56 Chapter 16: Interpretation 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 SIXTEEN: Interpretation In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


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While Crater Lake National Park did not provide organized interpretive or educational activities until 1926, some efforts were made in the early 1920s to provide visitors with information on the natural history of the park. In 1922, for instance, Superintendent Sparrow observed that an “ever-increasing interest in nature studies is manifested by visitors to the park, and a book on the botany of the park, giving descriptions and illustrations that would enable the layman, as well as scientific botanists, to identify the various flowers and trees, is in demand.” [1]

In 1924 Superintendent Thomson made provision for the University of Oregon to assign F. Lyle Wynd, a 22-year-old student, to conduct nature studies at Crater Lake. He initiated “a study of willows as to the availability of feed for ruminants” in the various valleys of the park. Besides conducting the study in 1924 and 1925 Wynd served, according to Thomson, as a “flunkey,” becoming generally acquainted with the park flora, fauna, and geology. [2]

Organized interpretive activities, or educational/naturalist services as they were first called, were commenced at Crater Lake National Park during the summer of 1926. At the request of Ansel Hall, chief naturalist of the National Park Service, Dr. Loye Miller, an eminent naturalist from the University of California, organized such services which extended from July 1 to August 15. Miller, who had helped initiate an educational program at Yosemite, was appointed as acting park naturalist. He was assisted at Crater Lake by his son Alden H. Miller and two students, Leigh M. Larson and Ruth Randall, the latter two acting as volunteers in charge of wildflower displays. Some years later Miller would reminisce humorously about his early experiences at Crater Lake:

Just as had been the case at Yosemite, we were appointed as rangers. My duties at Crater Lake included Nature Guiding, directing traffic, comforting crying babies, rounding up stray dogs, and a wild drive down the mountain to Medford Hospital with a writhing appendicitis patient and his distracted wife in the rear seat. [3]

The embryonic naturalist staff was stationed in Rim Village with headquarters in the Community House. In addition to manning the visitor information desk in that building the staff prepared a series of exhibits, including a fifty-specimen bird collection, a small rock collection, and a plant display featuring thirty species of wildflowers and six conifers. The staff also began printing “Park Nature Notes” for distribution to park visitors.

During 1926 the staff headed by Miller made personal contacts with more than 6,000 visitors. Nightly lectures (except Sunday) were given at Crater Lake Lodge and the Community House on such subjects as the geologic history of the Cascade Range, formation of Mt. Mazama and Crater Lake, glacial action in the park, geology of Llao Rock, history of Wizard Island, forest trees and diseases, flora and fauna of the area, and lantern slides of the Cascades and Crater Lake. Daily guided “field excursions” (except Monday) began at the Community House and went on various routes: both directions along the rim; through the meadows toward Government Camp; along the old road east of the lodge leading toward Government Camp; and through the forest back of the Community House. [4]

The Nature Guide Service, as it came to be called, was continued by Miller in 1927. He was assisted by his son, who was promoted to temporary ranger naturalist, and Leigh Merriam-Larson, a volunteer assistant. That year Superintendent Thomson reported:

This work is, beyond question, the most popular and worthwhile service ever accomplished at Crater Lake, and I am hopeful of seeing its usefulness expanded by more adequate personnel and at least some minor equipment.

The naturalist program remained much as it had the previous year except that daily field excursions were commenced at the lodge to promote greater visitor participation.[5]

During 1927 initial discussions were held concerning establishment of an observation point on the rim of the lake that would serve educational purposes. Those participating in the discussions were Superintendent Thomson, Miller, and Dr. J.C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Miller recommended that the observation point or station “should be architecturally in harmony with the adjacent landscape” and located “at Victor Rock or at some other strategic point near by.” The station should be educational, inspirational, and informative and “should utilize the unique features of the park in such way that they would convey their own message with a minimum of assistance from simply worded statements.” The “matters presented should be few” and “mainly geological in nature.” Such points should include: Llao Rock, Wizard Island, Devil’s Backbone, Dutton Cliff, Feeder Dikes (with. telescope), glacial valleys, and the Cascade Range with its studding cones. The idea of time “should be stressed to emphasize the fact that the present is a result of continuous processes that are still in action.” The geological processes were “intimately related with the biologic,” and thus flora and fauna issues should be given attention at the station. Research and field data collection should be conducted by authorities in the field, and provision should be made for the periodic residence of such experts in the park. These discussions set the stage for the eventual construction of the Sinnott Memorial in 1931. [6]

Meanwhile the park educational program in 1928 was placed in charge of Acting Park Naturalist Earl V. Homuth, a professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego. The summer activities, which extended from July 1 to August 22, included:

Field Trips — 38 (attendance 590)
Lectures — 76 (attendance 4,880)
Contacts (Rim, Lodge, Community House) — over 5,000

Three issues of 100 copies each of “Nature Notes” were printed to supplement the lectures and guided field trips. [7]

In 1929 the park information department, as it was referred to, was again in charge of Acting Park Naturalist Homuth, assisted by one temporary ranger naturalist and two volunteer assistants. Some 65,000 free government leaflets were distributed at the information office and temporary museum in the Community House and park ranger stations during the summer. The leaflets had been prepared by Homuth and his staff and covered topics such as geology, wildlife, and natural history in the park. Two lectures were given each evening, one at the temporary museum and one at the lodge. A total of 94 lectures were given to some 11,235 park visitors. In addition some 53 guided tours were conducted daily “over areas about the rim,” a total of fifty such trips being made during the summer with an attendance of 1,277.

A natural wildflower garden named Castle Crest Garden was established near Government Camp in 1929. Some 200 species of park flowers were planted in the garden, and regularly scheduled tours were conducted through it. Metal labels were placed along the trail to identify the various plants. In addition a labelled nature trail was established along the rim from the lodge to a new lookout point some 1.3 miles westward. [8]

During the summer of 1929 a “Plan of Administration of the Educational Activities of Crater Lake National Park” was prepared by NPS Chief Naturalist Ansel F. Hall, Acting Park Naturalist Earl V. Homuth, and Superintendent Solinsky. The plan, which was approved by NPS Director Albright on August 10, included a brief statement of the principles of current operation which was to serve as an informative guide for the immediate use of the park educational staff and as a basis for developing a long-range administrative program to govern the expanding park educational program. The plan was based on the previous years experience of the park educational staff as well as the insights gained by the staffs of other parks where educational activities had been developed more completely.

The plan outlined the staffing requirements for the park educational program. It called for the hiring of a permanent year-round park naturalist to administer the program as soon as possible. The existing staff consisted of an acting park naturalist (temporary summer appointment), two ranger naturalists (temporary summer appointments), and one volunteer assistant. The educational staff would continue to have its offices in Community House.

The responsibilities of persons serving in these positions were outlined in the plan. Aside from administering the park educational program the major duties of the park naturalist were to include museum and library development, writing and editing park publications, compilation of scientific research data on the park, and arrangement for special services to park visitors.

