16 E. Crater Lake and Cascade Range Forest Reserve 1894-1902

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


CHAPTER THREE: Crater Lake Administered By The General Land Office As Part Of The Cascade Range Forest Reserve: 1893-1902


While Congress and the Department of the Interior were grappling with forest management issues during the 1890s, Crater Lake and the Cascade Range Forest Reserve received considerable attention from various state and federal government bodies, political interest groups, and scientific experts.

Controversy over sheep grazing in the reserve developed after April 14, 1894, when the federal government took its first official action against such activity in the forest reserves. On that date regulations were issued prohibiting the “driving, feeding, grazing, pasturing, or herding of cattle, sheep or other live stock” in the reserves. Responding to political pressures from eastern Oregon sheepherders, as well as Klamath County settlers, the Oregon state legislature in February 1895 passed a memorial requesting that the portion of the reserve south of township 32, South Willamette Meridian in Klamath County, be opened for “sale, purchase, settlement, and homestead.” [29]

By late 1895 the sheepherding interests of eastern Oregon had developed a scheme to reduce the size of the reserve and thus give them access to greater areas of the Cascades for grazing of their flocks. Their petition was included with a letter sent by Senator John H. Mitchell to S.W. Lamoreaux, Commissioner of the General Land Office, on November 30, 1895:

There is a general belief upon the part of the people of the State of Oregon that a grave mistake was made in the proclamation of the President of September 28, 1893, creating the Cascade Range Forest Reserve in that State in this, that entirely too extensive a region of country was included in that reserve, embracing as it does a strip of land from 30 to 60 odd miles wide, perhaps, the whole length of the State. And it is believed that this proclamation should be so modified as to divide the same into two reservations–one of which shall include Mount Hood and all the land North of it in the State of Oregon and all the land in the present reservation for a distance of 25 or 30 miles south of the base of Mount Hood; the other to include Crater Lake in Southern Oregon and the whole of the present reservation in Oregon South of that Lake, and also for a distance of 25 or 30 miles North of the same; and it is my intention to prepare at an early date an application to the President with a view to such modification. . . .

I would suggest that the Northern line be located at a distance of about 30 miles South of the snow line of Mount Hood and the Southern line about 30 miles North of the North shore of Crater lake, and that the whole of the reservation between these lines be released from the reservation and thrown open to settlement. [30]

Several months later on February 10, 1896, Mitchell followed up this letter with another, recommending that the lands in the reserve be subdivided into five separate tracts. These were to be designated the Mount Hood Public Reservation (322,000 acres), the Crater Lake Public Reservation (936,000 acres), and the Mount Jefferson Public Reservation (30,000 acres), with the two remaining tracts (totaling 3,320,000 acres) to be restored to the public domain. He observed that the forest reserve had been created without protest from the Oregon citizenry, because they did not realize the magnitude of the area it would embrace or that it would exclude from further settlement vast areas of land which he claimed were valuable for agricultural and mining purposes. The sheepherders of eastern Oregon were feeling the economic pinch by having their flocks of more than 400,000 sheep excluded from the eastern slopes of the Cascades for summer grazing.

To counter these proposals Steel and other like-minded conservationists in Oregon put up a stiff lobbying effort with President Cleveland and Secretary of the Interior Smith. On March 6 General Land Office Commissioner Lamoreaux responded to Mitchell with the support of Cleveland by observing:

I have the honor to report that the creation of the “Cascade Range Forest Reserve” was recommended by the ”Oregon Alpine Club,” endorsed by various State, City and Boards of Trade officers, and others, and by a Special Agent of this office after an apparently careful and thorough personal investigation into all of the facts and circumstances involved, who in his report states that the citizens generally are unanimously in favor of the reserve being made.

