet of snow fell at the rim, and early spring visitors found 20 feet of snow on the level at the rim. Large numbers of tourists from the Pacific Coast states, which traditionally provided the bulk of park visitors, were attracted to Los Angeles for the Olympic Games. [34]

Park visitation continued its downward slide to 96,512 in 1933, but then rebounded to 118,699 in 1934 as the nation’s economic woes began to ease. The visitation increase in 1934 was attributed by Acting Superintendent Canfield in part to a “very light winter, the mildest on record since meteorological observations have been maintained throughout the year in the Park.” The mild winter allowed access to the park by the public for eleven months compared with the previous maximum of eight. Because of the mild winter and extensive use of the park for winter sports by residents of nearby communities, a winter Ski Carnival was held near Government Camp on March 18, 1934. As a result of the success of this meet Canfield observed that “it is apparent that a great deal of pressure will be brought to bear to keep the Park regularly open for winter consideration.” Public interest in keeping the park open in winter was encouraged by articles in national periodicals such as Canfield’s “Crater Lake In Winter” published in American Forests in February 1934. [35]

With several exceptions park visitation continued a general upward trend from 1935 to 1941, primarily as a result of improvement in the national economy and year-round operation of the park beginning in the winter of 1935-36. The number of visitors nearly tripled during this period, rising from 107,701 in 1935 to 273,564 in 1941 with an average of some 225,000 during the four years before Pearl Harbor. [36]

Improvement of the national economy and its effects on Crater Lake visitation were apparent by 1935. In July Superintendent Canfield observed:

Travel for the year covered in this report will probably not be up to previous estimates because of a comparatively early winter and a late opening in the spring Once the roads were opened, travel approximated last year’s, week by week; but there is an interesting development in that this spring it is apparent that there is a far greater demand for the higher priced accommodations. People are staying longer and spending more money than for several seasons. [37]

During the winter of 1935-36 the highways to the park from Medford and Klamath Falls were kept open, thus making the park accessible to motorists the entire year for the first time in Crater Lake history. Commenting on the year-round operation of the park and its impact on visitation Superintendent Canfield wrote in July 1936:

This [travel increase] is not only due to an increased national park consciousness on the part of the traveling public and apparent improved economic conditions, but due to year around park accessibility. The latter fact is in direct contrast to short seasons, the result of snow blocked roads until late in the spring. Cooperation from the Oregon State Highway Commission in snow removal from approach roads was an important factor in the winter accessibility of the park. Discussions were begun by this office during the past year with the park public utilities operator with the object of formulating definite plans to ultimately offer limited accommodations for winter visitors. Hitherto, no food or lodging has been available, working an inconvenience on visitors. The nearest accommodations are over 20 miles distant. While it is not likely such services will be offered during the next winter, a step forward in the right direction has been realized. . . .

. . . That this [year-round] development was appreciated, was shown by the arrival of many visitors during the snow-covered months to view Crater Lake in its scintillating raiment of winter finery. These visitors, to a large number, took an active interest in amateur winter sports, utilizing slopes for skiing, tobogganing and sleighing. The acquisition of an additional snow plow facilitated the difficult task of maintaining open roads in the face of winter storms, leaving a total snowfall of nearly 50 feet. No accidents marred the success of the winter season.

As a result of the open roads, Crater Lake gained further favorable recognition from the public and press as a winter recreational area. [38]

The increasing winter visitation to Crater Lake continued to attract favorable comment from park management. In July 1937, for instance, Superintendent Canfield observed:

The value of winter accessibility of Crater Lake National Park was again shown during the 1936-37 season when open entrance highways were maintained from Klamath Falls on U.S. Highway 97 and Medford on U.S. Highway 99–both gateway cities. Approximately 23 miles of park highways were involved. The Oregon State Highway Department maintained open roads to the park boundaries in cooperation with the National Park Service.

Up until the acquisition of powerful snowplow equipment, the wonders of Crater Lake during winter months were viewed only by the eyes of persons who skiied or snowshoed over 20 to 23 miles of snow. The park was practically inaccessible from November until late June or July 1. Snow was removed entirely by hand labor, making only a one-way traffic lane possible. The one-way traffic would persist until after the middle of July. It is of important interest to note that nearly 50,000 visitors arrived in the park during the time travel had been impossible in previous years. This total speaks for itself.

Through plowing activity and the urging of the superintendent, the Crater Lake Lodge was enabled to begin extensive interior improvements in May, opening for the public earlier than ever before. Hundreds of visitors took part in amateur snow sports in conjunction with drinking in the beauties of Crater Lake in its white raiment. While no ambitious snow carnivals were encouraged and the open roads were not given general publicity due to lack of accommodations, 39 different states were represented during the height of the winter, as well as a number of foreign countries.

Travel for the year covered in this report not only represents a distinct gain over the preceeding year but set a new all time record of 180,382 visitors. A portion of this increase can be directly attributed to winter accessibility, which first became a definite fact in the 1935-36 season. A major share, of course, can be attributed to an increased national park consciousness and apparently improved economic conditions.

Travel increases observed at Crater Lake were also on record in proportion in other national parks. All types of visitors were on the road. They kept the lodge, housekeeping cabins and cafeteria working almost to capacity, as well as keeping park camp grounds crowded. Both the park administration and the park operator are interestedly watching increased winter use of the park with an eye towards the availability of food and lodging accommodations.

