Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1918
An Appreciation of Crater Lake National Park
An Appreciation of
Crater Lake National Park
By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Author of “The Crisis,” “Richard Carvel,” “The Crossing,” etc.
Written Especially for the United States Railroad Administration
IT IS not so many years ago that I left San Francisco with a case of rods, bound for Crater Lake in Oregon. What I had heard about the place had filled ‘me with awe and expectation, tempered by a little skepticism. I was personally conducted by patriotic and hospitable Oregonians who met me in sight of the fountains of Klamath, put me in a motor car and sped me northward through great forests and across wide prairies which once, not long since, had been an almost inaccessible wilderness. The immensity of the extinct volcano whither we were bound, that in prehistoric times had strewn the entire countryside with powdered stone, was hard to grasp.
It was July. We climbed the wooded slopes to the snows, forged through he melting drifts to the very lip of the crater and suddenly looked down upon a scene celebrated in Indian myth, and unique in all America. Some thousand feet below us lay a bottomless crystal lake, six miles across dotted with black volcanic islands. My delight in the grandeur of this view, it must be confessed, was heightened by the knowledge that the lake was inhabited by large rainbow trout which would rise to the fly. After leaving our bags in one of the comfortable tents which the government provides, and eating a hurried lunch in the big dining room, we took our rods and started down the trail. It is quite safe, but new in the experience of a sportsman from the East; and I took the snow slopes gingerly, put to shame by a twelve-year-old daughter of Oregon who romped down ahead of me, careless of the precipice below. And when at last we were afloat, one recalled the Indian legend that he who attempts to swim in this water is never heard of again. The boat was gliding-over nothing. The water was as clear as air. Leaning dizzily over the side of the boat, we saw the walls of the crater going down and down into the bowels of the earth, and rainbow trout gliding below us, apparently, in a medium like air. Above us the walls seemed to reach to the sky itself. But presently, when we had begun to fish, the clouds gathered and shut out the sky, in the midst of the summer afternoon darkness set in, thunder rolled and lightning played. It was a scene comparable only to something imagined by Dante in his Inferno.
The rain pelted down, the lake grew white-but the fish rose. Trout after trout took the flies, and when the sky cleared our arms were tired from playing them. The sun was setting. I made one last cast, near a bleak island, with a brown hackle. It was followed by that indescribable sensation of pure joy when a great fish gurgles on the surface, when the fisherman feels the first frantic tug and hears the singing of the reel. My rod weighed four ounces, and the trout at least eight pounds. He leaped, and leaped again. Twilight came on. For half an hour I played him, reeling him up to the boat only to see him rush away again: it became a question of staying down all night in the crater-or leaving him, since at night we could not have traced the trail. Reluctantly I left him. For when I tried to drown him by towing he snapped the leader and was free.
To the American People:
Uncle Sam asks you to be his guest. He has prepared for you the choice places of this continent-places of grandeur, beauty and of wonder. He has built roads through the deep-cut canyons and beside happy streams, which will carry you into these places in comfort, and has provided lodgings and food in the most distant and inaccessible places that you might enjoy yourself and realize as little as possible the rigors of the pioneer traveler’s life. These are for you. They are the playgrounds of the people. To see them is to make more hearty your affection and admiration for America
Secretary of the Interior