The ranger naturalists were chosen for their training in the natural sciences and their ability to present information to the public. Their duties included conducting field trips, delivering lectures, dispensing information, and serving in the park museum. Provision was made for employment of volunteer assistants to conduct special studies and undertake other projects in support of the park’s educational activities.

The plan detailed the level of existing educational activities for the public at Crater Lake. There were four guided field trips: Watchman Trail (1-1/2 hours), Trail to Lake Shore (2-1/2 hours), Garfield Peak (3 hours), and Bell Canyon (2-1/2 hours). Lectures were presented at the Community House and Crater Lake Lodge each night except Sunday. The museum and general information office at the Community House was open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Rim information service was provided daily (noon to 5 p.m.) by a ranger naturalist. Other educational activities included maintenance of the wildflower garden and the sale and distribution of park publications.

In addition the plan listed six new permanent projects which would form the nucleus of park educational efforts during the next several years. These were:

1. Collection and installation of exhibits in the museum.

2. Installation of view finders, exhibits, and information data in lookout stations at Victor Rock and on Watchman Trail.

3. Labeling and maintenance of nature trails–Rim Trail, Trail to Lake, Bell Canyon Trail to Wild Flower Garden, and Garfield Trail.

4. Development, labeling, and maintenance of wildflower gardens–Castle Crest Garden and Rim Garden.

5. Educational staff publications–Nature Notes (monthly), Natural History Leaflets, Park Manual of Information (cumulative), and Manual of Instruction for Educational Workers.

6. Establishment and maintenance of a park library. [9]

The position of park naturalist was made permanent by the 1931 fiscal year appropriation act. Homuth, who had served as acting park naturalist on a seasonal basis since 1928, was named to fill that position. [10] Because of illness, however, he was forced to resign suddenly in July 1930. F. Lyle Wynd, ranger naturalist, was appointed to assume temporary charge of the park’s educational activities. In an effort to help the fledgling program Dr. Harold C. Bryant, assistant NPS director for educational activities, visited the park that summer.

Increasing numbers of visitors participated in the park educational programs during 1930. Some 107 evening lectures were presented to 10,310 people at the lodge and Community House. The lectures at the latter were illustrated with lantern slides and moving pictures. Some 2,330 persons participated in 112 field trips, two of which were taken to various sections of the park each day.

The building formerly occupied by Kiser’s Studio at the rim was converted for use as a visitor contact/information station in 1930. The structure, which became generally referred to as the Information Building, had been sold to the Crater Lake National Park Company, and the park concessioner agreed to permit government use of the structure without remuneration. It was estimated that about 90 percent of the park visitors came into contact with the park naturalist staff at this facility. Sales of government publications increased markedly during the year, the number of National Park Portfoliossold, for instance, rising from 54 to 1,000. Some 2,000 copies of the park “Nature Notes” were distributed. [11]

The Crater Lake National Park educational program was greatly expanded during the summer of 1931. Setting the philosophical basis for the program was a “Memorandum Regarding Relation of Aesthetic to Scientific Study in an Educational Program at Crater Lake,” prepared by John C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington on June 14, 1931. In the memorandum Merriam discussed four features of nature appreciation which were incorporated in the park’s educational program. These aspects were:

1. Elements of special human appeal of the personal type. Included in this group are many features associated with joys or sorrows of previous life, also factors which have favorable influences on the individual through stimulation to activity or through influences bringing rest or relief.

2. That which has appeal to the sense of beauty or proportion as it is interpreted by the artist, and with the minimum of expression of purely individual personal appeal. The color sense, symmetry, balance, contrast, and unity in the pattern of nature sum up much of what would be included.

3. Features that force upon our attention recognition of magnitude, power, majesty, and law in nature. These aspects of nature produce a feeling of awe which may in one direction become fear or in another may be the basis of reverence.

4. Recognition of that which lies behind the superficial features, represented in the moving element through which the picture has been produced. These factors may be transmuted into what has been referred to as natural law. This type of appreciation means seeing nature as a living, moving, growing thing. . . . [12]

The growing educational program was centered around the projected Nicholas J. Sinnott Memorial Observation Station and Museum that was to be built with a $10,000 appropriation made by Congress on July 1, 1930. Sinnott, who had died in 1929, had been a member of the House of Representatives from Oregon during 1913-28 and as chairman of the Committee on Public Lands from 1919-29 had been a strong supporter of Crater Lake National Park. In providing for the memorial Congress acted upon the recommendation of Louis C. Cramton, chairman of the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee handling Interior Department appropriations. The Sinnott Memorial is significant since it was the first museum building to be constructed in a national park with funds provided by a specific congressional appropriation.

Construction of the Sinnott Memorial, located on Victor Rock, was commenced during the fall of 1930. Plans for the structure were developed by Chief Landscape Architect Thomas C. Vint and Assistant Landscape Architect Merel S. Sager of the NPS Landscape Division and approved by the NPS Educational Division and John C. Merriam, who had become chairman of the Secretary of the Interior’s Advisory Committee. Through the cooperation of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the sum of $5,000 was made available for placement of exhibits and telescopes in the memorial. The Carnegie funds were transmitted through the National Academy of Sciences, which appointed a committee headed by Merriam to cooperate with the Park Service in the installation of the equipment. [13]

The Sinnott Memorial was dedicated with special ceremonies on July 16, 1931. Donald B. Colton, a representative from Utah and chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, gave the dedicatory speech. Colton had succeeded Sinnott as the chairman of the committee. Colton stressed the untiring efforts of Sinnott in interesting the national authorities in Crater Lake and obtaining for Oregon’s national park funds with which improvements had been made. Among those attending the ceremonies were NPS Director Horace M. Albright, William G. Steel, and nine members of the Committee on Public Lands. [14]

During the summer of 1931 exhibits, emphasizing the beauty and scientific aspects of the Crater Lake story, were placed in the Sinnott Memorial. Nine exhibit boxes were sunk in the masonry of the parapet to interpret the park’s principal themes:

1. Volcanoes of the Northwest
2. Why We Believe a Great Volcano Existed Here
3. Building Up of the Mountain
4. Glaciation
5. Destruction of the Mountain
6. Latest Volcanic Activity
7. Crater Lake
8. Beauty of Color
9. Beauty of Form

Between and outside of these boxes ten pairs of field glasses and two binocular telescopes (battery commander) were mounted in fixed position in order to tell the story of Crater Lake in a consecutive manner. Other installations placed in the memorial included a cast relief model of Crater Lake and vicinity which had been presented to the park earlier by the Crater Lake Company, exhibits related to experiments to determine the color of the lake’s water and the color of light transmitted through the water, a small stand to be used by visitors to identify color, color harmony, and landscape composition, and a charred cross-section of a three-foot log of Western yellow pine which had been found buried beneath some 60 feet of ash at a road excavation some ten miles southwest of the rim.