The increasing visitation overtaxed the park campgrounds. Thus, preliminary work was undertaken in 1937 to double the size of the Rim Campground. Of particular concern to park management was the increasing number of house trailers that monopolized camp sites without actually using the stoves, fireplaces, and tables. [39]

The Crater Lake National Park Company made various improvements to its facilities and services in 1936-37 to meet the increasing demands of the growing park visitation. All rooms on the third floor of the lodge were completed, and ten uncompleted rooms on the second floor were finished in 1936. With the completion of the ten rooms the entire second floor was completed. In 1937 the lodge lobby underwent alterations, two 20-passenger buses were added to the stage fleet, and six new rowboats were placed on the lake. At the same time the inadequate heating system of the cafeteria was criticized by Park Service officials. The small housekeeping cabins were also characterized as being inadequate from the “standpoint of appearance,” “poorly arranged,” “disagreeable to occupy,” and lacking “many other customary accommodations that are to be found in the better type of park operator’s development.” [40]

In July 1938 Ernest P. Leavitt, the new park superintendent, reported on the growing visitation to Crater Lake and its impact on park facilities. He observed that the “new all time record” of 204,725 visitors could be attributed

to winter accessibility, snow conditions favorable to all classes of skiers, better publicity in regard to road and snow conditions in the park, and to the fact that the public could, for the first time, obtain meals in the park during the winter.

He went on to state that in spite

of exceptionally heavy snowfall and prolonged storms in the Crater Lake area (the heaviest winter since 1932-33) the park was kept open for winter travel. Keeping the park open throughout the winter was justified in view of record winter travel and also because it made possible the beginning of summer operations much earlier than would otherwise have been possible. . . . It is also significant that having the park open made possible a considerable through-the-park travel, thereby saving many people the otherwise long and circuitous route in getting between points in the east and west side of the Cascade Mountains. . . .

During the period from December 1, 1937, to April 30, 1938, park personnel conducted a survey to determine why winter visitors came to the park. Of the 13,283 visitors entering the park during that period, 5,922 came for winter sports, while 5,825 were attracted by the scenic beauty of the lake. The remainder made use of park roads for travel between the Rogue River and Klamath valleys. Winter travel showed a wide geographic distribution, visitors coming from 32 states, one territory, and 5 foreign countries.

Aside from winter travel, the number of summer visitors was also increasing, thus crowding visitor facilities. During fiscal year 1938, for instance, peak visitor loads on the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends crowded to capacity the accommodations afforded at the lodge, housekeeping cabins, cafeteria, and campground. On several other occasions throughout the summer all visitor facilities were crowded.

To keep pace with the rising tourism the Crater Lake National Park Company made improvements to its facilities. In 1938, for instance, various improvements were made to the housing arrangements in the lodge, including the elimination of fire hazards, expansion of launch and rowboat facilities, and installation of a laundry in the basement of the lodge. [41]

Winter use of Crater Lake National Park continued to increase during the late 1930s, thus prompting the Park Service to upgrade its public service, health, and safety standards during the winter months. These efforts, which had been commenced during the winter of 1937-38, were finalized during 1938-39. Thus in April 1939 Superintendent Leavitt reported that the past winter had been the first “where the standards of the National Park Service were met in connection with public service,public health, and public safety.” In elaborating on this theme observed:

The increased cost to the government in the past two winters in the operation of Crater Lake National Park has not been due to demands of the public because these demands have been kept to a minimum. The increased costs have been necessitated by the Service’s own standards of public service, health, and safety. By public service I mean keeping the roads in reasonably safe condition for winter travel by proper removal of snow, sanding bad areas to a limited extent, and by regular patrols to assist visitors who get into difficulties. Also providing adequate parking space for automobiles. Under the head of public service, we have for the first time this past winter provided modern comfort stations at the rim of Crater Lake and at Park Headquarters. These are electrically lighted and electrically heated and tunnel entrances were built between the plowed out roadway and the doorway to these comfort station buildings. The park never previously had such a service.

Special precautions were taken at the rim of the lake to prevent visitors from slipping on the icy snow within the crater wall and being dashed to pieces on the slopes below. An accident of this kind occurred on Memorial Day two years ago in which a young girl lost her life. During the winter of 1937-38 a section of the rim area opposite the parking space was roped off. This was insufficient. During the past winter a rope was stretched from the Crater Lake Lodge to a point northward beyond the area ordinarily devoted to winter sports activities. Signs and flags were placed on this rope at regular intervals, the signs reading, “Danger, do not pass beyond this point”.

Crater Lake had more serious accidents this past winter than ever before due to novices trying ski trails that had been laid out for experts. We had both an expert trail and a novice trail properly signed, and one long trail leading from the rim of the lake to Annie Springs.

The Park Service had to be prepared to handle these accidents when they occurred. It was, therefore, necessary to purchase two toboganns specially equipped for handling basket type stretchers in order to go to the assistance of injured visitors who were usually quite some distance from the road. It was necessary to buy several pairs of skis for the official use of our park rangers. Every member of our organization completed the Red Cross First Aid course and rendered very effective and efficient service whenever accidents occurred.

In addition arrangements had to be made to see that a physician or surgeon was in the park on week ends of heavy travel and prepared to render service in the case of serious accidents. Arrangements were made with the Indian Service to provide necessary narcotics for hypodermics to be kept at the park for use of qualified physicians when necessary.

By contracting our dining hall, visitors have been furnished with regular or short order meals during the past two winters at rates that were reasonable. The food was excellent in quality and well prepared and seasoned.

