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Smith Brothers' Chronological History of Crater Lake National Park










Kevin Peer, free lance film maker begins filming winter scenes for a new informational film about Crater lake. Kevin spends a week on top of the Watchman taking time-lapse photographs of storms passing over the Lake. Peer also spends the winter writing the movie’s scripts. Returning in the summer, Peer films additional footage, including an reenactment of the Lake’s discovery and the staging of William Steel’s famous School House lunch box discovery of Crater Lake. The new film will replace the 30 year old “Crater Lake Story”.



June 24

Superintendent Jim Rouse and Reg. Hydrologist Don Barrett watch as a large timber wolf walks in front of their vehicle at Lost Creek Campground at 5:20 in the evening. Attempting to photograph the animal, they approach within 20 yards.




Nancy Jarrell and ski party observe and photograph a mountain lion in the snow, near Sun Notch.


The name of the Exhibit Building’s (EB) (formerly the Kiser Photo Studio) is changed to the Visitor Center (VC). Previously in the 1940’s &1950’s the building was known as the Information Building (IB).




Mr. George Woodfield, of Yakima, Washington, donates John Maben’s collection of negatives, manuscripts, diaries and photographs of Crater Lake to the Oregon Historical Society. John Maben was the first winter caretaker of Crater Lake Lodge in 1924. Maben had attracted considerable attention when his monthly dispatches about his solitary life at Cater Lake were published in national magazines. Maben’s collection was presented to the OHS in memory of Alta Knips Woodfield, Maben’s niece, who had done a great deal of research on the history of Crater Lake.





Large Headquarter’s mantle photo (transparency) is installed, taken by John Davis and Superintendent Frank Betts from an elevation of 16,000 feet.


January 29

Charles McCuller, 19, of Virginia, sets out from Roseburg, telling friends that he plans on hitchhiking to Crater Lake in order to take winter pictures of the Lake. Several people remember seeing him in the Diamond Lake area, but that is the last time anyone sees or hears from McCuller. There is reason to believe that he planed to hike to Crater Lake along The North Road. A heavy snowfall during the previous two weeks dropped over five feet of fresh snow. Cross country skiers report that the snow was so soft and powdery, that even with skis, they were sinking up to their waists. McCuller’s father flies out to Oregon two weeks later and conducts an extensive air and ground search of the northern section of the Park, but no clues as to McCuller’s disappearance are uncovered. (See October 13 & 14, 1976)




August 8

The Lodge Company’s boat house is destroyed by a disastrous fire on Wizard Island. Rudy Wilson, boat builder, attributed the fire to a “faulty generator”. A spark from the muffler of the generated, vented through the rear wall fell on a rotten log, smoldering for several hours and finally bursting into flames about 8 p.m. Fire crews were immediately dispatched, but because of the distances involved, three hours passed before the initial attack began. The fire loss is estimated at $50,000. Since the boat house had been built in a heavy grove of 400 year old Shasta Red Firs, to help camouflage the building, dozens of the giant trees were destroyed in the 5 acre forest fire. Lodge owner, Ralph Peyton, blamed the boathouse fire on lightning so that the insurance claim could be settled faster and the company would not be held responsible for irreplaceable damage done to one of the most photographed areas in the World.




June 12

Edmond Clark of Cave Junction, Oregon, falls to his death in Castle Creek Canyon while trying to take a photograph.




Sometime during the early 1950’s future Supreme Court Judge, Sandra Day O’Connor visits Crater Lake during the winter. Photos are taken of her playing in the snow with her college roommate.




November 6

Superintendent Leavitt, in a letter to Dr. Howel Williams, describes the Fall phenomenon seen over Crater Lake: “Mrs. Dale Stoops of Klamath Falls reported that on September 18 she and other members of her party saw a funnel shaped cloud just over the appeared to be gas, smoke, dust or steam just over the surface of the lake...The phenomenon (was) reported by Mr. Dale Vincent (photographer, naturalist and writer) on September 17, from the summit of Garfield Peak, and by our lookout, Miss (Linda) Newhall on September 15. Unless everybody is getting “hallucinations” it does appear that there is some phenomenon there that has not yet been satisfactorily explained. No one seem to have seen the smoke or gas actually rising from the waters of the Lake...Unfortunately, Crater Lake has been officially closed...However special efforts are being made to persuade the Navy to provide funds to keep the park operating during the winter, primarily for the benefit of the 5,000 Marines at Klamath Falls who are being treated for tropical diseased. The Medical officers find that a change of one of the finest supplement to their medical program and lasting recovery.”