During 1931 new educational activities were integrated with the observation, information, and lecture services at the Sinnott Memorial. The expanded activities were developed under the direction of the new park naturalist, Donald S. Libbey, and Ansel F. Hall, NPS Senior Naturalist and Forester. [15] A Naturalist Guided Automobile Tour was inaugurated. The tour consisted of a twenty-minute lecture on the geological history of Crater Lake followed by a directed 16-stop, three-hour circuit around the rim of the lake. Beginning on July 17 a program of four alternative lake boat rides was offered, ranging from a full day to approximately three hours under the title “Trips on Crater Lake with the Ranger-Naturalists.” Plans were developed for the printing of three leaflets to serve as guides for the parapet views at the memorial and the auto and lake trips. [16]

Park educational activities were placed under what was referred to as the Research and Educational Department in 1932. Libbey expanded the program with the assistance of three seasonal ranger-naturalists. It was necessary to assign individuals from the regular ranger personnel to assist in the work since there was an increase of more than 100 percent in educational contacts compared to 1931. Total contacts were reported to be 49,206 or 44.8 percent of the total visitors. Some 342 lectures with 6,971 persons in attendance were given along the parapet of the Sinnott Memorial. Park personnel participated in 22 radio broadcasts on the lone Medford radio station and gave two lectures outside the park, thus increasing public awareness of park activities.

Nightly lectures and daily field trips continued to be the mainstays of the park educational program. Chalk talks were introduced as an added feature of the lectures. The most popular field trip, according to Superintendent Solinsky, was the “conducted rim caravan tour.” Some 82 auto tours were conducted with a total of 365 cars and 1,276 persons participating. A new field trip was added to the program schedule, consisting of a 3-1/2-hour hike around the rim to the foot of Watchman Peak with a climb up the new Watchman Trail to the Watchman Lookout, a new structure housing forest protection exhibits.

During 1932 a number of individuals visited the park to aid the development of the park research and educational program. These included: Dr. Harold C. Bryant, NPS assistant director; Earl E. Trager, Branch of Research and Education; Verne E. Chatelain, historian, Washington Office; John C. Merriam, president, Carnegie Institution of Washington; Worth Ryder, University of California, Berkeley; and a committee of five with Dr. C.V. Boyer as chairman from the University of Oregon. [17]

Visits such as these continued to be made during 1933 and 1934. As a result several studies were prepared that analyzed the educational program in terms of the visitors’ experiences in the park. A study was undertaken to examine the park’s scientific features to develop an integrated program whereby visitors to Crater Lake could be brought into contact with both the aesthetic and scientific features of the park environment. The most significant study to result from such efforts was prepared on May 1, 1934, sponsored jointly by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the University of Oregon. It was entitled, “Preliminary Report on the Crater Lake Project: A Study of Appreciation of Nature Beauty.” [18]

Park Naturalist Libbey was furloughed from the park staff in November 1933 to serve in the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) program. For some three years that position was filled by temporary assignments. While the summer program continued, Superintendent Canfield observed that “development common to most parks as a result of emergency monies and technical assistants” was lost at Crater Lake “due to the absence of a year round head.”

Despite the lack of a full-time year-round park naturalist, Crater Lake continued to attract highly qualified seasonal naturalists from across the nation. Active searches were conducted to bring academically trained experts in various fields of science to the park each summer. In 1934, for instance, the seasonal ranger-naturalist staff consisted of the following:

Acting Curator, Dudley Herbarium, Stanford University

Instructor, Santa Monica Junior College

Graduate Student, Johns Hopkins Medical School

Instructor, Secondary Schools, Medford, Oregon

Professor of English, University of Oregon

Professor of Geology, University of Oregon

Instructor of Geology, University of Missouri

Graduate Student, University of Southern California

Instructor of Geology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Following the 1934 tourist season Acting Park Naturalist Warren G. Moody prepared a “Ranger-Naturalist Temporary Manual of Operation” to aid the park educational program. The manual was designed to provide seasonal personnel with data that had been used in various programs and guided tours. Included in the manual were sections dealing with Garfield Peak, Special Boat Trip, Wizard Island, Rim Caravan, Sinnott Memorial, and Community House. [19]

Facilities for the park educational activities posed problems for administrators during the mid-1930s. The Sinnott Memorial was used each summer, but “leaks in the roof and lack of funds to complete and improve the original construction prevented completion of the interior of the building as originally planned.” The Community House was ” partially broken in and badly wracked from heavy winter snows” in 1935 and was considered to be “unsafe.” Nevertheless, it continued to be used for evening programs and a temporary museum. [20]

Research in support of park educational activities became a significant component of the Crater Lake program during the mid-1930s. Botanical research for the classification of plants and flowers was conducted by Dr. Elmer I. Applegate, a nationally recognized authority and acting curator of the Dudley Herbarium at Stanford University who was hired on a temporary basis for several summers. He developed a checklist of 550 species of plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees and conducted a study of the trends of vegetation succession in the park. Ornithological studies were carried out by Drs. L.H. and A.H. Miller of the University of California, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, respectively. Fresh water life research projects were conducted in relation to the species of plants and organisms in the lake. Geological research was performed by Dr. Howel Williams, professor of geology at the University of California, under the sponsorship of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The Carnegie Institution also supported research by Dr. Edison Pettit and the Mt. Wilson Observatory as to the scientific explanation for the blueness of the lake’s water. Other research topics conducted by the ranger-naturalist staff included Mt. Mazama, caves and waterfalls, physiography, lake ecology, rodents, aesthetics, and place names. [21]

The various studies resulted in a number of publications. Examples of articles that appeared in scientific journals were Warren D. Smith and Carl R. Swartzlow, “Mount Mazama: Explosion versus Collapse,” Bulletin of Geological Society of America, XLVII (December, 1936), and F. Lyle Wynd, “The Floral Wealth of Crater Lake,” Natural History (June, 1937). In 1941 Howel Williams published Crater Lake: The Story of Its Origin, a book that has since gone through several revised editions.

In 1936 John E. Doerr, Jr., was transferred from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Crater Lake as permanent full-time park naturalist, and under his direction the educational activities of the park took on new life. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with undergraduate and graduate degrees in geology, he had been associate park naturalist at Hawaii since May 1931. During 1936-37 progress was made on the interior museum room of the Sinnott Memorial as well as on new forest protection exhibits at the Watchman Lookout. An exhibit layout plan for the interior museum room in the Sinnott Memorial was prepared by Ansel F. Hall on April 6, 1937. The theme for the displays was “Interpretation of the Beauty of Crater Lake and its Surroundings,” thus putting into effect the general principles expressed earlier by Dr. John C. Merriam.[22]

Under Doerr’s leadership planning was initiated in 1936 for a “complete museum development.” Plans were tentatively formulated for a new central museum building, trailside and roadside exhibits, nature trails, and view finders. The Community House remained in unstable condition, and Superintendent Canfield observed that “anticipation” for a new central museum building was growing, “nourishing a hope that it will come into existence before the Community House falls down from old age and burden of heavy snow in winter.” [23]

The interpretive program at Crater Lake continued to expand in 1938 under the leadership of Doerr. The two objectives of the program were “to render a superior quality of interpretive service to the public, and to carry on careful scientific research which would add to the knowledge of the natural features of the park.” The public contact activities of Doerr and his staff of seven temporary ranger-naturalists included from 4 to 10 lectures daily at the Sinnott Memorial, Community House, and lodge as well as occasional lectures at CCC camps and area service clubs. Other daily activities included three to five guided trips, the launch trip around the lake, and information service at three points in the rim area. One new auto caravan trip along the west rim and the fire lookout station on the summit of the Watchman were commenced, emphasizing scenic and scientific values and forest protection. Another new guided trip initiated during the summer was a camera tour conducted by Ranger-Naturalist Elmer C. Aldrich. In July the interior room and exhibits at the Sinnott Memorial were finally opened to the public.