As the dining hall houses the kitchen, dining room, and living quarters of the dining hail staff on the lower floor, and the park employees who do not have their families with them, on the upper floor, this building is kept serviced and heated 24 hours a day. Wash rooms and sanitary facilities were available for a much larger force than the park used. It was, therefore, easy to arrange the dormitory space on the second floor to accommodate 18 women, and on the third floor, to accommodate 24 men; thus the government, working through the dining hall operator, was able to furnish a cot and matress to overnight visitors at a charge of 25 cents, the visitor providing his own bed roll. Over night accommodations were accepted up to the capacity of these dormitories, reservations being made by the dining hall operator in the order of receipt of application.

In addition a permit was granted to the Yellow Cab Company to operate up to five taxicabs in transporting visitors from Medford to the park during the winter. [42]

Winter sports programs in the park continued to be conducted in line with National Park Service policy, “special facilities and meets” not being provided or encouraged. During the winter of 1938-39, however, the Chiloquin Ski Club was permitted to operate on an experimental basis a portable electric ski lift on the lower slopes of the “ski bowl” near the lodge. As a result of the popularity of the lift and its apparent lack of impact on park resources, Leavitt urged that the lift be permitted to operate again the following winter.

By providing such winter visitor services and accommodations Leavitt felt that the park was building “good will throughout the state and local communities.” At the same time he observed that there was “no great amount of warmth or friendly feeling among local groups for the park operator.” This animosity existed despite various improvements in concession services and general rate reductions put into effect in 1939. [43]

The two years before American entry into World War II were banner travel seasons at Crater Lake National Park. Visitation reached all-time records to date with 252,482 visitors in 1940 and 273,564 in 1941. The summer recreational opportunities that attracted visitors in increasing numbers were, according to Superintendent Leavitt, hiking, auto touring, camping, boating, and fishing. The park trails in their order of popularity were the Crater Wall Trail, Watchman Lookout, Garfield Peak, Wizard Island, and Mount Scott. Winter visitation exceeded totals for previous years by nearly 50 percent, aided in part by the operation of a portable ski lift and two small gasoline-powered lifts on most weekends by the newly-organized Crater Lake Ski Club. [44]During these years the Crater Lake National Park Company installed new beds and mattresses in the lodge and made improvements to the housekeeping cabins, including placement of the beds and mattresses formerly in the lodge and installation of electric hot plates, oil heaters, and running cold water. Launch and rowboat facirities were improved. A permit was granted to the White Star and Hurry Cab Taxi Company in 1940 to provide transportation between Klamath Falls and Crater Lake during the winter months when the park concessioner was not operating its auto stages. [45]

On April 26, 1941, the National Park Service let a new 20-year contract (covering the period from January 1, 1941 to December 31, 1960) to the Crater Lake National Park Company. Under the terms of the agreement the company was authorized to:

a. establish, maintain, and operate a general hotel, cabins, and a camping business

b. install and operate such visitor facilities as a general merchandise business, laundries, barber shops, Turkish and other baths, and other amusements

c. maintain and operate docks, wharves, boathouses, power boats, rowboats, and boating equipment

d. sell meals, snacks, toiletries, souvenirs, and fishing, boating, and camping supplies

e. establish, maintain, and operate a general transportation service in and in connection with the park

f. establish, maintain, and operate trail transportation facilities and services

g. establish, maintain, and operate garages, gasoline stations, blacksmith and machine shops, stables, and corrals

h. establish and maintain hot-houses and gardens, when specifically authorized

The company was required to pay an annual fee of $500 plus 22-1/2 percent of excess over a 6 percent profit margin. [46]

The company made a number of improvements to its facilities in 1941. Private toilets were added to the 22 sleeping cabins at the rim, and other exterior and interior improvements were made. Two four-room deluxe cabin units were constructed for which maid service was furnished Each room was equipped with hot and cold running water, electric lights, private toilet and shower, automatic thermostat-controlled hot water and heat, one double bed, and two half beds. Steps were taken to correct the lodge sewage disposal problem, since water samples at the rim had shown evidence of contamination. Lodge rooms continued to be refurnished, such work being completed by early 1942. [47]

Wartime conditions, together with tire and gasoline rationing, resulted in drastic reductions to park visitation during the war years. Statistics indicate that park visitation for these years was 100,079 in 1942, 28,637 in 1943, 42,385 in 1944, and 77,864 in 1945. Beginning on November 23, 1942, the park was closed from mid-November to late June each year as a result of budget and personnel reductions and inability of the park staff to provide snow removal and visitor safety services. The concessioner closed the lodge and other visitor services in 1943 and did not resume such operations for the remainder of the war. Limited meal service was provided in the park headquarters dining room operated under contract by the aforementioned Robert P. Berry. [48]

During the war Crater Lake was visited by large numbers of military personnel from Navy and Marine facilities at Klamath Falls and Camp White, a U.S. Army base at Medford. The automobile permit fee of $1.00 per car charged to all visitors was suspended for automobiles carrying members of the armed forces, and campground and other special privileges were made available to them. Whenever a group arrived at the park a member of the staff was assigned to assist in its visit. Special literature was printed for distribution to military personnel. Park records indicate that 35,514 members of the armed forces visited the park during the war, not counting the families and friends that accompanied them. [49]

When Crater Lake was reopened on a year-round basis on July 1, 1946, visitation quickly returned to prewar levels. For the remainder of the 1940s visitation averaged approximately 250,000 annually. According to Superintendent Leavitt resumption of year-round operation and service to the traveling public by the Crater Lake National Park Company

was hailed with satisfaction throughout the State of Oregon for, Oregon being a recreational state, the year-around operation of Crater Lake National Park is of tremendous importance to it. Recreation is the third largest industry in the state. The counties surrounding Crater Lake, which depend largely on recreational income, use Crater Lake as the magnet to attract tourists, and around which they build their advertising program to other areas which are not as favorably known. This is also true of the advertising program of the State Highway Commission through its Travel Information Department.

