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Smith Brothers' Chronological History of Crater Lake National Park

 

   

<< 1974   1975   1976 >>


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)

February 26


A blue Cessna 182, with a Klamath Falls teacher and two of his students on board, is reported lost at 9 p.m. about 35 miles northeast of Klamath Falls. Searchers feel the plane possibly could have gone down over the Park. No wreckage found. (See July 5, 1982)

March 25


A new elevation of 6,179.34 feet establishes a new record Lake level. This is 16 feet above the 1942 Lake level.

May 12-13-14


Master Plan Public Workshops are held in Klamath Falls, Portland and Medford, respectfully. Master Plan issues and alternatives are presented and discussed.

May 12


Water samples taken at two sites in the Park show positive Coliform Bacteria count. Chlorine release into the water supply is increased.

May 19


Park’s water is retested with one site still showing evidence of Coliform Bacteria present in the water.

May 27


All water samples sent in by the Park test negative at the Oregon Health Lab in Portland.

June


Reconstruction begins on the last 4 miles of the West Entrance road for an estimated cost of $929,000.

Elva Michael, after five years of Park employment, leaves the Park for her home in Corvallis.

Datsun pickup rolls below Rim Village.

A $50,000 remodeling begins on the Lodge kitchen.

June 1 - 23


Park and Concession employees begin reporting in sick. Many people thought it was probably just the annual “Crater Lake Crud” that normally strikes many employees during their first week of arrival. Within three weeks of the first report of employee illness, (except for the Rangers stationed at Annie Spring, and the Lodge owner, Ralph Peyton, who claimed “I never drink water”), 90% of all Park employees come down sick with diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, dehydration and weight loss.

June 21


Cliff Stock and Burke Gurney slip on an overhanging snow bank and fall 400 feet inside the caldera at the Watchman Overlook, suffering only minor injuries.

June 24


The son of Park Superintendent Richard Sims becomes ill. Doctor feels it is appendicitis.

June 25


Sick employees are instructed to “Use Kaopectate” for their “flu”.

June 26


With so many Government, Youth Conservation Corps Enrollees and Concession sick, many employees feel that the source of the sickness must be the water. Bruce Stubblefield, YCC director, asks Chief Ranger Jim Wiggins about the water quality. Bruce is told that the water is tested frequently. When Stubblefield suggests contacting the Klamath County Health Department in Klamath Falls, Wiggins tells him that the county has no jurisdiction in the park. All water problems would have to be handled by the U.S. Public Health Service.

Ralph Peyton, president of Crater Lake Lodge Co., calls two private doctors in Klamath Falls and Portland and is told that there is a lot of “flu going around”.

June 30


Reports begin to filter in about Park visitors being struck down with a strange illness. Some claim it is Llao’s Revenge. Service station operators complain of soiled restrooms all the way to the California line.

Two YCC leaders meet with the Park’s administration and ask permission to take water samples to the Klamath Health Center. At first the request is granted, and then Chief Wiggins overrules the leaders telling them, “Don’t bother.”

July


$7,500 contract let to continue corrective work on the Mazama Campground lagoons.

Several young Peregrine falcons are successfully raised in the Park by their parents. The nest is never located.

Waldo Nye, 198 Mill Creek Drive, Prospect, Oregon grandson of Chauncey Nye and grandson-in-law of Superintendent Arant, visits the Park.

July 1


Jack Stump, YCC counselor, collects two water samples from the Ranger Dorm and Mess Hall, and along with several fecal samples collected from sick employees, Jack heads for Klamath Falls.

90 employees are known to be sick, which is about 40% of the work force.

July 2


Peter von Ohlen, regional engineer, Oregon State Health Division, arrives in the Park to find 6-8 feet of snow covering the watershed area. Peter learns of inadequate training of water system personnel, questionable record keeping and that the runoff melt water from the Rim Village parking lot drains directly into the Park’s watershed at Munson Spring. Because of the heavy snowpack, and inadequate maps, von Ohlen doesn’t realize that the Rim Village sewer line passes directly above Munson Springs, the main source of the Park’s water supply. Von Ohlen leaves the Park, reporting that the employee illness is a form of the “flu”.

July 3


Klamath Basin Water and Soil Testing Laboratory reports that the YCC furnished water samples show that “water does not conform with accepted bacteriological standards of purity for drinking water. Fecal coliforms present. Negative for pathogen”.