In view of these facts of record, I do not feel warranted in recommending the sub-dividing of the reserve and the restoration to the public domain of nearly three-fourths of the area embraced therein, without first having a careful and thorough field examination made, by competent and reliable special agents, to ascertain the exact portions of the reserve which are valuable for agricultural or mining purposes, and should be open to entry or location; and as such an examination would involve the services of not less than three special agents for several months, at a heavy expense, I do not feel justified in ordering such an examination to be made unless so directed by the Department. [31]

The lobbying efforts led by Steel against the potential breakup of the Cascade Range Forest Reserve were channeled through the Mazamas, a mountaineering club that he had organized in 1894. A preliminary organization was formed and on July 17, 1894, some 350 persons met at Steel’s ranch on the south slope of Mount Hood to hold a campfire. Two days later the club, named after a vanishing species of mountain goat, was formally established on the summit of Mount Hood by some 197 persons who had participated in the ascent. Thereafter, Steel used the club as a vehicle to champion the preservation of the forest reserve against the depredations of timber companies, sheepherders, and land developers. Representing the executive council of the Mazamas, Steel went to Washington to urge Congress and Department of the Interior officials to take more stringent measures to protect the natural resources and scenery of the reserve.

In an attempt to promote preservation of the reserve the Mazamas at Steel’s suggestion held a summer outing and mountain-climbing excursion at Crater Lake in August 1896. The trip had the nature of a scientific expedition, since a number of professional men were invited to join the group. These included C. Hart Merriam, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey; J.S. Diller, geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey; Frederick V. Colville, chief botanist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and BartonW. Evermann, an icthyologist with the U.S. Fish Commission. Some fifty Mazamas joined these men on the crater rim in mid-August, along with several hundred individuals traveling by wagon and on foot from Ashland, Medford, Klamath Falls, the Fort Klamath Indian Reservation, and the nearby army post at Fort Klamath. Guided nature walks and campfire lectures by the scientists on the flora, fauna, and geology of the region occupied the group’s time. A meeting of the executive committee of the Mazamas was held in the crater of Wizard Island. The excursion culminated in the christening of “Mount Mazama,” the mountain containing Crater Lake, with appropriate ceremonies on August 21. [32]

The most important result of the excursion was that each of the scientists eventually recommended passage of a bill creating Crater Lake as a national park. Their arguments were made on the basis that the area was a natural wonder favorably situated for a healthful and instructive pleasure resort; potentially valuable for scientific study; a potential contributor to the economic prosperity of the region; and too susceptible to forest fires and worthy of greater care than it was receiving as a forest reserve. [33]

Following the 1896 excursion, the Mazamas began publication of a periodical Mazamathat avidly supported national park status for Crater Lake. In 1897 Earl Morse Wilbur published an article in the periodical heralding the lake as one of “the seven greatest scenic wonders of the United States.” In the article he described the three main routes to the relatively inaccessible lake. The shortest route led from the Southern Pacific Railroad at Medford and followed up the Rogue River Valley. A second route, known as “the Dead Indian Road,” proceeded from the railroad at Ashland, passing by the Lake of the Woods and Pelican Bay on Klamath Lake. The third route left the railroad at Ager, California, and proceeded through Klamath Falls to Fort Klamath where it joined the Dead Indian Road. Wilbur went on to list four things that needed to be done to make Crater Lake a more popular resort:

But to make Crater Lake more popular as a resort for tourists and other visitors, much must yet be done to make it more easy to go there and more comfortable to stay. If it had the improved turnpikes, the easy stages, and the comfortable hotels which have made it easy for visitors to enjoy the grandeur of the Yosemite Valley without great fatigue or discomfort, Crater Lake would gradually and rapidly become recognized as Yosemite’s great rival on the Pacific Coast. When the routes of approach have been improved, when a plain but comfortable hotel has been built, when an elevator has been constructed so that one may descend to the water without great exertion, and when a steam launch has been placed on the Lake, the four things will have been done which must be done before Crater Lake can expect to be visited by any considerable number of people from a distance. Perhaps the first step in this direction would be to have the Lake and its vicinity set aside as a National Park. . . . [34]

During the August 1896 expedition to Crater Lake Barton W. Evermann conducted research for the U.S. Fish Commission, the results of which were published the following year. While the lake was found to contain no fish, he reported favorably on the quality of the water and its potential for fish food. He noted that small crustaceans flourished in the water and salamanders occurred in abundance along the shore. Several larval insects and one species of mollusk were also found. He noted that the level of the lake sank at the rate of one inch every five to six days, depending on weather conditions. The temperature of the water at different depths was taken as follows:

Surface – 60°
Depth of 555 feet – 39°
Depth of 1,043 feet – 41°
Depth of 1,623 feet (bottom) – 46°

While the increase of temperature with the depth suggested “that the bottom” might “yet be warm from volcanic heat,” it was determined that further observations were needed to “establish such an abnormal relation of temperatures in a body of water.”[35]