The company opened for business on June 15 and offered a full range of summer services until September 19. The season provided the “finest business in the history of the company,” and the profits provided urgently needed funds with which to carry out many projects involving fire protection and safety in the lodge as well as replacement of cooking ranges and steam tables. [50] One of the innovations during the 1946 season was the subcontract entered into by the company with Scenery Unlimited of Berkeley, California, whereby the company brought a 35-passenger bus load of tourists to the park every two weeks as part of an excursion tour from San Francisco to Seattle up the coast and returning via the inland valley route. The experimental program was successful enough to have the subcontract renewed for 1947.

The company was requested by NPS Director Drury to provide winter services in the park during 1946-47. Accordingly, the company rented the park headquarters messhall and bunkhouse building and began furnishing meals and limited lodgings to park visitors and non-housekeeping employees of the Park Service on December 14. The company also entered into a subcontract with A.L. Vincze of Klamath Falls to provide a rope ski tow on the bowl below the lodge, limited ski equipment rental and ski lesson services, and transportation between park headquarters and the rim area. [51]

The return of large numbers of tourists to the park during the postwar years brought with it new problems for park management. The park was confronted with a new breed of park visitor as described by Superintendent Leavitt:

Although there was not very much vandalism of a kind that destroyed irreplaceable objects, there was the usual writing of names on signs, the carving of initials on signs, guard rails, benches, etc., worst of all was the almost total disregard of sanitation. Visitors threw bottles not only alongside the roads everywhere throughout the park but often in the road and scattered papers, filled cartons, and camp refuse throughout the park wherever they went, with a total disregard for sanitation, cleanliness and respect for the person who came after them.

In addition, it was found that we had an entirely different class of visitors to the park last year, people who had little or no appreciation of what the parks represented or what they stood for, so that there was a wanton disregard of the park rules and regulations and they did not take kindly to requests to obey these rules and regulations when they were called to their attention. . . . [52]

During the winters of 1947-48 and 1948-49 Crater Lake was operated on a day-use only basis. This experimental program meant that meals, lodging, and garage service had to be obtained outside the park with the exception of luncheon services provided at the Community House on Sundays and holidays. In commenting on the advantages and complaints generated by this experiment, Leavitt wrote on June 1, 1949:

This plan had at least one advantage to the National Park Service in that by nightfall all visitors cars are removed from the park and are out of the way of our snow plows when clearing snow from roadways and parking areas, etc. It has a second advantage of holding down crowds to some extent during winter months which makes it easier for the National Park Service to take care of winter visitors.

There is some complaint, however, on the part of skiers in our gateway cities who would like very much to be able to secure meals and lodgings in the park, and stay in the park over weekends. Experience has shown that the cost of furnishing such service is out of all proportion to the revenues received. [53]

During the late 1940s long-standing problems between the National Park Service and the Crater Lake National Park Company came to a head. In June 1949 Superintendent Leavitt reported:

The principal concessioner in Crater Lake National Park has been noted for many years for his reluctance to cooperate with the National Park Service in providing the best possible service to the pubIc at reasonable rates and in the development of good public relations with park visitors and nearby communities. The concessioner has failed to give full understanding and recognition that it is an arm of the government, designed to give service to the public under the general regulations and supervision of the Service.

For the past two years, the principal stockholder has been desirous of selling his stock interest to a person who would take over the active management and principal ownership of the corporation. He has not been successful in the sale of this stock and the confusion that has resulted recently from changing policies regarding concessioner operations in the park has not made the task of finding a new owner any easier. [54]

One of the attempts by R.W. Price, president of the Crater Lake National Park Company, to sell the concession occurred in April 1948. It was announced that the company was being sold to the Michael E. Lee family of Oakland, California. A former real estate operator in Portland before moving to California, Lee had considerable experience in hotel management. The financial negotiations, however, fell through the following month, and R.W. Price, who had wanted to retire, continued as president and principal stockholder of the firm. [55]

Crater Lake National Park Company

Year Net Worth
of Year
Income Expense Net Profit
Rate of
1938 $79,877.33 $86,726.40 $90,955.67 $-4,229.47 -5.29%
1939 74,782.84 103,818.07 95,621.95 8,196.12 10.95%
1940 83,068.96 100,613.49 97,913.18 2,700.31 3.25%
1941 84,973.85 112,085.93 109,290.74 2,795.19 3.29%
1942 87,769.04 23,254.80 49,757.91 -26,503.11 -30.20%
1943 61,707.33 3,965.08 14,189.61 -10,224.53 -16.57%
1944 51,482.80 2,467.77 4,497.46 -2,029.69 -3.94%
1945 49,453.11 10,042.04 8,380.39 1,671.90 3.38%
1946 50.794.27 200,016.04 175,942.87 24,073.17 47.39%
1957 84,867.44 256,385.39 242,169.02 14,216.37 18.39%




$69,886.70 $89,937.53 $88,870.90 $1,066.63 1.53%


Memorandum for the Director, Chief of Concessions, June 23, 1948, RG 79, Central Files, 1933-49, File No. 900-06, National Park Service, Rates Crater Lake Park Co., 1948.