All told the naturalist staff contacted 136,320 persons in 1938, which was approximately two-thirds of the total park visitation. These contacts constituted an increase of more than 20,000 over the number for the previous year.

The expanded park research program in 1938 included botanical, zoological, limnological, geological, historical, museum, and photographic studies. Applegate continued his botanical studies and increased the park’s check list of species to 570. Dr. R.R. Huestis, ranger-naturalist, conducted systematic studies of Peromysous and mammals on Wizard Island and made additions and corrections to the park’s check list of birds. Limnological research was conducted by Dr. Arthur D. Hasler with the objective of establishing “a sound fish planting policy” which would ” assure good fishing in the lake.” Geological research continued under the direction of Dr. Howel Williams. Historical research on the park was conducted by Doerr, preparing notes on the history of the lake from its discovery in 1853 to its establishment as a national park for use on an “America’s Hours of Destiny” radio program on the history of the park. In addition Doerr took a two-month trip, visiting museums in large eastern and midwestern cities and discussing with artists and scientists methods of interpreting scenic beauty. Photographic studies were begun with the purpose of examining the interpretation of scenic beauty. In commenting on recent research in the park Doerr observed:

Recent research accomplished and in progress has been and is being done by the naturalist staff, consisting of a permanent naturalist and seven temporary naturalists employed during the summer months; a wildlife ranger; various technicians of the National Park Service; and Dr. Howel Williams of the University of California. The research activities have been almost entirely of a field nature, there being no facilities for laboratory work other than mere office equipment, and some laboratory apparatus borrowed from various institutions. A number of the men carrying on summer field work have had during winter months the use of laboratories and other facilities at various universities and institutions, thus they have been and are continuing to carry on laboratory work in connection with problems at Crater Lake. [24]

When Lava Beds and Oregon Caves were placed under the administration of Crater Lake in 1939 the duties of the park naturalist and his staff of seven summer ranger-naturalists were greatly expanded. The park’s annual report for that year indicated that public contact activities at Crater Lake by the naturalist staff included two to ten lectures daily; guided trips, and information service from June 1 to October 15. During the winter months the park naturalist’s office was in Medford “from where he made numerous public contacts with school groups, service clubs, carried on field studies and planning of developments in the three areas, handled publicity, carried on research, and assisted the superintendent in the preparation of numerous reports.” The “outstanding aspect” of the interpretive activities, according to Superintendent Leavitt, was “the expansion of the program emphasizing Crater Lake as a blend of scenic and scientific values.” A new art exhibit at the Sinnott Memorial had contributed to this emphasis.[25]

The park interpretive program continued to be active prior to World War II. In August 1940 Doerr was transferred to Rocky Mountain National Park as assistant superintendent. He was replaced by George C. Ruhle who would direct the interpretive program at Crater Lake until 1953. Thus, the park naturalist staff for 1940 and 1941 consisted of one permanent and eight part-time positions. During those years research sponsored by Dr. John C. Merriam with cooperation from the staff of the University of Oregon was conducted in the park, involving studies in archeology, geology, biology, climatology, and nature appreciation. The research was designed to “eventually become a part of the naturalist program.” [26]

Statistical breakdowns of the interpretive program for 1940 and 1941 indicate that more than half of the park visitors were contacted by the naturalist staff. In 1940 there were 133,315 total contacts out of a total visitation of 236,999. The following year the comparative figures were 129,610 and 254,754, respectively. The statistics for interpretive services were:



  1940 1941 1940 1941
Guided trips 188 182 3,324 3,007
Lectures 588 519 30,483 36,596
Attended stations 3 3 97,939 86,062
Unattended stations 3 3 1,569 3,945 [27]

In June 1941 an Advisory Committee on Educational Problems of Parks in Oregon was organized at the University of Oregon under the joint sponsorship of Dr. John C. Merriam and the State Board of Higher Education. The committee consisted of a number of distinguished men from the academic community:

Honorary Chairman: Dr. John C. Merriam
Chairman: Dr. R.W. Leighton, Dean, School of Physical Education, University of Oregon
Dr. Ira S. Allison, Oregon State College
Dr. John P. Buwalda, California Institute of Technology
Dr. L.S. Cressman, Chairman, Anthropology Department, University of Oregon
Dr. E.L. Packard, Chairman, Geology Department, Oregon State College, and Director, Research for the System
Dr. George C. Ruhle, Naturalist, Crater Lake National Park
Dr. Warren D. Smith, Chairman, Geography and Geology Departments, University of Oregon
Dr. Howel Williams, University of California

The purpose of the committee was to promote continuing scientific study of Crater Lake, emphasizing geological, climatological, archeological, and paleontological contributions. The results of the research would be used for park interpretive programs and be published for the information of the public. [28]

Before wartime cutbacks virtually brought the park interpretive program to a standstill, the first ranger-naturalist school was held in July 1942. The three-day program included training in the purposes, activities, and methods of the park naturalist/interpretive program, care and use of government property, research, museum plans, forest and building fire protection, law enforcement, and civilian defense. In the postwar years annual naturalist training would be combined with the regular ranger school. [29]

Another event occurred at Crater Lake in 1942 that would influence the park interpretive program in the postwar years. Culminating nearly twenty years of discussion the Crater Lake Natural History Association was formally organized on June 20 by 59 individuals to promote the interpretive program and interests of the park. As early as 1923 Superintendent Thomson discussed the possibility of organizing an advisory council of seven to nine persons to promote the interests of the park. He had in mind a committee composed of outstanding persons from surrounding communities, Portland, the Mazamas, and the Women’s State Federation. Such a committee would help formulate plans, keep abreast of present and future needs, and study legislation relating to the park. Thomson received little encouragement from the Washington Office, however, and the advisory council was never established. [30]

Despite the setback to Thomson’s plans the idea of an outside advisory group for the park continued to be discussed. During the late 1930s Superintendent Leavitt and Park Naturalist Ruhle initiated an effort to form a group that would promote the park interpretive program. Their efforts resulted in establishment of the association on June 20, 1942, and approval of the group’s constitution by the Department of the Interior on July 25. The constitution of the nonprofit scientific and historical society listed nine objectives:

1. In cooperation with the National Park Service, to further interest in the scientific investigation and interpretation of the natural features of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon Caves National Monument, and Lava Beds National Monument, in the fields of geology, history, biology, anthropology, forestry, botany, and the natural sciences.

