retains beauty after 100 years
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
May 22, 2002
By LEE JUILLERAT
CRATER LAKE — One man's persistence paid off.
For 17 years William Gladstone Steel generally made a pest of
himself, doggedly stumping around Oregon and the halls of the
nation's capitol advocating national park status for Crater
Finally, on May 22, 1902 — 100 years ago today — President
Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation creating Crater Lake
A century later, it remains Oregon's only national park, and is
considered one of the National Park Service's "crown jewels."
More significantly, the lake remains as beautiful as ever, with
its fascinating azure blue waters regarded among the world's
clearest and cleanest.
Earning national park status was largely due to Steel, the
"Father of Crater Lake National Park."
says Steel's fascination with the lake began in 1870 when he was
a 16-year-old Kansas schoolboy. In tales that were likely
embellished, it's said he had unwrapped a sandwich wrapped in a
newspaper and glanced at a short story about a lake set inside a
blown-out Cascades volcano. Steel supposedly declared his
intention to visit the lake and have lunch on the island within
the water-filled caldera.
It was 1885, 15 years later, when Steel finally munched a
sandwich on the island he named Wizard Island.
After that first visit he described the lake as, "One of the
grandest points of interest on earth. Here all the ingenuity of
nature seems to have been exerted to the full capacity, to build
one grand, awe-inspiring temple within which to live and from
which to gaze up on the surrounding world."
Steel wasn't the first person dazzled by the lake's setting and
deep blue color. John Wesley Hillman, who on June 12, 1853, had
been the first non-Indian to view the lake, later wrote, "I knew
when I gazed upon Crater Lake that even though the West was
filled with undiscovered wonders, Crater Lake would hold its
Hillman called the lake "Deep Blue Lake."
But for generations of Klamath Indians, who witnessed its
creation 7,700 years ago, the lake had a been place of
spirituality and power. They called the lake Giiwaas.
The lake formed after the eruption of an ancient volcano later
known as Mount Mazama. In a series of blasts that geologists say
were 42 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens explosions,
the volcano's wall collapsed inward and formed a sealed caldera.
Over the following years the massive basin, which has no outlets
or inlets, gradually filled with water. Studies done two years
ago have set the lake's maximum depth at 1,943 feet, making it
the nation's deepest and the world's seventh-deepest lake.
Klamaths and other tribes immortalized the lake's creation in a
story of a battle between Llao, the powerful monster who lived
in the mountain, and Skell, a mythical hero. The lake was a
place where those seeking special powers visited and swam.
After Hillman, others periodically "discovered" the lake.
Several names were proposed, but it was Crater Lake that
eventually took hold.
Steel, who avowed to protect the lake after his first visit,
feared that sheep grazing and logging would threaten the lake's
adjacent forests. He convinced President Grover Cleveland to
have lands withdrawn from development in 1886.
Steel's quest is being remembered through the play,
"Resolutions: William Gladstone Steel and Crater Lake National
Park," which will be performed in Medford tonight and throughout
the region in coming months.
The play is just part of a larger celebration that will include
an exhibition of Crater Lake art at the Schneider Museum of Art
in Ashland, an employee reunion, a Crater Lake symposium, books
and a commemorative license plate.
Although today marks the actual anniversary — which included
ceremonies in Salem, where Gov. John Kitzhaber proclaimed today
Crater Lake National Park Day for the state — the highlight
ceremonies will wait until Aug. 25 for rededication ceremonies
at the park. Holding ceremonies today would have been risky, as
evidenced by this week's frequent snow at the park.
"We're planning a ceremony that will be meaningful and set the
tone for the next 100 years," says park Superintendent Chuck
Along with the birthday celebration, Lundy is directing the park
toward a new role as a center of scientific research and
education for elementary school to postgraduate students. The
old superintendent's residence will be converted into the
headquarters for a Crater Lake Science and Learning Center while
an adjacent residence will be redesigned as a living space for
visiting scientists and teachers.
Improvements done last summer will further spruce up the park's
Rim Village area. The Sinnott Memorial overlook will reopen with
$500,000 in new geological and historical exhibits. The Rim
Visitor Center, formerly the Kizer Photo Studio, has been
upgraded. Artwork created by 50 artists who had park residencies
in 2000-2001 will be displayed at the renovated Community House.
Future plans call for $8 million worth of changes. The Rim
Village area will be redesigned so that the parking lot between
the lake and cafeteria-gift shop no longer dominates the view.
Many services will be relocated off the rim to Mazama village. A
planned two-story visitor center will be high enough so that
winter visitors can see over the snow banks to the lake.
"The Centennial will celebrate one of our nation's oldest parks
and serve as a testament to the courage and determination of
Steel and countless others who have been involved in the
preservation of this natural treasure," promises Lundy.
Steel would surely love the attention generated by today's
anniversary and the year-long Centennial, for himself and the
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