Large numbers of tourists were attracted to Crater Lake during the winter of 1949 when the lake froze over for the first time in recorded history. The lake was solidly frozen to depths ranging from 2 to 12 inches and snow-covered from February to April. The freeze aroused “widespread interest,” and, according to the Annual Report of the Director of the National Park Service, “visitors to the park, many of whom were attracted there by this unusual occurrence, beheld an expanse of white in place of the sapphire waters so justly famous.” [56]

Increasing amounts of leisure time, higher levels of income, and improved transportation-related facilities contributed to rising park visitation during the 1950s. The annual average for the decade was more than one-third million, the totals ranging from a low of 306,668 in 1951 to a high of 370,554 in 1954. This rising visitation was encouraged by increasing exposure of the park in national travel periodicals such asTravel and Sunset. The growth in visitation led to innovations in entrance checking procedures, the most significant being issuance of entrance permits by machine in 1953.[57]

During the summer of 1950 a survey was conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior at Crater Lake National Park and Oregon Caves National Monument. The purpose of the survey was to determine tourist expenditures and travel occasioned by the two areas and examine the economic impact that they had in the general economy of the Rogue River Basin. The study provided a statistical breakdown of the travel flow through the park:

Entering Entering Leaving Total
North 133,699 – 43.2% 114,820 – 37.1% 248,519 – 40.1%
East 3,095 – 1.0% 16,403 – 5.3% 19,498 – 03.2%
South 86,657 – 28.0% 82,943 — 26.8% 169,600 – 27.4%
West 86,037 – 27.8% 95,322 – 30.8% 181,359 – 29.3%

Other data obtained by the study included:

a. 87% planned in advance to visit the park.

b. The park was the principal objective of 63.4%.

c. 83% spent one day or less in the park.

d. 17% stayed overnight and remained an average 1.2 days in the park.

e. 14.1% reported a visit to Oregon Caves National Monument.

Vacation travel resulted in an expenditure of $3,945,000 within the southwestern section of Oregon. [58]

The 1950s witnessed considerable turmoil and change in the concession arrangements in Crater Lake National Park. In May 1950 Superintendent Leavitt referred to some of the problems that the Park Service was having with the Crater Lake National Park Company:

Most of the concessioners were disturbed by some of the new policies and the new form of contract adopted by the Service. Many felt insecure in their investment and their chances of continuing in operation. As a result, there was little effort made for improving existing facilities or constructing new ones. Now that many of the policy features that were questioned have been satisfactorily adjusted, closer cooperation between the National Park Service and its concessioners is to be expected.

The Crater Lake National Park Company finally completed its fire protection improvements at Crater Lake lodge at the beginning of the 1949 season, and these improvements together with the better control of the watchman service provided a reasonable protection to Crater Lake lodge and its guests.

The company was officially advised last winter that it might continue to operate the lodge for the duration of its contract period, which extends for another twelve years, but conditional on the installation of an automatic sprinkling system. If this project is carried out, the National Park Service will have to share the project because the furnishing of an adequate water supply at all times is one of the first and most essential requirements. [59]

During 1950-51 relations between the Crater Lake National Park Company and the traveling public, Park Service, and company employees “reached a new low.” Superintendent Leavitt noted, however, that there had been a “lack of cooperation on the part of the company with the National Park Service” for many years. A special effort to improve these conditions was undertaken on May 7, 1951, at a meeting held in Portland with NPS and company officials in attendance. As a result assurances were given by the company “that every effort would be made at once to improve relations” in the aforementioned three problem areas. [60]

The Crater Lake National Park Company was sold by R.W. Price in 1954 to Harry W. and Harry C. Smith, father and son restaurant operators from Spokane, Washington. The new proprietors made various improvements to concession facilities during the five years they owned the company. A new addition to the cafeteria was completed in 1956, and the dining room, lounge, lobby, sales area, and nine guest rooms in the lodge were remodeled during 1957-58. Other refinements were made to the lodge, and newspapers heralded the fact that it had 114 rooms able to accommodate 294 people and 90 employees. In 1958 the Standard Oil Company constructed a new service station and employees’ dormitory at park headquarters under the terms of its subcontract. [61]

On June 4, 1959, Ralph O. Peyton and James M. Griffin of Portland purchased the Crater Lake National Park Company. Their firm, Crater Lake Lodge, Inc., did not begin operating the park concession, however, until October 1. One of the first innovations introduced by the new owners was a temporary tent-top wood frame-and-floor structure to serve as an ice-salon and staple grocery supply point near the Mazama Campground for the 1960 season. [62]

As the existing concession contract was nearing expiration on December 31, 1960, Park Service officials entered into negotiations with Peyton and Griffin concerning new contractual arrangements. One of the principal issues discussed in these meetings was the deteriorating condition and future use of the lodge. Both sides felt that the lodge was not worth expending large sums for rehabilitation, modernization, and fire-proofing. For a period of time the Park Service considered purchasing the outmoded lodge and converting it into a visitor center with a museum, information room, and auditorium for lectures. If this were done the concessioner would build a two-story, 250-guest motel across the parking area east of the lodge and construct additional dining facilities. Nothing came of these negotiations, and a new contract was approved for the park concession in Fate 1960. [63]

Park visitation continued to increase during the 1960s with an average annual total of nearly 500,000 for the decade. The highest annual total for the period occurred in 1962 when 592,124 persons entered the park. Superintendent Yeager attributed that figure, which was more than 175,000 above the previous high, to two articles on the park that were printed in the July issue of National Geographic combined with travel to and from the World’s Fair at Seattle from April 21 to October 21. Throughout the decade park visitation was encouraged by articles in national periodicals. [64]