July 4


State health and medical people arrive in the Park to investigate the sudden out-break of so much wide spread illness. An extensive water testing lab is eventually set up in the Administration Building. The Park’s water supply is suspect, but exhaustive testing over the next several days reveals nothing unusual in the water.
Some employees decide to boil their water.

Dr. John Googins, state epidemiologist, and other members of his team meet with Superintendent Sims. Illnesses seem to be declining, part of a regional problem with the “flu” they feel. While checking food services at the Lodge, Lodge President Ralph Peyton challenges the health team’s authority to come onto federal land and clams they are on a “witch hunt.” The team finally leaves the Park in the evening, “puzzled by the information collected” and confused as to whether the State of Oregon has jurisdiction to follow the situation any further, but is convinced that the source of the employee illnesses is most likely the water supply.

July 7


Dr. Jeffery Koplan, Palo Alto, California, of the Center for Disease Control of Public Health’s Bureau of Epidemiology arrives in the in the Park. He views the snow covered sewer line area from the Lodge parking lot and sees no evidence of any problems.

YCC leaders meet with Chief of Maintenance, Jeff Adams and Chief Ranger Wiggins and are told that their water samples showing “fecal coliform” were probably not taken properly. YCC Director then shows the results of the water test to Dr. Koplan who says it makes the water suspect and that it should be boiled, but says that he is still undecided as to the method of illness transmission.

July 8


Dr. Mark Rosenberg, CDC, Atlanta, arrives in the Park. His reaction to the YCC water report is, “You have been drinking _ _ _ (human waste).

A State Health Division staff nurse who had just returned from a bus tour of Crater Lake calls Dr. Googins to say that 14 out of 15 people on the bus tour, which had visited Crater Lake on July 4, are sick. This call establishes the incubation period of the illness - 36 to 48 hours.

Dr. Koplan is notified that individuals on the serving line in the Cafeteria have been observed taking Kaopectate so that they can continue working.

July 9


Notices are being handed out to Park visitors at both entrance stations warning them that the Park’s water might be contaminated and that they should first boil or treat the water with iodine before using. The notice is signed by Superintendent Sims. Signs with the same wording are posted at all Park facilities, campgrounds, the Lodge and over all drinking fountains.

TO ALL VISITORS


OVER THE PAST SEVERAL WEEKS THERE HAS BEEN AN OUTBREAK OF GASTOENTERITIS IN CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK. THIS ILLNESS IS CHARACTERIZED BY DIARRHEA, ABDOMINAL CRAMPS, NAUSEA, VOMITING, AND CHILLS. IT CAN LAST ANYWHERE FROM A FEW HOURS TO SEVERAL DAYS. IT IS UNCLEAR HOW THIS ILLNESS IS CONTRACTED OR HOW IT IS SPREAD. WE HAVE PROFESSIONAL U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH PERSONNEL ACTIVELY WORKING ON THIS PROBLEM NOW.

WHILE USING THE PARK FACILITIES, WE RECOMMEND USING NO WATER FOR DRINKING, FOR FOOD PREPARATION, OR TOOTH BRUSHING THAT HASN’T BEE PREBOILED OR TREATED WITH IODINE OR CHLORINE TABLETS. WATER MAY NOT BE A FACTOR IN CONTRACTING THE ILLNESS, BUT WE FEEL THIS PRECAUTION IS IMPORTANT AT THIS POINT.

WE HOPE TO CORRECT THIS SITUATION AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

THANK YOU, RICHARD H. SIMS, SUPERINTENDENT CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

Willard Titus, Oregon Health sanitarian, checks the Park’s water system’s pressure and chlorine. Titus discovers that the water to Munson Valley is not being chlorinated.

Ms.. Gena Wright, supervising sanitarian, checks the food service areas of the Lodge and Cafeteria and notices that some of the workers are ill. The medical team suggests closing down the food service, but Dr. Koplan asks for another 24 hours since the method of transmission has not yet been determined. Dr. Koplan asks for more help and Dr. Googins sends three additional staff members.

After phoning Headquarters and applying pressure, Superintendent Sims allows Lodge President Peyton to replace the Health Service signs with one of their own. The Lodge company posts signs above all Rim Village drinking fountains reading, “THIS WATER HAS BEEN ADEQUATELY CHLORINATED AND IS TESTED DAILY BY THE U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE.” Seasonal patrol rangers are dispatched to remove all Public Health Service warning signs. The rangers complete their job around midnight, after several nasty confrontations with Mr. Peyton. Peyton wants to know what all the excitement is all about, “After all, nobody has died yet.”