March 1

Proposal that the Government buy the Exhibit Building that has been a private photo studio owned by Fred Kiser for $1,000. Claimed to be “the finest building ever built in any of the national parks.” By 1936 the NPS wanted to tear it down because it distracted from the Rim Area. The building has remained as the Park’s main visitor contact station for the past 70 years.

November 9

Will Steel donates, to the Park’ Archives, his collection of photographs of early pioneers, identified with the discovery and development of Crater Lake National Park




April 10

“Science” magazine reports that the Carnegie Corporation has donated $5,000 for the furnishing and installation of equipment for the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. Congress appropriated $10,000 toward the construction of the Memorial. The overlook will be developed with a twofold purpose: “To bring to the visitor to the Park an adequate idea of the beauty of the picture presented and to furnish interesting scientific data as to the formation of the crater in which the blue lake lies and its geologic history.”

July 18

Boy Scout, Drew Chick, and Chief Ranger Ansel Hall spend the day laying out a new trail to the top of Wizard Island. While exploring the island on the return to the boat dock, Hall discovers the transom of the Cleetwood. Chick recovers the remains of the old boat from a small lake inlet while Hall takes photos of the historic recovery. The letters, “U.S.G.S.” were still visible. Will Steel confirmed the discovery as being authentic. Pieces of the pioneer craft are soon displayed at the Park’s information Bureau and Community House.



(some sources say, 1933)

The Old Man of the Lake is definitely identified by boat operator Paul Herron and named by Fred Kiser, park photographer. The old log may not be the same one referred to by Diller as the log he describes in his report of 1896, but Diller’s description fits the “Old Man” quite closely.



Pictures were taken of the frozen Lake.” Reported in the Portland Oregonian.

February 12

Park Rangers visit Crater Lake to find the Lake completely frozen over. Several photos are taken and are published in the February 17, 1924 “Sunday Oregonian”.


Kiser Studio is enlarged. The small wing was added to provide one-day photo developing service at Crater Lake.



October 1 thru 19

Lady of the Woods carved by Dr. Ralph Bush, a doctor with the Rim road construction and survey crew. The man-created work of art is Dr. Bush’s desire for fulfillment: “The statue represents my offering to the forest, my interpretation of its stillness and response, its beauty, fascination and unseen life. Deep love of this virgin wilderness fastened itself upon me and remains to this day.” Name by Fred Kiser, photographer who built a photo studio on the Rim now being used a the Park’s Visitor Center.


Winter 1912

Colored photographs of Crater Lake are hung on the walls of the U.S. Capitol. Superintendent Arant attempts to feed and tame the bears in the Park for the enjoyment of park tourists. He also carefully trimmed the trees along the roads to “help edify the park.” The U.S. Congress appropriates $627,000 for roads in the park. The addition of a second ranger. Extensive vandalism done to the Lodge and furnishings. $50,000 given for roads. 





Benjamin Heidel, U.S. highway engineer, Martin Erickson, Supervisor of the Crater National Forest and Harry Hicks of the Rogue River Valley University Club of Medford, set out for Crater Lake. “It is currently stated that no more than ten white persons have ever gone to Crater Lake in winter.” They start walking at Eagle Point because of deep slush on the roads. The group camps the night at a contractor’s camp at Flounce Rock. The third night is spent at Prospect. Only two trappers are found in the whole town. The great snow depth requires the use of snowshoes. Their fourth night is spent at Mill Creek Ranger Station. They spent the fifth night in 12 feet of snow, east of Union Creek. The 6th night is spent in relative comfort in the Superintendent’s house at Annie Spring and the seventh night is spent at the Rim Hotel, waiting out a raging storm. The party discovers Barkowski’s photography equipment, but no trace of the photographer is found. The three men sit out three days of gale force wind and falling snow. Finally, when the sun comes, the team is able to take the first winter photographs of the Lake. Their complete trip takes about 18 days. (Sunset, March, 1912)

February 22

Photographer, B.B. Bakowski, of Oregon City, who left Ft. Klamath three weeks ago to secure photos of Crater lake in mid winter has been lost in the deep snows that now surround the Crater. Frank Burns and Albert Gipson started out to try and locate the missing adventurer. They found Bakowski’s sled and shovel one and half miles south of the Rim. His camera cases were found at the hotel, but his supplies were missing. Blizzard and gale raging for over three weeks, buried most clues to the man’s disappearance. His camp and supplies and a ten food snow tunnel were located, but not his body.”




