59 A. Site Development: 1886-1913

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


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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Planning and Development at Rim Village: 1886 – present


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A. Site Development: 1886-1913

The first documented use of the Rim Village site was by a U.S. Geological Survey party sent to make soundings of the lake in 1886. [1] Over the next 27 years, the site became the principal camping area at Crater Lake and, by 1907, was the focus of concession development in the newly established national park. Steep terrain, a short construction season, and the under-capitalization of the concession company all played a role in limiting early site development. A problematic road access and lack of a reliable water supply also served to keep visitor numbers low in comparison to major focal points in other national parks of the period.

By 1896, there is reference to the site being the major camping ground for parties visiting the lake, all of whom had to undertake a strenuous horseback or wagon journey from Fort Klamath, Prospect, or Diamond Lake. [2] That year some 50 members of the Mazamas mountaineering club gathered near the future site of the Crater Lake Lodge in an effort to promote the lake as being worthy of national park status. One account of the outing advised future visitors that the best place to obtain general views of the lake was Victor Rock, and the easiest descent to the shore from the camping ground was down a narrow canyon to Eagle Cove. [3]

Six years later, Crater Lake National Park was established and W.F. Arant was appointed first superintendent. Victor Rock was receiving enough visitor use by 1903 for Arant to propose that an iron railing be placed on the outcrop for safety. [4] In 1904, Arant asked for an appropriation to construct a visitor registration building near the site of the future Kiser Studio but limited funds and road building activity dictated park headquarters be made at Annie Springs. [5]

Prior to 1905, the only road serving the Rim Village site was a rough wagon track up Dutton Creek that had been built in 1869. This route had proven so unsuitable by the time of the park’s establishment that most visitors were going to the camping ground by way of Munson Valley and walking the last mile. Arant remedied the situation somewhat in 1905 by opening a road that traverses Castle Crest (in order to climb out of Munson Valley to get to the camping ground), a route which approximates that of the present Raven Ski Trail. [6]

The new road allowed Arant to turn his attention to other matters affecting what he called the “Camp Ground” site. He asked for $600 to improve what had become a dangerous descent to Eagle Cove by allowing visitors to make use of a cable while on the trail. [7] Some work was done in 1906 and the route was renamed the Rim Camp Trail.

Concession operations began in 1907 with the establishment of Crater Camp in the vicinity of what is now Crater Lake Lodge. For the first two seasons, Crater Camp consisted largely of a modest frame structure that served as a kitchen and a few tents. The Crater Lake Company became better capitalized in 1909, when W.G. Steel lured Portland developer Alfred L. Parkhurst to take over as general manager and buy most of the company’s stock This led to construction of a crude water system that utilized Munson Spring by means of a hydraulic ram and wooden pipes. [8] The 1909 season also saw the start of the Crater Lake Lodge, but for the next two seasons work was slow due to labor disputes, supply problems, and financing difficulties. In early 1912, however, Parkhurst was granted a 20 year lease on the hotel site, so he decided to put a number of tents west of the unfinished lodge to provide a source of income while the building was being completed. A September 1912 windstorm damaged many of the tents, so Parkhurst felt the need to develop more permanent accommodations on the site. He paid the lodge’s architect to draw plans for several six-room cottages, but these were never built. [9]

When Steel ousted Arant as superintendent in June 1913, one of the reasons he gave for seeking the position was that he would better coordinate concession development with government-financed improvements. Congress appropriated over $600,000 in 1912 to start construction of a road around the lake in addition to realigning much of what Arant had done since the park was established. Work began in 1913 and was directed by the Army Corps of Engineers. One the their first projects was to build a new stretch of road to the hotel site, one with considerably less gradient than Arant’s road of 1905.