2. To further development of museums and exhibits, to establish and help support libraries of historical, scientific, and popular interest, to provide adequate library service, and to assist in the accumulation, care, and fitting use of a collection of aids to visual education and study for the three areas named above.

3. To promote the general educational and interpretive programs of all three areas.

4. To sell non-Government publications to visitors.

5. To assist in the production, publication, and distribution of Nature Notes and other publications.

6. To study living conditions past and present of the Indians of the region, to encourage their arts and crafts, and to perpetuate their structures, customs, traditions, legends, etc.

7. To further scientific investigations along lines of greatest public interest and to publish bulletins of a non-technical nature from time to time.

8. To assist in the administration, protection, maintenance, operation, and improvement of the three areas by such means as may be practicable.

9. To limit strictly the operations, business, property, and assets of the Association to the purposes named above, so that the Association itself shall not be operated for profit, and so that no part of the net income of the Association shall inure to the financial benefit of any person connected therewith.

Despite the enthusiasm of the group, however, World War II prevented the organization from initiating activities until 1946. [31]

Wartime cutbacks brought the park interpretive program to a standstill beginning in late 1942. During fiscal year 1943 all eight of the seasonal ranger-naturalist positions were abolished for the remainder of the war. The park naturalist found himself assigned to trail repairs and other necessary park maintenance work. [32]

When the park reopened on a year-round basis in 1946 organized naturalist services were resumed under the direction of Park Naturalist Ruhle. A staff of eight seasonal ranger-naturalists, three of whom had served previously at Crater Lake, were hired for the summer. To ensure the continuing professionalism of the program a ranger-naturalist school was held in the park during June 23-27–the first such school since 1942. Among the topics covered on the program were (1) purposes, activities, and methods of the naturalist service; (2) relationship of the naturalist service to the park; (3) research and special assignments; (4) collateral reading and collections; (5) uniforms, responsibilities, reports, and schedules; (6) small fire suppression; (7) building fire protection; (8) history of the National Park Service; (9) park and ranger organization; and (10) law enforcement. [33]

The interpretive program in the park during the summer of 1946 was similar to that of the prewar years. Evening lectures were presented at the lodge and Community House. Two geology lectures were scheduled daily at the Sinnott Memorial, and four self-guiding trails–Garfield Peak, Castle Crest Wildflower Garden, Lake Trail, and Lake Rim–were opened and supplied with botanical labels. Twice-daily guided boat trips around the lake were commenced as was a daily guided automobile rim caravan tour and 3-1/2-hour hike along the rim. A wildflower exhibit, displays of rock, tree, and plant specimens, and historical and artistic photographs were featured in the Information Building. Research efforts were also resumed, the principal projects conducted being fish studies by Dr. D.S. Farner of the University of Kansas and preparation of study skins of small park animals and birds by Dr. R.R. Huestis. [34]

The Crater Lake Natural History Association began its first activities in the park during the summer of 1946. The efforts of the association included the sale of government and private publications, printing of “Nature Notes” (vol. XII), and sponsorship of two lectures at the Rangers Dormitory for park and association personnel and two lectures at Community House for the general public. [35]

Although the draft of a park museum prospectus had been prepared in 1942 the document received little attention until June 1947 when Ruhle reviewed and updated it. The revised prospectus contained a section regarding the buildings which were used to house the disparate elements of the interpretive program. The document read:

In 1930-31 Sinnott Memorial was erected by authority of Congress in honor of Nicholas J. Sinnott (1870-1929), a member of Congress from Oregon. . . . In it [the general exhibit room] at present are displayed six colored, illuminated transparencies, a collection of framed photographs, and four splendid original paintings of the lake by Chris Jorgensen, Gunnar Widfors, Eugene Kingman, and Eugen Neuhaus, respectively. The parapet, facing the lake, has a guard wall in which are sunk nine wells. Each well has an appropriate exhibit that explains features visible through accompanying mounted binoculars and view finders. The parapet platform bears a relief map of the park and a stand for folding chairs to accommodate audiences. Neither laboratory, office, nor living quarters are in the structure. . . . The station commands an especially significant view, so that the park visitor can orient himself and learn about the geology of the region. . . .

An Information Building on the Rim above Sinnott Memorial formerly housed the Kiser Photographic Studio. . . . It is used for dispensing information, for sale of literature, and for housing three small wall cases, an open display table for geological specimens, and a cabinet for display of cut flowers. The public crowd it for a warming room during the frequent inclement weather. . . .

The Community Building on the Rim was built of frame construction. . . . The building is in a very poor condition, so that it needs external props to keep it from collapse. In summer it is used for lectures and recreational purposes. In winter a crowd of wet, uncomfortable skiers seek its scant shelter from the elements, so that they can eat their lunches, or huddle around the fireplace in its dark maw. The building formerly contained temporary displays of various natures. . . .

In 1931 the two-storied Watchman Lookout was constructed of stone and glass on the summit of the Watchman. . . . There is room [on the first floor] for six wall cases 6 to 7 feet wide and 1 foot deep, and two narrow cases 2 feet wide. As planned in 1936, these cases were to hold exhibits pertaining respectively to the following:

1. Forests of Crater Lake National Park, Nature and Composition.
2. Forest Protection: Scope and General Management.
3. Insects Harmful to Forests.
4. Fungi and Other Plants Harmful to Forests.
5. Causes and Prevention of Forest Fires.
6. Detection of Forest Fires.
7. Fire Suppression.
8. Results of Forest Fires.

Since its erection, the Administration Building at Park Headquarters has furnished space adequate for administrative and operative needs of the Naturalist Division. Here are the office of the park naturalist, two rooms for laboratory work and study collections, a dark room, and two closets. A small park library is housed in the naturalist’s office.