August 5 - 15

Steel brings 27 people to Crater Lake from Medford. This is the first attempt to provide visitor services at the Lake. The group had begun at Union Station in Portland and traveled by train to Medford. A large crowd of locals welcomed the group as their wagon train set off for their camping rendezvous at Eagle Point. The group spends five days traveling to Crater Lake. The boat, the Start, a 16 foot skiff built in Klamath Falls and launched for the auspicious group’s exclusive use is used to ferry members of the group out to Wizard Island and over to Cloud Cap.. After spending ten days visiting points of interest in and around the Park, including photographing the Lake, and stopping off at old Fort Klamath, the group broke up at Ashland.

August 11

Fred and Oscar Kiser and Will Steel lower a 16 foot boat over the rim wall in order to take photographs of the Lake. The Kisers paddle across the lake to Pumice Castle area and climb the East Rim, accompanied by Helen Akin and Gertrude Metcalf. They become the first women to climb Mt. Scott. The first Lake photographs of the Lake are taken from Mt. Scott. The whole Lake had never been captured on one photo plate before, which the Kisers felt was a remarkable accomplishment.


Fred Kiser of Portland (Scenic America Co.) produces the first hand colored photos of Crater Lake. The pictures are subjected to ridicule, for no water was believed to be so blue.




August 9

Members of the Peter Britt photographic party, (including O.C. Applegate, Samuel Hall and his twelve-year old son, Emil), reaches the Rogue River Falls (Mill Creek) and Britt photographs them.

August 11

Britt arrives at Crater Lake. Apparently the wagon is left not far from the roadside while packing 200 pounds of photo equipment and camping supplies up to the Rim of the Lake. The sky is overcast and it begins to rain intermittently for the next several days. Snow patches still partially cover the ground. For two days the party shivers in the chilly weather, examining a Lake lacking its famous blue.

August 13

The Britt party has been camping at the Rim for three days. Britt is ready to give up and leave without a photograph when suddenly the clouds part, the sun shines through and the first photograph ever of Crater Lake is taken. During the cold and windy stay on the Rim, Emil, Peter’s 10 year-old son comes down with a cough. The party stays on for two more days, takes more photos, and hikes and explores the area.

August 14

Using some 200 pounds of photographic equipment, Peter Britt takes a total of 7 glass negative photos. The plates are made up in a black, darkroom tent, and exposed before they dry. Peter Britt is mainly a studio photographer, so natural photography was a challenge for him.

August 16

The Britt party leaves Crater Lake and heads for Fort Klamath. A total of ten days were spent traveling from and to Jacksonville.




August 21

THE OREGON SENTINEL, Saturday: TRIP TO CRATER (sic) LAKE, To the Editor Sentinel: In response to your request, I will endeavor to furnish you a brief sketch of our late tour to the source of Rogue River, and Fort Klamath.

On the 27th of July, memorable as the day of the great freshet in Jacksonville, our party, consisting of David Linn, wife and five children, Jas. D. Fay, Miss Anna Fay, Miss Hannah Ralls, J.B. Coasts, Capt. J.M. Sutton, wife and one child, started on an exploring and recuperating expedition to Crater Lake and other points of interest in its vicinity. The thermometer stood at 96 in the shade and atmosphere was unusually sultry...From our first camping point we witnessed in the distance the terrific storm which was devastating Jacksonville and terrifying its inhabitants. We could see the dark and terrible cloud which hung over our devoted town, pouring forth stream after stream of lurid lightning and heavy peals of thunder which was startling, even at our safe distance...

From this point the road was made through thick timber and over a soft pumice stone soil, and consequently the road has been beaten down from eighteen to twenty inches, leaving some hundreds of stumps to the mile, too high for our duck legged wagon to pass over. It was these stumps that the peculiar virtues of our baggage master shone forth though the clouds of dust which surrounded him and his favorite wagon....

On the 31st we traveled all day over a very good but stumpy road. During the day we passed through vast forest of dead timber, which had been killed by fire. Among this dead timber in many places the ground was covered with a low whortleberry of the most delicious kind. We also passed many small brooks and springs in which the water stood at 40 degrees, F, just 8 degrees above freezing, while Jacksonville water stands at sixty...

We camped one mile from the summit of the Cascade Mountains and two and half miles from Crater Lake at a place known as Sprague’s dug-away. At this place a trail has been graded down the precipitous banks of Crack Creek sufficient to pass men and horse. On the next day (August 1), the order of the day was to find a “north-west passage” to Crater Lake whereby we could take our wagons and boat. We started out early in the morning, a party of self constituted road viewers. After nearly the whole day spent, we succeeded in finding a good route for a wagon road and moved our camp about one half mile Lakewards where we found excellent grass and water. On the next day we cut out the road to the Lake, returned and moved camp to within half a mile of that point and in time to haul our boat to the brink of its destination. On the 3rd we took our families in the wagons and soon arrived at the long wished for point. On alighting from the wagons and reaching the brink, the first exclamation of the ladies was, “look out for the children! Come back Jimmy! Come back Peter.”