During the 1960s various visitation studies were conducted by the National Park Service to determine visitor use patterns. One such study was conducted in connection with the park master plan during the summer of 1964. An analysis of the 1963 visitor totals revealed that 346,009 of the year’s total visitation of 475,684 entered the park in July, August, and September for a daily average of 3,761. The study found that 83.4 percent of park visitors were from three states: California (45%), Oregon (29%), and Washington (9.4%). During the previous winter more than 90 percent of park visitors had come from the three states. Visitation by various group types was composed primarily of the single car family, although bus tours arrived regularly during the summer. Single entry use constituted more than 99 percent of all permit sales. Fifteen percent of summer visitors stayed in the park overnight, 34 percent staying at the lodge and cabins and 66 percent in the campgrounds. During the summer season 60 percent of park visitors spent 1 to 4 hours in the park and 20 percent 4 to 8 hours. In winter 80 percent of the visitors spent 2 to 4 hours in the park. [65]

Visitor Activities

Activities Participants

1958 1963 Maximum 24 hr. period
Automobile Sightseeing 267,114 380,547 5,964 8/31/63
Conducted Trips 3,789 5,019 130 7/27/63
Interpretive Talks 39,604 51,767 1,200 8/13/63
Attended Stations 96,090 136,909 3,078 8/18/63
Self-guiding 210,000 499,000 7,455 8/31/63
Wilderness Use (hiking) 300 12 8/63
Overnight Use:
  Developed Auto Camps 36,850 47,944 1,029 8/9/63
  Lodge 67% Cabins 33% 18,426 20,223 295 8/13/63
Water Use:
  Boating (launch towers) 2,414 3,101 52 7/14/63
  Rowboats (rental) 2,500 41 7/63
  Fishing 4,700 75  
Picnicking 19,464 1,100  
Winter Activities:
  Sightseeing 5,000 200  
  Cross-country skiing 3,000 60  
  Misc. snow play 70,000 700  

In 1968 a more detailed analysis of park visitation and visitor use trends was undertaken. The study indicated:

Crater Lake National Park is a stopover rather than a terminal destination area. Visitation occurs predominantly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In 1968, this period accounted for roughly 75% of the 578,000 total visitation. Autumn, September through November, received 15% of use; winter, December through February, received two per cent; and spring, March through May, received eight per cent.

Park visitation is primarily sightseeing in nature and is increasing at a modest rate, projected at about 50,000 (+9%) annually. Camping pressure is increasing at a substantial rate, particularly in the self-contained vehicular class. During the summer the demand for overnight accommodations usually exceeds the park capacity of 290 campsites by early evening.

The park is within three hours drive of several population centers such as Klamath Falls, Medford, Grants Pass, Eugene, and Bend, but 45% of summer visitation is from California, 26% from Oregon and eight per cent from Washington. The remaining 20% is from all other states, none of which accounts for a significant representation. Access to the park is through Klamath Falls to the south, Medford to the west, and Bend to the north.

Picnic areas are well used. About two percent of summer visitors use park picnic sites. Hiking is relatively light, being centered around the trails to Cleetwood Cove, Watchman Lookout, Garfield Peak, with lesser use on the Mount Scott, Union Peak, and Cascade trails. Each summer three or four horseback parties ride the Cascade Trail. Fishing is common but light on the lake and minimal on park streams. Boating is confined to concession-operated boat tours on the lake. Winter use shows a great increase in oversnow vehicle use. Over 500 such vehicles were recorded during the winter of 1968-69; most use occurs from February through April.

Significant trends in park use for the 1958-68 decade were:

Camping increased from 36,850 in 1958 to 59,947 in 1968. In 1968 overflow camping amounted to 2,123.

Camping pressure was heavy. The limiting factor was the number of developed sites; only 290 were available.

Picnicking pressure was moderate.

Hiking was steadily increasing from 7,000 in 1958 to 15,667 in 1968. This figure included guided walks.

Launch Tours by the concessioner showed a dramatic increase from 2,414 in 1958 to 6,035 in 1968.

Despite such trends park management concluded:

The trends regionally and in the park indicate increased visitor pressure. Our resource capacity has not been reached. Significant increases can be handled without going beyond the carrying capacity of this park and destroying the park values we must maintain. [66]

The Mission 66 program at Crater Lake included a variety of improvements to facilities and services designed to upgrade the quality of the “visitor experience” in the park. The elements of this “experience” were ably described in the annual park handbook. For the purpose of understanding the “visitor experience” in the park as a result of the Mission 66 program the 1965 edition of the handbook will be used. (A map of the park in 1965 may be seen below.)

Park orientation revolved around two loci. These were the Exhibit Building in Rim Village and the Sinnott Memorial. Orientation was also provided during the evening campfire programs.

The handbook contained pointers on how the visitor could explore the park on his own via roads and trails. Interpretive markers were placed at many turnouts along the park roads. Among the points of interest that the visitor could explore on his own were Rim Drive, the Pinnacles, Cloudcap, and the Pumice Desert. Launch trips around the lake and boat trips to Wizard Island were highlights of any trip to Crater Lake.

A number of hiking trails were available to bring the visitor into close contact with nature. The recently-constructed 1.1-mile Cleetwood Trail, located on the northeast wall above Cleetwood Cove, led to the lakeshore from where the launches embarked. Trails led to Garfield Peak, Discovery Point, the Watchman, and Mount Scott. A self-guiding nature trail led through the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden less than one-half mile from park headquarters.

The naturalist program, described elsewhere in this study, consisted of four principal elements. These were information, lectures, campfire programs, and guided trips.

