The grand old lodge reopens at Crater Lake – Crater Lake Lodge
By Bonnie Henderson
The allure of Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon is as simple and as complex as the color blue. Whether you’re parked at a pullout along Rim Drive, hiking a ridge above the caldera, or cruising to Wizard Island aboard a tour boat, your attention is arrested by the color of the lake. Its deep, remarkably clear water quickly absorbs all colors in the spectrum except blue. The blue light waves excite the water molecules in such a way that the lake gives off blue light.
When historic Crater Lake Lodge reopens in May after a seven-year closure, visitors will have a number of new perspectives from which to savor views of the nation’s deepest lake (1,932 feet). A linen-draped table in the dining room, a sofa in the Great Hall, and, for some lucky overnight guests, a bathtub or beneath a cozy comforter are restful vantage points. The latter two choices will be especially welcome in late spring, when it’s likely that snow will still blanket roads and trails.
At an average elevation of 7,000 feet, large portions of 33-mile Rim Drive encircling Crater Lake are often snowbound until late June, particularly in heavy snow years such as this one. (The north-south route through the park usually clears by early June.) In July and August, warm, dry days in the 70s and nights in the 40s are typical. But snow can come in any month, and it’s a sure thing by mid-October, when all lodging in the park closes for the winter. Though cross-country skiers visit the rim in winter and basic services at Rim Village are open year-round, the vast majority of the park’s visitors, a half-million annually, come in summer.
Crater Lake Lodge reopens May 20 after five years of exhaustive reconstruction costing $18 million. If you’d never seen it before, you might think it was a renovated Cascadian lodge designed and built in the grand tradition of Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge or Yosemite’s Ahwahnee. Certainly that’s the style early park stewards had in mind when construction began at Crater Lake in 1909. But there was never enough money to finish the lodge properly. In the mid-1980s, Park Service officials announced plans to demolish the deteriorating lodge, and in 1988 it was closed to visitors when engineers cited safety concerns. But a citizens’ outcry resulted in congressional support for a massive rehabilitation project.
Portland architectural firm Fletcher Farr Ayotte preserved the four-story lodge’s historic appearance and layout while providing a new foundation, roof frame, and concrete-and-steel structure. They preserved original materials such as exterior and fireplace stones by numbering, removing, and then reassembling them. The original Douglas fir floors and columns of unpeeled ponderosa pine trunks were duplicated with new wood and fresh tree trunks.
The number of guest rooms was reduced from a cramped 150 to 71, each with its own personality (and bathroom). The rooms vary in size and configuration. Some command views of the lake, others of the forest and meadow to the south; several two-level “lofts” look out to both. Second- and fourth-floor rooms have large windows through which to view the lake (our favorites are room 221, with views of Crater Lake and Garfield Peak, and room 401, where you may bathe in a claw-foot tub while gazing at the lake from the lodge’s top floor).
Interior designer Carol Edelman of Edelman/Naiman in Portland selected new furnishings, mostly Craftsman- or mission-style to match the rustic period interior. Some things haven’t changed, though: there are no telephones or televisions in the rooms – just lots of windows. Rates range from $99 to $119 per night, double occupancy; lofts sleeping four people cost $169.
Plans call for the dining room to feature Northwest specialties and a Northwest wine list. Breakfast and dinner will be offered all season, lunch in July and August. Guests can also take a short walk to Rim Village and eat at the Llao Rock Cafe, which serves cafeteria-style fare all day. The Watchman restaurant, upstairs from the cafe, is open for lunch and dinner from mid-June through mid-September.
Motel accommodations are available at Mazama Village, a short drive from the rim. Rooms cost $59 for a double, $74 at season’s peak. To make a reservation at Crater Lake Lodge or Mazama Village, call (503) 830-8700 through May 20, 594-2511 after May 20.
Camping is available in the park at Mazama Village, which has some 200 sites (about $11), trailer hookups, hot showers, groceries, and other amenities, and at Lost Creek, a primitive camp-ground with 16 sites for tents only (about $5). Neither camping area takes reservations, and Lost Creek can fill quickly in midsummer. Outside the park but close enough for day visits are lodging and camping areas around Union Creek along the Upper Rogue River, at Diamond Lake, and around Fort Klamath.
DRIVE THE RIM, CRUISE TO WIZARD
A spin around Rim Drive, with stops to hike or just gaze, is essential to appreciate the legacy of a volcanic cataclysm so massive it makes the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens seem like the pop of a champagne cork.
Crater Lake is in the caldera left after a series of explosions caused the collapse of Mount Mazama nearly 7,000 years ago. The geologic history of the eruptions is written in the buried, fossilized remains of vast forests, in ash scattered as far as Saskatchewan, and in vivid legends from the native people who inhabited the region.
Volcanism has created a rugged and varied landscape within the park. Hikers can follow a 2 1/2-mile trail to the summit of another former volcano, Mount Scott (at 8,926 feet, the highest point in the park), for a dazzling view of the lake, the region, and at least half a dozen Cascade peaks. Similar views – with shorter walks – can be had from atop Garfield Peak and the Watchman.
Wildflowers begin to blossom around the lake as soon as the snow melts, with blooms peaking July 15 to 20 most years. The most dramatic display is along 1/2-mile Castle Crest Wildflower Trail loop, near park headquarters.
Only one trail leads down the caldera’s steep sides to the lake – a 1-mile, 760-foot descent to Cleetwood Cove. From there, boats depart on 1 3/4-hour tours of the lake, offered from mid-June through mid-September, weather permitting (last year, tours cost $10, $5.50 ages 2 through 11; they’re expected to run $1 to $2 more this season). The boat tour is a good way to familiarize yourself with the lake’s geologic history.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Park admission costs $5 per vehicle. Park visitor centers can supply you with maps and leaflets on a variety of subjects, including area lodging, day-hikes, backcountry camping, even tips for bicycling Rim Drive. Call (503) 594-2211, ext. 402 for more information. Rangers recommend that you call well in advance of your visit to ensure that mailed materials will reach you in time.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Sunset Publishing Corp.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group