July 10


Miss Wright learns that 4 out of 10 water samples show evidence of sewage contamination. This evidence she feel is sufficient, in her opinion, to close the Park.

Ryan Gilmore, food service manager, following a food service inspection by Drs. Koplan and Rosenberg, decides to close the Lodge dining room tomorrow to consolidate employees who can still work in the cafeteria.

The YCC staff decides to close camp on July 12.

Dr. Koplan is still concerned that the transmission method is unknown, but feels there is “insufficient evidence” to close the park. Dr. Googins, disturbed about the indecision, calls Dr. Conrad, Dr. Koplan’s supervisor in Atlanta. Dr. Conrad concurs with Dr. Koplan that there is not sufficient evidence supporting a closure of the Park. After several more calls, the director of the CDC is contacted in Atlanta and the local doctors are told, “Let’s consider this overnight and we’ll give you a call on July 11.” Several of the doctors now feel that the method of illness transmission is “person-to-person” contact.

Dr. Barns digs through the snow pack to find the chlorine line at Munson Springs and finds that the chlorinator’s position and lack of mixing, allows the water in the Headquarters line to bypass the chlorinator completely. Another chlorinator is installed on the Headquarters line. Barns then digs through the snow to take samples in the Headquarter’s reservoir.

At 7:30 p.m. Jeff Adams discovers an area directly below the Lodge where the snow has fallen in and discovers an overflowing manhole on the sewer line leading directly from the Lodge. The exposed ground is covered with sewage, solid waste and toilet paper.

At 8:10 p.m., fluorescein dye is placed in the manhole above the overflow. Green dye appears at the plugged manhole within a few minutes. Forty minutes later the dye appears at Munson Springs. Barns crawls into the collection caisson at the springs and finds evidence of dye coming in from the collection pipes. Titus, Barns and Dr. Koplan pry the cover off of the collection caisson and discover solid sewer waste floating in the cement box. 

Titus and Barnes walk the watershed between Munson Spring and the Lodge, checking all holes in the snow. Solid human waste and paper are visible. The odor of human waste is very evident. 

At 10 p.m. a flat 6-inch rock is removed from the sewer line. Superintendent Sims is notified and Park rangers start a massive house-to-house operation to warn residents to stop using any water immediately. When Dr. Rosenberg was asked by dispatcher ranger, Larry Smith, why the residents couldn’t just continue boiling the water the doctor answered rather agitatedly, “You can’t boil out Human Feces” Memos follow. All Park residents are notified by midnight.

Drs. Koplan and Rosenberg recommend gamma globulin shots as precaution against hepatitis by all who visited Crater Lake. The doctors recommend the closing of the Park.

July 11


General Superintendent Ernie Borgman is contacted at 12:30 by Superintendent Sims. After talking with Peyton and other health specialists, the decision is made to close the Park. More dye is placed in the sewer line and it soon appears in the Munson Valley sewer lagoon. Lime and chlorine are spread on the raw sewage around the overflowing manhole.

At 8:15 a.m. the Park is closed to the public with all entrances being manned on a 24-hour basis. This becomes the first closure of a major National Park in the history of the NPS.

By noon a National Guard helicopter arrives with medical supplies so that Public Health people can begin administering gamma globulin shots.

120 Crater Lake Lodge employees and about 50 Park Service employees are temporarily furloughed, some with full pay.

TV news crews from ABC, CBS, and NBC arrive in the Park, some by helicopter, to cover the breaking story of the Park’s closure. 

July 12


All available Park staff are assembled at Headquarters to begin a massive mailout to all Park Visitors who had spent at least one night in the Park warning them of the water problem and suggesting that they seek medical attention. No addresses exist for the hundreds of visitors who had camped at Mazama and the Rim Campgrounds. It was interesting to find that many of the Lodge visitors had used fictitious or nonexistent addresses.

July 13


The North Entrance is chained and closed to all travel. Numerous cases of illegal entries are reported during the three-week closure.

July 17


Water lines are flushed with a high concentration of chlorine. With all the reservoirs drained, the Park is left without fire protection.

July 24


Theft of 40 year-old “Wizard Island” sign with the old style raised lettering. The “Vidae Falls” sign is the only old style sign still remaining on display in the Park.

