Crater boss has snow-heavy past
May 12, 1999
By PAUL FATTIG
Photo by Bob Pennell
Because of the year’s heavy snowfall, Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Chuck Lundy hasn’t seen much of the outside of the park’s buildings. Behind him is the park’s lodge, obscured by snowdrifts, fog and rain.
CRATER LAKE — Chuck Lundy isn’t getting cabin fever, but he admits he is mighty glad to see the snowbank retreating from his second-story office window.
“Yeah, it’s really nice to see it declining,” he said, then added, “But it has kind of stalled out in terms of melting.”
Don’t get him wrong. The Crater Lake National Park superintendent loves snow. It’s just that more than 664 inches of snow has fallen on the park this winter, the most snow since 1983.
There is now a 12-foot blanket of snow lying snugly up against the park headquarters, which is at 6,500 feet above sea level.
Snow covers the first-floor windows in the headquarters building, giving it a bunker-like atmosphere. Grow lights provide life-giving light to two houseplants inside the headquarters lobby.
Up on the Crater Lake rim, elevation 7,000 feet, the snow is around 16 feet deep.
A native of Michigan, Lundy, 49, arrived at the park in mid-November. Snow already covered the ground.
“I thought I had seen a lot of snow,” he said, noting he had encountered up to 200 inches of snow on Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Snow was an old friend before Lundy, who began his career in 1977, arrived at Crater Lake. He saw plenty of snow as the superintendent at the Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. He was a member of the ski patrol at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.
And he encountered snow at career stops in the Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado National Monument.
“Not only is the snow deeper here, but we work and live in the snow environment up here,” he said.
But Lundy is taking the deep snow at Crater Lake in stride as he and his staff prepare the park for the half-million visitors who come each year, largely during the summer.
The park staff with its fleet of snow removal equipment is already chewing away at the Rim Road. The north entrance to the park is expected to open by the average target date of June 10. The historic Crater Lake Lodge, completed in 1915 and rehabilitated in 1995, will open May 20. The nearby concession building is already open.
The goal is to get the entire park open to visitors as early as possible, Lundy said, adding that an additional bulldozer has been leased to add muscle to the snow removal project.
“We’re not catching a break in the weather this year,” Lundy said. “But the crew is working very diligently to get the north entrance open.”
If cold weather persists, more equipment will be called in, he said.
Although the winter of 1932-33 brought a record 879 inches, this past winter’s snowfall is the most since 1983. The average snowfall is 530 inches.
But the water content in the snow this year is at a 45-year high. The soggy snow has damaged some buildings because of its sheer weight.
Crater Lake is Oregon’s only national park and one of 54 in the system. The park was established on May 22, 1902, by President Teddy Roosevelt.
At 1,932 feet deep, the lake is the deepest in the United States.
Right now, it’s the deep snow that is on Lundy’s mind.
“One of my hopes is to develop a visitor center on the rim that will provide quality viewing year-round,” he said. “That would be great for the winter visitors.”
Meanwhile, Lundy, who lives in Klamath Falls with his wife, Maureen, is looking back on the first winter he worked at the park with a sense of accomplishment.
“For a good part of the winter, the staff kept downplaying the snow, saying, `Oh, this isn’t much,”‘ Lundy said. “Well, in the last couple of months, they’ve come clean.
“Now most of them are saying this is the biggest snow they’ve ever seen here.”