In 1942 a site at the junction of the approach roads from Medford and Klamath Falls had been chosen for the central park museum. The revised prospectus proposed construction of a museum building at an estimated cost of $320,000. The building would contain exhibit, community and lecture, dark, library, and office rooms as well as a warming station and ski hut room for winter use. The museum would include the park relief map, murals, paintings, and exhibits on geology, biology, prehistory, history, meteorology, flora, fauna, skiing and winter use, fire prevention and suppression, and aesthetics. In addition, Ruhle recommended two trailside markers and exhibits-in-place” just north of Llao Rock and at the road cut through the Llao dacite flow, preparation of a pamphlet for motorists on Rim Drive, and improvements to the Sinnott Memorial. [36]

During the summer of 1947 the National Park Service cooperated with the University of Oregon in sponsoring a Crater Lake Field School of Nature Appreciation as part of the park’s educational program. The director of the school was Dr. R.W. Leighton, chairman of the Advisory Board on Educational Problems of Parks in Oregon. The school, held from July 14 to August 16, offered opportunity for study for eight units of college credit in the field of nature study and appreciation. Instruction covered the geologic and physiographic features and flora and fauna of the Crater Lake region and emphasized “an interpretive understanding of the laws of nature and of their importance to man’s understanding of his environment.” The program was designed to be of service to teachers and others who worked with groups of young people or other age groups in nature study programs. Headquarters and living quarters for the 25 students of the school were located at the Union Creek Resort just outside the park. The school included extensive field trips in the park and surrounding region. [37]

During the postwar years Park Naturalist Ruhle undertook efforts to ensure the continuing professionalism of the ranger-naturalists at Crater Lake. In January 1948 Ruhle prepared a memorandum, entitled “Information on the Application for a Ranger Naturalist Position,” that was approved by Superintendent Leavitt. According to the memorandum, applicants should be college graduates with sound training in natural history, particularly botany, zoology, and geology. This knowledge was to be coupled with enthusiasm, keen observation, ability to impart information, and ease in mixing spontaneously with park visitors. Resourcefulness and initiative were necessities since work must be done without close supervision. Ranger naturalists were to be in good physical condition since they were expected to aid in fire fighting and rescue work in emergencies. Research and specimen collection were encouraged, but such work was to be done outside scheduled work hours which consisted of five eight-hour days per week. Work schedules permitted little time for lecture preparation and study. [38]

During the 1950s the park interpretive program at Crater Lake continued to emphasize the activities that had been initiated both before and immediately after World War II.[39] In 1952 a recorded lecture synchronized with automatically projected slides was installed in the Information Building to improve park visitor orientation services. [40] The Crater Lake Natural History Association also continued its efforts to promote park interpretation, printing “Nature Notes,” selling various publications, and sponsoring special studies such as “The Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel” by Dr. R.R. Huestis and “The Birds of Crater Lake” by Dr. Donald S. Farner in 1952. [41]

The draft museum prospectus prepared in 1947 underwent considerable discussion during the 1950s. Finally in October 1957 a museum prospectus for the park was approved. A new site was selected for the central museum which would also serve as a visitor and information center and the hub of naturalist activities, such as guided field trips, orientation talks, and lectures, on the rim. The site was near the entrance to the campground on the south side of the plaza near the junction of the approach roads from Medford and Klamath Falls. As contemplated the building would house an entrance lobby and reception room, two exhibit rooms, an auditorium with a seating capacity of 500, and space for office, exhibit preparation, and storage. The primary objective of the museum would be to impart to the visitor a conception of what Crater Lake signified by its aesthetic qualities and values as well as to demonstrate that behind its beauty lay a scientific story that provided meaning. The outline of exhibit content provided that the central theme would be geology supported by the subthemes of biology, history, prehistory, forest protection, and sequence of seasonal phenomena. Woven into all exhibits would be the idea of aesthetics. The prospectus recommended roadside exhibits for at least seventeen locations along park roads, most of them along Rim Drive, and some twenty roadside markers to point out sites of interest. [42]

Research continued to be emphasized as an adjunct to the park interpretive program during the late 1950s. One such study that resulted in a popular publication was Grant and Wenonah Sharpe’s 101 Wildflowers of Crater Lake National Park in 1959. [43]

The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey conducted a hydrographic survey of Crater Lake in 1959. The data obtained by the survey was used to prepare a new map of the lake bottom, hence contributing to further understanding of the lake and enriching park interpretation. Measured from an assumed surface elevation of 6,176 feet, the greatest depth was found to be 1,932 feet, or 64 feet less than the depth of 1,996 feet recorded during the 1886 survey. Two submerged volcanic cones and other evidence of post-collapse volcanic activity were identified. Later in February 1961 the American Journal of Science published an article, “The Floor of Crater Lake, Oregon,” by Dr. Howel Williams interpreting the survey. [44]

The Crater Lake interpretive program continued to suffer from inadequate facilities and staffing. In 1960, for instance, Superintendent Brown described the accomplishments and problems facing the program:

The summer interpretive program was conducted from June 15 through September 15. The daily schedule of activities during the peak months of visitor use (July and August) included 3 evening talks, 2 launch trips on Crater Lake, 1 field trip, visitor contacts at the north junction viewpoint, and operation of 2 interpretive stations. The peak staff consisted of the chief park naturalist, assistant park naturalist, 12 seasonal interpreters, and 1 clerk-stenographer.

A reasonable balance exists between personal services and self-guiding devices. However, both types of services need to be improved and expanded. We can gradually improve and expand on self-guiding devices and possibly meet the demand. Personal services and facilities for these services are more of a problem. Supervision and training of seasonal employees has not been adequate and probably will not be until another permanent interpreter is added to the staff.

Facilities for personal services are sadly lacking. Sinnott Memorial Overlook was an outstanding interpretive station, but is now too small for present travel and is in need of rehabilitation. We have no visitor center; the exhibit building has only 360 square feet of space for information and interpretive services. More than 54,000 (14%) of park visitors were recorded during 1960. An adequate visitor center, in a good location, could be visited by over one-half of park visitors, including nearly all winter visitors who now receive no interpretive services.

Considering the lack of facilities and the staffing needs, the interpretive program for Crater Lake appears satisfactory and is providing needed services so that the more interested visitors can receive the knowledge and other benefits they seek.

Brown went on to describe the multi-faceted components of the park interpretive program. Twelve routed plastic interpretive markers which had been placed along Rim Drive during 1959 were popular, according to Brown, and “contributed greatly to visitor facilities for self-guiding.” Plans were underway for an additional seven routed plastic markers and one routed wood sign along the drive.

The Information Building, which had become known as the Exhibit Building, and the Sinnott Memorial served in dual capacities as interpretive and information stations, and both were attended by interpretive personnel from June 15 to September 15, 1959. At the Sinnott Memorial naturalists gave five twenty-minute talks daily on the geologic origin of Crater Lake. As time permitted a naturalist was stationed at the lake viewpoint near North Junction to provide information, this new activity resulting in some 2,500 visitor contacts. An information station was maintained in the Administration Building throughout the year, and the two park entrance stations dispensed information and Park Service brochures.

Many books, maps, and slides were sold by the Crater Lake Natural History Association at the Exhibit Building and the Administrative Building. Annual gross sales amounted to some $4,700.

Park study collections were maintained in the Administration Building. The herbarium was composed of more than 3,200 sheets of vascular plants, packets, bottles, and boxes of plant specimens. The zoological collection contained more than 700 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, plus several hundred invertebrates. An insect collection filled one cabinet, and the mineral and rock collection consisted of 82 specimens.

Museum exhibits were housed in the Exhibit and Administration buildings and the Sinnott Memorial. Simple displays on human and natural history were shown in the Exhibit Building, while the Sinnott Memorial interpreted visible geologic features with a rock collection, large color transparencies, paintings, and photographs. Interpretive panels salvaged from the 1959 Oregon Centennial Exposition in Portland were displayed in the lobby of the Administration Building.