The handbook contained information that pertained solely to winter visits. The Park Service maintained two ski trails from Rim Village to park headquarters. On weekends and holidays from mid-September to mid-June the coffee shop at Rim Village offered light refreshments and souvenirs. Overnight accommodations were available at several locations near the park. The south and west entrances were maintained as all-year roads, while the north entrance and Rim Drive were closed from late September to July 1.

Free and non-reserved campgrounds were open from about July 1 to September 30, depending on snow conditions. Mazama and Annie Spring campgrounds, near the junction of the south and west entrance roads, and Rim Village Campground had fireplaces, tables, water, and flush toilets. Lost Creek Campground, on the road to The Pinnacles, had fireplaces, tables, water, and pit toilets. No utility connections were available for house trailers. The lodge and cabins at Rim Village were open from mid-June to mid-September. There were eight picnic areas equipped with tables and pit toilets.

The handbook listed a variety of services in the park. The lodge dining room was open during the same period that the lodge was in operation. In summer the cafeteria in Rim Village served meals from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. During the winter it operated as a coffee shop on weekends and holidays. Groceries were available at the cafeteria. Rowboats and fishing supplies could be rented at the boat landing at the foot of Cleetwood Trail. A branch post office was located in the Administration Building at park headquarters. Protestant church services and Sunday School were conducted at Community House in Rim Village and at the amphitheater in Mazama Campground. Several 2-1/2-hour launch trips were provided each day, and scenic bus trips around Rim Drive, beginning at the lodge, were scheduled daily. A gasoline station was open during the summer near park headquarters. [67]

Peyton and Griffin continued to make improvements to the lodge during the late 1960s. During 1965-67 it was refurbished with new carpeting and furniture. In 1967 a partial sprinkler system was installed primarily to protect the lobby area against fire. [68]

While these improvements were underway the National Park Service negotiated a new 30-year contract with Crater Lake Lodge, Inc. The contract contained the usual provisions for the concessioner to provide lodging, food and beverage, transportation, service station, boat, and merchandizing services in the park. One of the innovations in the contract, however, provided that the concessioner would operate the park campgrounds on a fee basis with a reservation system. This set a precedent in National Park Service history since Crater Lake was the first park to introduce concessioner-operated fee campgrounds. The company also agreed to contract and operate a trailer village. [69]

Subsequently, Peyton and Griffin announced a $2,000,000, nine-year building program at Crater Lake. The ambitious plans, most of which were never fulfilled, included a 100-site trailer village adjacent to Mazama Campground, a 50-unit motel with coffee and gift shop at Munson Valley, replacement of the existing Rim Village cold-water cabins with modern single-family units, expansion of the existing cafeteria and gift shop, construction of a new 160-employee dormitory at Rim Village, and reconstruction of the lodge into a low-profile structure of 50-60 rooms having spacious dining and recreation facilities. [70]

Backcountry hiking became an increasingly popular form of recreation activity at Crater Lake during the late 1960s. This phenomenon was especially true after Congressional establishment of the Pacific Crest Trail on October 2, 1968. The trail extended for 33 miles through the park on its 2,350-mile circuit along the mountain ranges of the West Coast states from the Mexican-California border to the Canadian-Washington border. [71]Later in 1970 the fire access trails that had been constructed in the 1930s were converted for use as backcountry hiking trails.

Visitation to Crater Lake during the 1970s averaged nearly 540,000 per year. The highest totals were 606,636 in 1976 and 617,479 in 1977 when Bicentennial-related travel contributed to rising visitation levels throughout the National Park System. The lowest visitation of the decade occurred in 1975 when only 427,252 persons entered the park as the result of the water contamination crisis that closed the park for 21 days. Other factors that affected visitation levels during the 1970s were sporadic gasoline shortages and the rising cost of fuel.

In July 1977 the National Park Service conducted a visitor use study of the park. Included in the study was an analysis of existing visitor use patterns. Among the findings of the study were:

Crater Lake is principally a day-use area, with approximately two-thirds of its yearly half million visitors staying less than four hours. Visitation occurs mainly in the summer, with 75 percent arriving from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

For most visitors, a stop at Crater Lake is a part of a north-south trip which includes visits to other areas. Although the average visitor remains a short time, he has deliberately ventured off the main travel routes just to see the lake. Almost 80 percent of the visitors are West Coast residents, over half of these from California.

For the small percentage of people remaining overnight (15 percent), about two-thirds of those camp in Mazama Campground, approximately half utilizing recreational vehicles. The 12-site Lost Creek Campground offers primitive camping and receives relatively light use, while Crater Lake Lodge and Cabins accommodate approximately one-third of the overnight demand.

Backcountry use is still minimal, with the Pacific Crest Trail receiving the heaviest use. Winter use is also minimal (but steadily increasing), consisting mainly of regional residents sightseeing. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is largely concentrated around park headquarters and the Rim Village, while snowmobiling is restricted to the park road from the north entrance to the caldera rim.

Heaviest day use activity is centered around Rim Village and Rim Drive, which affords many scenic overlooks. Rim Village now contains the main interpretive facility, Sinnott Memorial, and most of the support facilities, including a cafeteria, cabins, lodge, and store. During the summer, approximately 500 people a day hike down to Cleetwood Cove and take a launch for a guided tour around the lake.

Limited information is provided at the entrance stations, and geologic interpretation is provided on the rim at Sinnott Memorial through personal services and exhibits. Approximately 20 interpretive waysides are located on the Rim Drive and more on the approach roads. Grayback Ridge Motor Nature Road offers an interpretive tour relating the theme of Evolution of a Landscape.

