48 A. Resource Management: 1916-1929

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


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CHAPTER TWELVE: Resource Management In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


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The initial National Park Service resource management priorities in Crater Lake National Park were concerned with the preservation of “natural curiosities” and wildlife, the supply and regulation of fishing in the lake, and prevention of forest fires. Among the regulations adopted for the park on May 1, 1917, were rules to prevent fires and hunting, govern fishing, and preserve the national features of the area. These rules stated:

1. Preservation of natural curiosities. — The destruction, injury, or defacement in any way of the public property or the trees, vegetation, rocks, minerals, animal and bird or other life, or other natural conditions and curiosities in the park is prohibited.

2. Camping. — No camp will be made along roads except at designated localities. Blankets, clothing, hammocks, or any other article liable to frighten teams must not be hung near the road.

Many successive parties camp on the same sites during the season, and camp grounds must be thoroughly cleaned before they are abandoned. Tin cans, bottles, cast-off clothing, and all other debris must be placed in garbage cans or pits provided for the purpose. When camps are made in unfrequented localities where pits or garbage cans may not be provided, all refuse must be burned or hidden where it will not be offensive to the eye.

Campers may use dead or fallen timber only for fuel.

3. Fires. — Fires constitute one of the greatest perils to the park; they must not be kindled near trees, dead wood, moss, dry leaves, forest mold, or other vegetable refuse, but in some open space on rocks or earth. Should camp be made in a locality where no such open space exists nor is provided, dead wood, moss, dry leaves, etc., must be scraped away to the rock or earth over an area considerably larger than required for the fire.

When fires are no longer necessary, they must be completely extinguished and all embers and bed smothered with earth or water so that there remains no possibility or reignition.

Especial care must be taken that no lighted match, cigar, or cigarette is dropped in any grass, twigs, leaves, or tree mold.

4. Hunting. — The park is a sanctuary for wild life of every sort, and no one should frighten, hunt or kill, wound or capture any bird or wild animals in the park, except dangerous animals when it is necessary to prevent them from destroying life or inflicting injury.

The outfits, including guns, traps, teams, horses, or means of transportation used by persons engaged in hunting, killing, trapping, ensnaring, or capturing such birds or wild animals, or in possession of game killed on the park lands under other circumstances than prescribed above, must be taken up by the supervisor and held subject to the order of the Secretary of the Interior, except in cases where it is shown by satisfactory evidence that the outfit is not the property of the person or persons violating this regulation and the actual owner was not a party to such violation. Firearms will be permitted in the park only on written permission of the supervisor. Visitors entering or traveling through the park to places beyond should, at entrance, report and surrender all firearms, traps, nets, seines, or explosives in their possession to the first park officer, and, in proper cases, may obtain his written leave to carry them through the park sealed.

5. Fishing. — Fishing is permitted with hook and line only, and never for profit or merchandise. Fishing in particular water may be suspended; or the number of fish that may be taken by one person in any one day, from the various streams or lakes, may be regulated by the supervisor. All fish hooked less than 8 inches long shall be carefully handled with moist hands and returned at once to the water, if not seriously injured. Fish retained should be killed. Five fish shall constitute the limit for a day’s catch from the lake, and 20 from other waters of the park. [1]

Superintendent Sparrow committed the efforts of the park staff to enforcement of these regulations. In his annual report for 1917 Sparrow discussed park resource management highlights for the year. He observed that wild animals were becoming more numerous in the park. He stated further:

The park abounds in black and brown bear, black-tailed deer, cougar, lynx, timber wolves, coyotes, pine marten, fisher, several varieties of squirrels, ringtail grouse, the common pheasant, Clark crow, and numerous varieties of birds common to the country at large.There are no fish in any of the waters of the park except the lake itself and Anna Creek, below the falls. Crater Lake is abundantly supplied with a fine quality of rainbow trout. . . . The fish are large and the flesh is firm. A few have been taken 25 to 28 inches long, weighing from 6 to 7 pounds.

One small forest fire occurred in the park this season, but it was brought under control before any damage was done. There were many fires outside and at some distance from the park, particularly to the southwest. At times the view of the lake was entirely obliterated by the dense clouds of smoke that rolled in from these fires, but an east wind for a few hours always cleared the atmosphere.