In approaching the lake from whatever direction, we had to ascend a mountain; it being located on a high point of the dividing ridge of the Cascade mountains. From the south we gradually ascended the mountain through heavy open timber, principally hemlock and spruce, until within two hundred yards of the lake, when we passed out of the timber into a fine grassy lawn mottled with sealberry and other lowering shrubs peculiar to high regions. Passing up this lawn, which was a little more precipitous than before, we arrived at the brink of the Lake which was beautifully skirted with timber at intervals, all around its circumference, To say that this wonderful lake is grand, beyond description, is to give an idea of its magnificence. Everyone gazes at it for the first time in almost tearful astonishment. Elevated 4,200 feet above the sea we could skim the tops of the vast piles of mountains in every direction which almost a quarter of a mile beneath our feet reposed the placid lake. From the best estimates we could make, the lake is about six and a half miles from east to west and five and a half from north to south and nearly oval in shape. It is entirely surrounded by walls of light colored basalt, scoria, and almost every conceivable variety of volcanic productions. Near the west end rises a cone like island about a mile in diameter at the base and about seven hundred feet in height. This island is about two miles from the shore where we stood and a half mile from the west end of the lake.

Each man now shouldered up a portion of our boat material, and after a few timid glances down the fearful incline, started boldly over the loose, crumbling bank, starting bevies of loose boulders at every step, at the imminent danger of anyone who dared venture ahead of the party. We succeeded in getting our boat to the water and afloat before night. I had forgotten to state that one lady accompanied down on this occasion, arriving at the bottom with her shoes torn entirely from her feet on the sharp rocks. On getting ready to return, she made the following address to the lake. “O, thou horrid puddle! Like a great spider, thou has hid thyself down in this miserable hole to catch butterflies. Before I entered thy face, you looked smooth and the distance short, but I found the road long, and nothing but roughness and danger, and now thou art rolling great waves at my feet! I know not whither I shall escape these villainous walls, but I promise you that if again safe at the top, I will never more trouble you with my presence; In sincerity of which I now make unto you this peace offering!” So saying, she cast her dilapidated shoes in the troubled water, and returned barefoot, through tribulation and boulders, to the top. As there was no water for our horses, and only snow for ourselves, we returned to your last camp, for the night. During the day we were joined by Lt. S.B. Thornburn, U.S.A from Fort Klamath, Col. Ross and H.P. Duseans and lady.

DOWN TO THE LAKE Arriving at the lake, speedy preparation was made to go down to the water. Lieut. Thorborn, Col. Ross, David Linn, J.B. Coasts, James D. Fay, J.M. Sutton, Miss Anna Fay, Mrs. Linn and Mrs. Sutton make the decent. After the ladies had went out in the boat a few hundred yards and returned, five of us started for the island, two miles distant. One hour’s hard rowing against a heavy wind, brought us to the island; forty five minutes more took us to the top of the Island, where we proclaimed it to the winds that on the 4th day of August, 1869, we, David Linn, J.D. Fay, Lieut. S.B. Thorborn, J.B. Coats and J.M. Sutton landed on the CREATER (sic) Lake Island, and then and there claimed to be the first human beings that ever set foot on its soil. This Island is but a loose pile of cinders and pumice stone, crumbling down at the very touch. Around the basin-like crater is large piles of scoria ready to tumble down with the least exertion, and many, indeed, were the tons of this rock that we started down the precipitous sides of the Island. The rim around the crater is some five hundred yards in circumference and on hundred feet deep, in the bottom of which remains a bank of snow. We left a bottle on the south side of the crater, sheltered beneath a ledge of lava, containing the names of all our party. Any one curious to find it, near some blazes made with a knife on the limbs of some small trees hard by. We returned to the lake and found the wind blowing almost a gale, and coming from every point of the compass every five minutes. We arrived safely on shore, drew our boat above high water mark, which by the way, is only about four feet, left with it a bucket of tar and four or five pounds of nails for repairing purposes, and then started on our weary way to the top, a distance of half a mile at an angle steeper than forty-five degrees. On arriving at the top, we heard the story of how the ladies got back, how the Col. climbed a rope, and many other male, and female adventures. Through the politeness of Mr. Peter Britt, I was prepared to take photographs of the lake, but owing to the smoke in the atmosphere I did not succeed. We were soon underway to our camp, well repaid for all our pains, and proud of our store of adventures.


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