The typical day visitors arriving from the south will proceed to the Rim Village, park their vehicles, and proceed to the rim for their first view of the lake or to the concessioner facilities and then to the viewing areas. They may attend one of the talks in the Sinnott Memorial and view the exhibits in the exhibit building.

Depending upon the remaining time available, they may stop at other viewpoints, take a boat tour, or proceed on to their next destination.

Visitors entering the park from the north receive information at the North Entrance Station and proceed toward the rim. At the road junction with the Rim Drive, they may choose either the longer route to the left with its numerous overlooks and viewpoints of the lake or the shorter route to the right along the west side of the lake to reach the Rim Village. [72]

In July 1975 some 1,500 park visitors and employees became sick as a result of sewage contamination of the park’s water supply system. This necessitated the closure of the park for three weeks. Crater Lake Lodge, Inc., and Ralph Peyton were co-defendants in the ensuing litigation. Although their defense attorneys argued that the federal government, not the concessionaire, was ultimately responsible for the illness of park visitors, the jury decided that Peyton and his company demonstrated “wanton misconduct” in not warning guests of the outbreak of illness among concession employees.

Following the epidemic outbreak, the concession rights in the park were sold for $1,900,000 to the Canteen Company of Oregon, a subsidiary of Trans World Airlines, on March 1, 1976. Among the conditions incorporated in the terms of the transfer by the National Park Service were the following: (1) no possessory interest to be allocated the concessioner in 19 cold water cabins; (2) cold water cabins and two fourplex units to be removed within ten years; and (3) concessioner contract to be rewritten in compliance with the park’s master plan provisions. Under the provisions of the contract for concession privileges in the park, the National Park Service owns the lodge subject to the small possessory interest gained by the concessioner through the subsequent installation of a sprinkler system. [73]

The current status of visitor services and facilities is reflected in the park’s “Statement for Management” approved in October 1986. The document states that a “majority of the visitors come to the park to see the lake, may stop at some of the pullouts along park roads, and may participate in interpretive programs offered primarily in the Rim Village area.” Two automobile campgrounds provide 210 sites. Mazama Campground (198 sites) has modern, cold-water comfort stations and an amphitheater for evening programs, while Lost Creek Campground (12 sites) is more primitive. Mazama is operated by the park concessioner and is sometimes the recipient of complaints since it lacks hot water and showers.

The Rim Village area is a complex of isolated structures dating primarily from the 1920s and 1950s that are connected by a network of roads, extensive parking areas, and walkways. Although originally developed as a rim promenade from which to view the lake, increasing visitation led to periodic expansion of parking and related facilities. At the present time pedestrians along the rim must remain cognizant of traffic movement and must cross busy traffic lanes and parking areas to reach many of the lake viewpoints and park facilities.

The concessioner operates 20 cold-water cabins behind the cafeteria building and the 80-room lodge, which are available to visitors for approximately 90 days each summer season. The lodge contains some substandard rooms and has various structural defects, conditions which have led to extensive debate and study during the 1980s as to the economic feasibility of rehabilitating and restoring the historic structure for continuing use. [74] The concessioner also operates a cafeteria/curio shop in Rim Village on a year-round basis and a summer season service station in Munson Valley, and provides bus tours around the Rim Drive and boat tours on the lake.

NPS facilities in Rim Village are limited. The old Community Building, now referred to as the Rim Center, serves as an auditorium for summer interpretive programs. The facilities are minimal, however, and the location does not attract heavy use. The structure was damaged severely by heavy snows during the winter of 1982-83 and currently is unsafe for winter use.

The Exhibit Building, a small structure on the rim now referred to as the Rim Visitor Center, is in an obscure location and visitation is low. This structure nevertheless serves as the principal contact point between NPS personnel and park visitors with the exception of the entrance stations. The building contains a small information and sales area and minimal exhibits.

The nearby Sinnott Memorial offers spectacular views of the lake. Regularly scheduled talks on the formation of the lake are given here, and a small exhibit room emphasizes the geological processes that created the lake. Access to the structure is via a steep path and stairs, and it is only open during the summer. [75]

The interim development concept plan that was adopted for the Annie Spring-Rim Village corridor in April 1985 calls for the expansion of visitor services and facilities in that area. The plan provides for the development of expanded camper services adjacent to the Mazama Campground in the area south of the campground entrance road, including a general store, snack service, shower and laundry facilities, gas station, and registration office for some 20-36 budget cabins. These cabins are to be constructed next to the campground and camper services facility, replacing the deteriorated cold water cabins in the Rim Village area. The plan also provides for the addition of up to fifty individual sites in the Mazama Campground and consideration of at least one nearby group campsite, pending further study and evaluation. Among the improvements contemplated at Rim Village are removal of the dilapidated cold water cabins behind the cafeteria building and the Community Building and development of a new interpretive facility plus an alternative for developing exhibits on park history on the second floor of the lodge. Improvements have been commenced on the lodge, including installation of a fire suppression sprinkler system to ensure the safety of visitors while ongoing studies are being undertaken to provide information on the economic and engineering feasibility of rehabilitating the existing lodge for “rustic” accommodations and provide additional information to facilitate continued evaluation of various options for possible adaptive uses and/or disposition of the structure. [76]


Appendix A15: Schedule of Base Rates, Crater Lake National Park Company, 1938
Appendix B15: Schedule of Base Rates, Crater Lake National Park Company, 1948
Appendix C15: Annual Visitation