In July 1897 an article appeared in the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institutiondescribing the various scientific studies that had been conducted at Crater Lake. J.S. Diller, an employee of the U.S. Geological Survey, discussed the various geographical and geological features of the lake. Among his glowing observations which prompted him to call for national park status for Crater Lake were:

Aside from its attractive scenic features, Crater Lake affords one of the most interesting and instructive fields for the study of volcanic geology to be found anywhere in the world. Considered in all its aspects, it ranks with the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, the Yosemite Valley, and the Falls of Niagara, and it is interesting to note that a bill has been introduced in Congress to make it a national park for the pleasure and instruction of the people. [36]

In January 1898 Frederick V. Colville, chief botanist of the Department of Agriculture, submitted a report on sheep grazing in the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. The investigation was performed in response to a request by the Department of the Interior for a disinterested study in view of the bitter controversy that had been raging over sheep grazing in the reserve. During the summer of 1896 several sheepherders and owners who were grazing sheep on the reserve were arrested under special instructions from the Attorney General of the United States. Later “these cases assumed the form of civil instead of criminal proceedings,” and on September 3 suit was brought in the U.S. District Court of Oregon against several owners to enjoin them from grazing within the reserve. In May 1897, the Attorney General, in view of the expected passage of the Forest Management Act, issued instructions that the injunction suits be discontinued. Thus, subsequent to the passage of the act and the formulation of comprehensive rules and regulations the investigation by Colville was initiated.

After studying the sheep grazing problem in the reserve, Colville rejected the two proposals that had been recommended as remedial measures–the total exclusion of sheep and the abolition of the reserve. Instead he proposed ten recommendations that should be taken at once “to save and perpetuate the timber supply and the water supply of middle Oregon:”

1 . Exclude sheep from specified areas about Mount Hood and Crater Lake.

2. Limit the sheep to be grazed in the reserve to a specified number, based on the number customarily grazed there.

3. Issue five-year permits allowing an owner to graze on a specified tract, limiting the number of sheep to be grazed on that tract, and giving the owner the exclusive grazing right.

4. Require as a condition of each permit that the owner use every effort to prevent and to extinguish fires on his tract, and report in full the cause, extent, and other circumstances connected with each fire.

5. Reserve the right to terminate a permit immediately if convinced that an owner is not showing good faith in the protection of the forests.

6. In the allotment of tracts secure the cooperation of the wool-growers association of Crook, Sherman, and Wasco counties through a commission of three stockmen, who shall receive written applications for range, adjudicate them, and make recommendations, these recommendations to be reviewed by the forest officer and finally passed upon by the Secretary of the Interior.

7. Ask the county associations to bear the expenses of the commission.

8. Charge the cost of administration of the system to the owners in the form of fees for the permits.

9. If the woolgrowers decline to accept and to cooperate in the proposed system, exclude sheep absolutely from the reserve.

10. If after five years’ trial of the system forest fires continue unchecked, exclude sheep thereafter from the reserve.

Relative to the area around Crater Lake and Mount Hood that he wished to see closed to sheep grazing, Colville stated:

The first step toward a satisfactory system of sheep-grazing regulations in the Cascade Reserve is to provide absolute protection for those places which the people of the State require as public resorts or for reservoir purposes. The grandeur of the natural scenery of the Cascades is coming to be better known. Even before the forest reserve was created a movement was on foot to have the Mount Hood region and the Crater Lake region set aside as national parks, and since the reserve was created the eminent desirability and propriety of the earlier movement has been clearly recognized, both in the continued efforts of the people to keep sheep from grazing in these regions and in the concession in the petition of the sheep owners that if the Cascade Reserve as a whole be abolished the Crater Lake and Mount Hood regions be maintained as smaller and separate reserves on which sheep be not allowed to graze. . . .