Sparrow observed “that a very few wild flowers” had been observed in the park. There had been no wild flowers in the park since 1902, “the sheep that ranged over this region before the creation of the park having utterly destroyed the wild-flower growth.” [2]

The commitment to restore the flora of the park brought park management into conflict with regional wool growers. In May 1917 area sheepherders sought a permit to graze 7,000 head of sheep in the park. The request was denied promptly by the Park Service. In responding to the sheepherders, Acting NPS Director Horace M. Albright stated:

In reply, I would advise you that we are considering plans for opening Crater Lake Park to the grazing of cattle and horses, and will undoubtedly be prepared to issue permits covering the privilege of grazing these animals within a short time. We can not, however, under any circumstances, act favorably upon applications for the grazing of sheep in the park. Sheep are not only very obnoxious to tourists, but they absolutely destroy wild flowers and shrubs which we are particularly anxious to preserve in the parks. [3]

Later that year Mather vigorously defended the Park Service policy of disallowing sheep grazing and restoring the flora in the park:

Many years ago, before the creation of this park, the lower slopes of ancient Mount Mazama and the entire area now reserved and dedicated for park purposes were utilized for the grazing of sheep with the result that the flora of the region was practically destroyed. After the lapse of a quarter century flowers are still exceedingly rare, and it will require the expenditure of much time and money to restore even a small portion of its lost species of plant life. Few places accessible to the public today illustrate more forcibly the destructive action of sheep grazing on high mountain lands than does Crater Lake Park. [4]

By the early 1920s the park wildflowers had been largely restored as a result of Park Service policy. It was reported in 1921 that the park wildflowers presented “such a temptation to wild flower loving visitors that it was necessary to post signs to prevent the depletion of some species.” [5] Two years later Superintendent Thomson reported that wildflowers were on the increase in the park, “miles of our roadway being fairly banked with colorful blossoms and the forest glens carpeted with literally hundreds of acres of wild flowers.” [6]

In 1918 Sparrow initiated a program to exterminate certain predators in the park as a means of encouraging the growth of the deer and small mammal populations. Cougar, lynx, timber wolves, and coyotes were the objects of the extermination program. That year Sparrow was pleased to announce that deer and bear were growing in numbers and becoming “quite tame.”

He also echoed earlier recommendations to expand the park boundaries to include the Diamond Lake area. The expansion was necessary, according to the superintendent, in part because the existing park was “too small for a game preserve.” He noted:

. . . Many of the deer get quite tame and it seems like murder to kill them when they stray across the boundary. One case in point occurred recently during the hunting season. Voley Pearsons, of Klamath Falls, shot a doe on the road about 300 yards outside the southern entrance to the park. The doe had frequently visited the ranger’s cabin and was so tame that it would not run when an auto approached. As it is unlawful to kill a doe at any time, the man was arrested by the Park. Service and turned over to the local authorities at Fort Klamath, where he was fined $25 and costs. This case is cited only as evidence of the necessity of enlarging our game preserve. [7]

Wildlife in the park continued to become more numerous in 1919, particularly black. and brown bears and deer. The bears were becoming “very tame,” with black bears being “seen almost daily in the neighborhood of the lodge and the construction camps.” Taking photographs of feeding bears was becoming a popular visitor diversion. Smaller forms of wildlife were becoming more plentiful as a result of the continuing extermination program. A small herd of fifteen Yellowstone elk. had been turned loose in the adjacent forest reserve near Seven-Mile Creek in 1917, and by 1919 the herd was using the southern portion of the park as a summer range.

During 1919 there were no major forest fires in the park. Electric storms in August, however, started minor fires, and a fire on the forest reserve west of Union Peak that crossed the park boundary caused little damage as “it was confined to snow brush on an old burn.” To preclude such fires in the future work was initiated to cut brush and clear a fire lane along the park boundaries. [8]

In 1920 Sparrow reported that fewer bears had been sighted in the park. He observed:

Though bear make frequent visits to the construction camps in search of food, they appear less numerous than last season when they could be seen almost any day and furnished considerable entertainment for tourists. That they are fewer in numbers this season is probably due to their ceasing to fear man and his works and hence were easy victims of hunters and trappers when they left the park for their winter quarters.

This observation led Sparrow to renew his support for an extension of the park boundaries. He commented that “when a national park is established it should be large enough to let a scared bear or deer have a good run without going over the boundary to be killed.”

During 1920 the fire lane project was continued to aid park personnel in resource management and preservation. Brush was cut “from a strip 8 feet wide around the park boundary as a precaution against forest fires and to aid prevention of trespass by stockmen and game poachers.” All “trees within this strip were blazed on two sides.”[9]

Wildlife issues continued to be of prime concern to park management during the remainder of the 1920s. More bears fed on the garbage dump at Government Camp in 1922 than ever before, attracting considerable interest on the part of park visitors. Deer were increasing, in part because few cougars or other predatory animals had been seen in the park for several years. [10] In 1923 NPS Director Mather offered a glowing account of wildlife in the park:

Wild life has been more abundant than heretofore, several bears daily visiting Government Camp to be fed or kodaked liberally by visitors. They became quite tame by midseason, a fact which unfortunately makes such of them as do not hibernate within the park easy game for hunters. Deer have been exceedingly abundant. Several elk., progeny of the herd transplanted into Klamath County, have been seen occasionally. Foxes, timber wolves, and coyotes were not uncommon sights, and one cougar was reported. Small game is present in countless numbers. Bird life has also been very abundant; a number of rare birds have been identified, and an unusual number of humming birds have been present in the great fields of wild flowers that carpet the forest glens. The ranger force is, however, not sufficient to adequately patrol the 249 square miles of park to protect against poaching. [11]