New plastic plant labels were used to identify plants in Rim Village and along the Garfield Peak, Discovery Point, and Castle Crest Wildflower Garden trails. A mimeographed guide to the Castle Garden trail was introduced in August and used by some 2,370 visitors.

The park naturalists continued to conduct a variety of guided tours. Daily nature walks, each averaging 25 visitors and 2-1/2 – 3 hours in length, were conducted each morning and were attended by some 1,659 persons. The rim bus trip which had been conducted by a naturalist during the 1957, 1958, and 1959 seasons was dropped from the interpretive program because of the questionable nature of the activity as a part of the interpretive program, the limited contacts, and the shortage of manpower. Naturalists conducted morning and afternoon launch trips around Crater Lake that were attended by 1,783 persons.

Naturalist talks were attended by 51,177 visitors. Thirty-minute slide-illustrated talks at the lodge followed twenty minutes of variety entertainment presented by concession employees. Campfire programs, attended by about one-half of all park campers, were presented each summer evening at the Community House in Rim Village and at the temporary campfire circle in Mazama Campground.

Research continued to be conducted by park naturalists. Field investigations were carried out on the behavioral patterns of the golden-mantled ground squirrel. Field work for a sedimentation study of Crater Lake was conducted and collected samples were analyzed at the University of Minnesota to learn more about the bottom environment of Crater Lake, its history (including old water levels), and post-collapse volcanic activity.[45]

Various studies were conducted at Crater Lake during the 1960s that provided data for inclusion in the park interpretive program. One of the most significant research projects was a comprehensive parkwide survey of archeological resources conducted by a University of Oregon field party headed by Wilbur A. Davis, Assistant Curator of Anthropology at the Museum of Natural History in Eugene. The purpose of the project was to determine the extent of aboriginal occupation and utilization of the park area. Materials recovered during the survey consisted of a few flakes and projectile points, leading to the conclusion that the area was a suboptimal habitat for aboriginal groups dependent upon hunting and gathering subsistence economies. [46]

In addition to NPS-sponsored research Crater Lake increasingly became the focus of university studies in the 1960s and early 1970s. Examples of such projects included: Carlton Hans Nelson, “Geological Limnology of Crater Lake, Oregon” (unpublished M.S. thesis, University of Minnesota, 1961); Elizabeth Laura Mueller, “Introduction to the Ecology of the Pumice Desert, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon” (unpublished M.S. thesis, Purdue University, 1966); and John Walter Lidstrom, Jr., “A New Model for the Formation of Crater Lake Caldera, Oregon” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Oregon State University, 1972). These scholarly studies contributed to the information data base of the park and to more knowledgeable park interpretive programs. [47]

The Crater Lake Natural History Association continued its efforts in support of the park interpretive program during the 1960s. Profits from the sales of publications, the total of which exceeded $7,000 for the first time in 1964, were used to publish interpretive literature, sponsor publication of various park books, and purchase items for the park library. Among the most popular publications sponsored by the association in the 1960s were the “Castle Crest Nature Trail” guide booklet, The Shrubs of Crater Lake by Dr. Charles Yocum, and a revision of Along Crater Lake Roads (1953) by Dr. George C. Ruhle.

An interpretive prospectus was approved for Crater Lake in May 1972. The document, developed by Denver Service Center and park personnel, was intended as a guide for the orderly development of an interpretive program in the park by inventorying the park resources, identifying its thematic elements, and recommending appropriate facilities and services through which the message could be communicated to the public. An “interpretive concept” was developed to provide a philosophical framework to govern the direction of the park program:

An interpretation of Crater Lake National Park should convey more than the known and supposed circumstances of its origin. Although geologic fact and theory are especially compelling when they relate to something of the magnitude of Mount Mazama and Crater Lake, they are unlikely to occupy a visitor’s thoughts longer than his encounter with the next natural marvel on his vacation agenda. Striations left by a glacier which grew warm and died 10,000 years ago cannot long hold one’s attention when he is confronted by the icy spectacle of Mount Rainier. Nor can a long-silent and cool volcanic artifact vie for a visitor’s thoughtful consideration when he is standing amidst steaming fumaroles and boiling mudpots.

Certainly, interpretation should lead to a better understanding of the geologic forces of volcanism and mountain building, and lend meaning to the pure beauty of Crater Lake. But the real value of this story is its commentary on the mechanisms of change. The significance of the changes that sired Crater Lake thousands of years ago are timely and relevant to the present. Interpretation should contribute to an awareness of how, if we do not learn to understand and guide the forces of change which we are capable of perpetrating, we may be engulfed by great upheavals in our world and our lives, as surely and swiftly as were 17 cubic miles of this ancient mountain.

If interpretation is approached in this way–if the skeletal components of fact and theory are skillfully articulated, and firmly bonded by a relevant concept–a more lasting and meaningful response to the Crater Lake experience will result.

According to the prospectus the park interpretive program was to accomplish three objectives. The goals were to (1) provide information and orientation services; (2) facilitate the physical interaction of the visitor with the environment; and (3) foster the intellectual involvement of the visitor by providing those facilities and services necessary to meaningfully interpret the natural values of the park. To realize these goals, major program objectives were proposed to include the following:

– Provide information and directional assistance necessary for the safe and enjoyable use of park resources.

– Lead visitors to the best possible vantage points from which they may view the lake and its surroundings, yet offer nothing that will compete for attention.

– Reveal the story of Crater Lake’s origin, and introduce visitors to the agencies of natural change that were–and still are–at work here, and, by inference, everywhere. Interpretation should emphasize that change is a constant and universal quality of the natural world.

– Encourage inquiry about fundamental meanings and relationships, and foster informed concern about environmental quality. Interpretation should depict man as the powerful agent of change that he has become.

– Develop imaginative and relevant approaches to interpretation that will leave the visitor with lasting impressions.

The prospectus identified the principal theme elements of the park. While the principal goal of the interpretive program was to relate the specific facts about Crater Lake to the general theme of change–and man s role in the process–the story elements were basically geologic. Interpretation must therefore build toward that concept by contributing to the visitor’s understanding of the geologic forces that built and destroyed Mount Mazama. Major theme or subject matter areas to be included were:

– The pre-Mazama period–the stage setting for the uplift of the Cascade Range.

– The building of Mount Mazama–its continuous growth and alteration by volcanic activity and glaciation.

– The formation of the caldera–intensified activity and the collapse of the summit.

– The post-collapse period–residual volcanic activity and the formation of the lake.

– The present–continuing alterations by wind, and water, and man.

Interpretation should be concerned with the idea of geologic effects on the environment, emphasizing the emerging role of man as he affected the geology. Attention should be focused on the uncommon purity and clarity of Crater Lake and the circumstances that had contributed to those qualities.

The prospectus contained a number of interpretive proposals that were concentrated around and near the rim because the lake was the exclusive focal point of interest in the park. Relatively few time-consuming activities were proposed, predicated on the fact that Crater Lake was a predominantly day-use park with 60 percent of the visitors staying less than 4 hours and 20 percent remaining for only 4 to 8 hours.

