Boats land in Crater Lake: new boats to start service on Sunday
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
July 23, 2003
By LEE JUILLERAT
CRATER LAKE – Goodbye Ralph Peyton, Glen Happel, Rudy Wilson and Paul Herron.
Hello Klamath, Umpqua and Rogue.
Four 1960s-era tour boats named after people who figured prominently in the history of concession operations at Crater Lake National Park were flown out of the lake Tuesday and replaced by a trio of new-generation vessels named for Southern Oregon rivers.
The new boats will begin serving visitors Sunday, following four days of training and familiarization outings by park rangers and staff from Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the concession company that’s footing the $600,000 bill for the three boats.
Hundreds of park visitors lined vantage points around Rim Drive as the 12,000-pound custom-made boats, tethered on a 200-foot long lease, were individually flown in and out by a Boeing 234 Chinook helicopter. Shortly after 10 a.m., following a two-hour delay for safety reasons, the Umpqua was flown to the lake by copter pilot Dave Stroup.
The Umpqua and its two look-alike boats were airlifted from trailers parked at the Pumice Desert staging area to the lake. After crossing over the rim near the North Entrance viewpoint, the copter and its load dropped into the caldera near the Devil’s Backbone. The boats were placed on the lake at Governors Bay, just in front of the Wizard Island boat docks.
Tom McDonough, who has worked as a seasonal park ranger for 35 years, says the new boats will be environmentally friendlier and believes they will help provide lake visitors with a greater appreciation for the water-filled caldera.
“It’s a great place to tell about the birth and death of a mountain,” said McDonough of the lake tours, which will be offered seven times daily through early September. “It’s like a history book – you’ve got the story laid out right before you. Those lava flows on the inner caldera speak of a very different world. It’s like a time capsule, looking at those high rock walls.”
Dominie Lenz, general manager of Xanterra’s park operations, believes visitors will appreciate the improvements in the new boats, which were intentionally designed to look like the historic boats.
“It is our goal to provide our visitors with a fabulous view of the lake, knowing they are doing it safely while preserving the environment,” Lenz said.
The three new fiberglass boats will replace four wooden boats built in the 1960s and ’70s. The old boats were replaced because they had become less mechanically reliable. The new boats have muffled engines to minimize engine noise, speaker systems that will allow passengers to better hear interpretive talks by park rangers, and several environmental features, such as sensors that contain fuel and other pollutants.
Custom-built for Xanterra by Modutech Marine of Tacoma, Wash., the new fleet also features built-in buoyancy chambers that will prevent vessels from sinking, even if swamped. The hulls, seven to 10 layers of fiberglass up to an inch thick, will be less prone to leaks and easier to repair than wooden hulls.
The engines are sealed in compartments so water cannot reach them and mix with fuel or oil. ”Smart” bilge pumps and filters will prevent petroleum from being ejected into the lake.
Each boat is powered by a 315-horsepower, 5.7-liter Vortec engine built by Marine Power. The engines use electronic fuel injection.
“It was a very good and safe decision to get these boats,” said park official Mike Justin.
Tourist boats have taken visitors on Crater Lake since 1907. The earliest known boat trip on the lake happened in the late 1870s when Jim Sutton, a mayor of Jacksonville, led a group that paddled a canvas boat to Wizard Island. Other early trips were led by William Steel in the 1880s.
Two of the four boats flown out Tuesday – the Paul Herron and Rudy Wilson – were built on Wizard Island. The Ralph Peyton and James Griffin, which was renamed the Glen Happel in the late 1980s, were built in Portland and, following champagne christenings, flown from the rim to the lake in July 1972. At the time, the total cost for building each of the two boats was $30,000.
Herron was a boat operator for 27 years, and Wilson designed the boats and managed the boat operation for more than 15 years. Peyton was president of Crater Lake Lodge, a former park concessionaire, for nearly 20 years. Griffin was co-lodge president for 14 years until being bought out by Peyton. Happel was the concession’s long-time operations chief who later became its manager.