In terms of how much land should be included in the closed area at Crater Lake, he recommended:

After going twice carefully over the ground at Crater Lake and consulting with various men well informed on the subject, especially Capt. O.C. Applegate, of Klamath Falls, I question whether a better area can be adopted than that covered by the special Crater Lake contour map, published by the United States Geological Survey, which extends from longitude 122° to 122° 15′, and from latitude 42° 50′ to 43° 04′. At present no sheep are grazed in the vicinity of Crater Lake, but for a few years up to and including 1896 a small amount of summer grazing was carried on in the watershed of Anna Creek and that of the upper Rogue River. [37]

In 1899 some of the recommendations of the Colville study were implemented. Upon the recommendation of the General Land Office the Secretary of the Interior approved permits to graze a limited number of sheep within restricted areas of the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. [38]

While the sheepherding controversy continued in the reserve Crater Lake received increasing attention in national periodicals. The thrust of these articles was for greater protection of the reserve and national park designation for Crater Lake. One such article appeared in the February 17, 1898, issue of Nature. The author described the scenic beauty and relative inaccessibility of the lake:

Crater Lake is situated nearly in 43° N. and 122° W. It may be reached from several stations on the railway between Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, by roads, usually bad, and as yet there is no house of any kind near its shore. Leaving the Southern Pacific Railway at Medford, one may reach it by 85 miles of road up the Rogue River valley. From Ashland a road of 95 miles must be traversed; but the best road–one which is practicable for bicycles–is from Ager, Cal., past the deserted Fort Klamath, a distance of 116 miles. The whole country is covered with dense coniferous forest. In approaching the lake, there is a steep climb for about three miles; then the forest-clad mountain slope gives place to a nearly level plateau, carpeted in autumn with flowers, across which one walks a few hundred yards with nothing to see, until suddenly a precipice of 900 feet yawns at one’s very feet, and deep below the dazzling blue water of Crater Lake spreads far and wide. The weird grandeur of the scene accounts to the full for the superstitious awe with which the Indians of the district regard the lake. [39]

In the aftermath of the Forest Management Act, which made provision for the survey of the forest reserves, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution on February 28, 1898, “calling on the Secretary of the Interior for a report on the survey of the forest reserves’ by the U.S. Geological Survey. The summary section of the report, which was devoted to a description of the resources and activities in the Cascade Range Forest Reserve stated that it consisted of 4,492,800 acres, of which 461,920 were railroad land. Some 95 percent of the reserve was forested with 75 percent “marked by fire” and 90 percent “badly burned.” Accordingly, a force of two rangers, five forest guards, and thirty fire watchers was recommended for the reserve. Furthermore the report contained the following data on the reserve:

A rugged mountainous region, densely timbered on the western slope, with much open land cleared by fire, and suitable for grazing.

Fire has done, and is still doing, very serious injury.
Irrigation is but little practiced on either slope.
Mining has little present or prospective importance.
Agriculture can attain little development within the reserve.
The grazing of sheep should be permitted tentatively and under careful restrictions.
The commercial development of this reserve is not demanded for the present. [40]

During 1900-01 various boundary changes were made to the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. On October 9, 1899, citizens of Wasco County submitted the following petition to the General Land Office:

We ask that you extend the reserve, and include within its borders the line of townships adjoining it on the east, or, in other words, we pray you that the east line of the Cascade Forest Reserve be moved 6 miles farther east than at present, between the East Fork of Hood River on the north and White River on the south, and that all of township 1 north of range 11 east of the Willamette meridian also be included in said forest reserve, and that all herded stock be excluded therefrom.

After several studies of the question were conducted by Forest Superintendent S.B. Ormsby a presidential proclamation was issued on July 1, 1901, adding 142,080 acres to the reserve. This addition included most of the land requested by the Wasco County citizens, but excluded “township 1 north, range 11 east, and the north 1/2 of township 1 south” because there were many permanent settlers on those lands. At the recommendation of Ormsby the proclamation included the addition of “township 5 south, ranges 9 and 10 east, and the strip of land lying directly south thereof and extending to the north line of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.”

On June 29, 1900, two townships comprising 46,080 acres were eliminated from the reserve by executive order. Townships 22 and 23 south, range 9 east on the eastern border of the reserve were eliminated on behalf of ranchers and sheep owners who prior to the creation of the reserve had established homes and made improvements on their lands. The townships were deemed nonessential to forest usage and water conservation purposes, their primary value being derived from agricultural utilization. As they were on the border of the reserve, it was determined that they could be eliminated without affecting the integrity or obstructing the control of the reservation.[41]

Appendix A3: Proclamation No. 6
Appendix B3: Forest Reserve Boundary Notice
Appendix C3: Rules and Regulations Governing Forest Reserves
Appendix D3: Report on the Survey and Examination of Forest Reserves, March 1898