The highest priority for interpretive development within the park was assigned to the long-planned and still unrealized rim visitor center on the south rim in the vicinity of the Exhibit Building. The visitor center, according to the prospectus, was to be a low-profile, all-season structure designed to accommodate large numbers of visitors and to make the Sinnott Memorial an extension of the structure by means of a ramp or stairs. The visitor center would be the focal point of interpretive orientation and development within the park, containing a built-in information desk/sales area, a large relief model of the park, and exhibits and pictorial material relating to the aesthetic values of the park. It was to contain a 250-seat auditorium for showing orientation films and slide programs. Renovation of the Sinnott Memorial was recommended for use as the prime location for interpreting the overall geologic history of Crater Lake on a year-round basis with emphasis on personal contact interpretation.

Rim Drive, according to the prospectus, was to be interpreted by thematically related wayside exhibits. At the time there were approximately 20 signs and/or exhibits, including those on the Watchman Parapet, located at various points around Rim Drive. It was recommended that the number be reduced to fifteen and be focused on a unifying theme. Among the sites selected for such exhibits were Cloudcap, Kerr Notch, Sun Notch, Wineglass, and Discovery Point. In addition to roadside interpretive devices, the prospectus recommended development of a taped tour system for Rim Drive. Interpretation at the Watchman Parapet was to emphasize personal contact by an onsite interpreter, supplemented by several exhibits mounted at low levels around the parapet. A modest, unmanned interpretive shelter and wayside exhibit was to be located near the trailhead at Cleetwood Cove.

At the time there were 21 wayside exhibits or signs other than those on Rim Drive. Two were located on the south entrance road, one each on the north and west entrance roads, one at the Pinnacles overlook, and sixteen on the 4-mile Grayback motor-nature road from Vidae Falls to Lost Creek Campground that had been opened in 1969. The prospectus recommended that these exhibits be reviewed with special attention to thematic unity. The Grayback road exhibits, in particular, were to redesigned around the theme of “Evolution of a Landscape.”

The prospectus proposed little change in trailside interpretation other than revision of signs and leaflets for uniform thematic cohesiveness The existing trails most heavily used by visitors were short trails to viewpoints on the rim. Three trails were used for regularly scheduled guided walks–Discovery Point, Garfield Peak, and Annie Creek Canyon. There were three self-guiding trails–Castle Crest, Godfrey Glen, and Grotto Cove. In addition the Watchman Trail was heavily used and to a lesser extent so was the Mount Scott Trail. The Cleetwood Trail was used primarily by those visitors taking the guided launch trip. The Pacific Crest Trail, established by Congress in 1968, extended the north-south length of the park as part of its traverse from Canada to Mexico.

The prospectus recommended other interpretive activities, many of which were quickly implemented. These included guided tours along abandoned fire roads, off-trail “explorer” or “discovery hikes,” early morning, evening, and moonlight star walks, winter snowshoe hikes, and continued campfire programs in the large amphitheater at Mazama Campground as well as new programs in the projected amphitheater at South Campground and anticipated campfire circle at Lost Creek Campground.

The prospectus recommended additional staffing for the interpretive program. At the time the Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management supervised the program with the aid of one permanent interpretive technician and seasonal personnel. While not expressly mandated in the prospectus, the ensuing years would witness a shift from hiring older scholarly seasonal personnel to employing younger, less-skilled college students for interpretive work. There was also need for a permanent supervisory interpreter and a park ranger (interpretive specialist). [49]

Increasing interest by the academic community in national park issues in the Pacific Northwest led to a National Park Service Cooperative Park Studies Unit being established at Oregon State University in 1975. The unit was located in the College of Forestry with additional office space and laboratory facilities provided under a cooperative agreement by the Forestry Sciences Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. The purpose of the unit was three-fold: (1) to conduct original research on topics of importance to the management of natural and cultural resources; (2) to encourage and facilitate scientific research in national parks in the Pacific Northwest Region; and (3) to disseminate research results within the management system of the National Park Service. During the next decade a variety of Crater Lake research projects would emanate from this unit. [50]

During the 1970s various projects were undertaken to improve the professionalism of the Crater Lake interpretive program. An example of such efforts was development of aCollection Management Plan by the Division of Museum Services of Harpers Ferry Center in 1977. The report recommended changes in the storage of museum collections to enhance the protection and utilization of specimens for the interpretive program. The park collections consisted of:

Geological Series–10 minerals and 400 rocks.

Botanical Series–2,500-3,000 specimens of vascular plants; 750-1,000 specimens of bryophytes and lichens; 800-1,000 specimens of algae and fungi; and 40 species of slime molds.

Zoological Series–225 study skins of birds and 12 nests; 190 study or cased skins of mammals; 65-70 skulls and related items; 280 cold-blooded vertebrates in alcohol; 20 Cornell drawers of mounted insects.

History Series–40 photographs; 10-12 paintings and water colors; a few documents and artifacts. [51]

Historical themes traditionally had received secondary attention in the park’s overall interpretive program. To rectify this imbalance an Historical Studies Plan for the park was developed in 1979 by Vernon C. Tancil, Regional Historian of the NPS Pacific Northwest Office. The plan provided an analysis of Crater Lake’s historic resources and research needs around five principal themes in the park’s history. The five themes were identified as being (1) Great Plains Indians; (2) Discovery and Exploration; (3) Park Administration; (4) Visitor Use; and (5) Conservation. The plan included recommendations for park research including an historic resource study (completed in 1984), an administrative history, an historic structure preservation guide for Crater Lake Lodge, and a conservation study. [52]

The aforementioned interpretive prospectus was revised and updated by a new document prepared by the Harpers Ferry Center in May 1980. The objective of the new plan was to provide “a quality experience for short stay day users while providing some in-depth experiences for those with more time.” The revised prospectus identified two levels of interpretive involvement which should be available to park visitors:

. . . At the primary level is the purely sensory response to the size and beauty of the lake and its setting. To contribute to the atmosphere and mood, the landscape should be as natural and free of man-made facilities as possible. At this level, information and orientation is necessary, with easy access provided to various viewing points.

At the secondary level, interpretation will be provided for those visitors who become inquisitive about the lake’s creation. At the conceptual level, the interconnection, evolution, and protection of natural systems is the underlying theme of all interpretive programs.

With these objectives in mind the prospectus recommended updated proposals for interpretation at Rim Village and along Rim Drive and to a lesser extent at Cleetwood Cove, the Watchman, and park headquarters in Munson Valley. [53]

Since early 1987 a new interpretive facility has been operated in the rehabilitated Ranger Dormitory now named the Steel Center. Current park planning contemplates development of a new interpretive facility at the rim plus an alternative for developing exhibits on park history on the second floor of the lodge.


Appendix A16: Organization Of The Nature Guide Service, 1929
Appendix B16: List Of Interpretive Services, 1956