July 31


Helicopter search of the Park looking for a missing blue Cessna 182 that went down on February 26 with three persons on board. The overflights hope also to find clues of Charles McCuller, missing for the past 6 months. Negative results.

August 1


Crater Lake National Park reopens for visitors. Because of limited water supplies, water conservation is urged. The Lodge and the Rim Campground remain closed. The Park’s water is being supplied by three Army portable water purifying units from Ft. Lewis, Washington set alongside the road at Munson Springs.

August 3


Kelsay E. Hinshaw, age 75, dies of a heart attack after climbing Mt. Scott.

August 7


A large arrowhead emblem is stolen from the South Entrance sign.

Kimberly Brown, age 9, falls from Mazama Campground into Annie Creek Canyon and is rescued by Park personnel. Kimberly receives numerous bruises, cuts and a fractured skull.

August 18


Mrs. Lois McLeary (??) dies of a heart attack at midnight in front of the Administration Building.

August 29


A Volkswagen bug is driven off the road and into the canyon one mile below Rim Village. The car rolls several times and the driver is thrown from the car. The driver, who had been drinking, is unhurt, but the car is a total loss. The soldier, who was on leave, had just purchased the car and was not yet covered by insurance.

Summer


A massive ground and air search is conducted for Charles McCullar at the direction of the young man’s father. Mr. McCullar spends much of the summer camped at various locations in the Park searching most of the Northern area. During a one week period, YCC and Park personnel conduct a through grid search for the boy along the North Entrance Road. No trace of young McCullar is found until October 14, 1976.

September


Completion of a new water line connecting Annie Spring to the Park’s water system. Munson Spring is abandoned as a water source of massive contamination. A full-time sanitarian and water control person is hired.

September 6


HEARING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE, NINETY-FOURTH CONGRESS. FIRST SESSION ON THE OVERSIGHT TO CLARIFY CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LED TO THE CLOSURE OF CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, Medford, Oregon. Conducted by Senator Mark Hatfield.

The hearing has been called to investigate serious allegations that have been raised concerning the circumstances which led to the closure of the Park on July 11. The allegations of a cover up has cast a shadow over the performance of the various officials and enterprises who have the responsibilities for preserving the integrity of the Government's custodianship of the national parks. The allegations have raised the possibility of a cover up that was supposedly engineered by the park, concessionaire and the NPS and that pressure was brought on officials to ignore the serious threat to the public and that the concessionaire’s employees who handled food at the park were made to work while sick, which endangered the public.

The hearing lasts for 13 hours and covered 226 pages of testimony.

Mr. Hatfield is astounded to learn that Park Superintendents do not receive specialized training before assuming their positions of responsibility.

Senator: “Do you have a superintendent’s manual or some printed outline of your duties and responsibilities as a park superintendent?” Mr. Sims: “I have never seen anything.”

Senator: “Did you receive any instructions from any person on the conduct and responsibilities of the Superintendent of Crater Lake National Park/” Mr. Sims: “No sir.”

Mr. Hatfield becomes very upset that, with the all of the documented cases of employees and visitors becoming sick after visiting Crater Lake, that the Park had not been closed sooner. “Closing the Park even one day sooner than you did, had the potential of saving thousands from potential illness. What were you waiting for...someone to die first!?” (paraphrased)

Senator Hatfield concludes that there has not been a cover up as such by Park officials, but rather a series of serious blunders compounded by inexperience, inattention and poor training by many of the Park and U.S. Health personnel involved in the water crisis. There had been also a breakdown of command because: Park authority was not clearly defined, there was much confusion because of overlapping jurisdictions and nobody seemed to be in charge. Senator Hatfield: “Rather than trying to save the people who were on fire, you were out looking for the cause of the fire.” (paraphrased)

September 9


Rescue of two Park visitors from below the Mather Overlook. The rescue operation cost the government $774.

October 9


Frank Betts enters on duty as the Park’s 20th Superintendent, transferring in from Grand Teton National Park.

October 18


A wolf is spotted near Sentinel Rock. Tracks measured 2.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches long. The animal had been digging for rodents when startled.

October 30


Third highest lake level recorded since 1892.

1975 Season


Lake water completely covers the permanent dock at Cleetwood Cove. For the next two years the dock is covered by about 5 feet of water, forcing the boat crew to raise the ticket shack up to the Lake Trail.

Season Visitation: 427,252. Down 20% due to the three week closure of the Park during July and August.

 

 

<< 1974   1975   1976 >>


 

 

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