The park continued to encourage the growth of the bear population in part as a tourist attraction. In 1924 Superintendent Thomson reported that ten bears, including four new cubs, were “almost daily visitors at Government Camp, to the great enjoyment of thousands of visitors.” As a result of such contact the bears, according to the superintendent, were becoming docile and fearless, thus leading to their destruction by hunters outside the park boundaries. This development led to a successful Park Service effort to have the Oregon state legislature enact legislation in 1925 declaring an eleven-month closed hunting season on bear in Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath counties surrounding the park. [12]

By the late 1920s park wildlife was thriving as a result of the aforementioned legislation, favorable weather and forage conditions, and management policies. In 1929, for instance, Superintendent Solinsky reported:

Our wild life did exceedingly well this year because of favorable weather and forage conditions, which have been exceptionally good throughout the park. The bears, our most attractive animals, created considerable interest among the visitors and were seen at all centers of habitation. Deer were seen in practically every part of the park during the year, and indications point to a considerable increase in number. One herd of five elk. was noticed in the southern part of the park. Signs of the predator animals, such as cougar, wolf, and coyote, show the presence of these animals in comparatively large numbers. One wolf was seen on the north rim, while a number of coyotes were reported as seen in various sections of the park. Small animal life such as marmot, ground squirrels, chipmunk, and conies were seen in great numbers. Occasionally pine martins were reported, showing the existence of this animal in the park.

Bird life was much in evidence. The most common species were camp robbers, bluejays, Clark’s crows, nut hatches, juncoes, robins, finches, hawks, ravens, and humming birds Eagles were seen about Wizard Island on numerous occasions. [13]

Park management devoted increasing attention to the enhancement of fishing opportunities at Crater Lake during the 1920s. The lake was planted with 20,000-30,000 rainbow fingerlings and salmon silversides each year through the cooperation of the Fort Klamath and Butte Falls hatcheries and the State Game Commission. The silversides were found to thrive better than the rainbow trout. Stream fishing was less satisfactory than that in the lake, but good catches of Dolly Varden were reported in Anna Creek. In 1925 “four fine trout streams heretofore sterile” were planted with eastern brook. and loch leven” with the intention of opening those streams to sportsmen in several years. [14]

Forestry issues, especially control of damage from insect infestation, became a major focus of park concern after 1923. That year Superintendent Thomson stated, “Outside of the lake itself our great cover of coniferous trees gave greatest pleasure to visitors.” He went on to observe, “Unfortunately the thousands of trees killed by beetles during recent years present a sad aspect, projecting a definite problem that must soon be met.” [15]

A preliminary study made by the U.S. Bureau of Entomology in 1924 indicated that infestation had wrought havoc throughout an area of some thirty square miles of lodgepole pine north of Crater Lake. The destruction had begun ten years before in the stands surrounding Diamond Lake and had subsequently spread southward toward Crater Lake. Thus, thousands of dead trees marred the forest vista and constituted a grave fire hazard in the northern and northeastern sections of the park. Since the infestation was spreading, immediate control measures were recommended both in the park and the surrounding forest reserves. [16]

An insect-control program, known as the Crater Lake Park. Control Project, was initiated under the direction of J. E. Patterson, Assistant Entomologist of the U.S. Bureau of Entomology, during 1925-27 under a special congressional appropriation. Two species of bark. beetles were targeted by the project–the mountain pine beetle attacking lodgepole pine and the western pine beetle attacking yellow pine, with the major operations being directed against the former.

Prior to the project it was determined that some 22,000 acres of the park lodgepole pine forests north of Crater Lake had been infested. Control work was not conducted on that area, however, because a high percentage of the trees had already been killed. Rather the control work. was concentrated on the 8,000-acre infested area of lodgepole pine south of Crater Lake in Pinnacles, Kerr, and Munson valleys, and Anna Spring vicinity. A total of 9,696 lodgepole pine and 43 yellow pine were treated. The solar heat method of control (felling infested trees, lopping off limbs and exposing bark to direct sunlight, thus killing the larvae and beetles in the bark.) was used to treat the lodgepole pines, while the yellow pines were treated by burning the infested bark in pits in the ground. The project resulted in checking the infestation south of Crater Lake and saving approximately 12,000 lodgepole pine trees. [17]

The insect control program resumed in 1929 because infestation epidemics outside the park boundaries were spreading into the park. Funds were transferred to Crater Lake from appropriations for Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone national parks to undertake the work. In 1928 it was estimated that there were in the park 33,920 acres of dead lodgepole pine forest, 7,100 acres of active and epidemic infestation, and 15,360 acres uninfested. During the period May-July 1929 some 23,239 trees were treated for mountain pine beetle infestation in the Pinnacles Valley, Munson Valley, Anna Spring, Castle Creek, and Anna Creek. (Middle and East Forks) areas of the park.[18]