06 How This Survey Was Made

Soil Survey of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon 

How This Survey Was Made

This survey was made to provide information about the soils and miscellaneous areas in the park. The information includes a description of the soils and miscellaneous areas and their location and a discussion of their suitability, limitations, and management for specified uses. Soil scientists observed the steepness, length, and shape of the slopes; the general pattern of drainage; the kinds of native plants; and the kinds of bedrock. They dug many holes to study the soil profile, which is the sequence of natural layers, or horizons, in a soil. The profile extends from the surface down into the unconsolidated material in which the soil formed. The unconsolidated material is devoid of roots and other living organisms and has not been changed by other biological activity.

The soils and miscellaneous areas in the park are in an orderly pattern that is related to the geology, landforms, relief, climate, and natural vegetation of the park. Each kind of soil and miscellaneous area is associated with a particular kind of landform or with a segment of the landform. By observing the soils and miscellaneous areas in the park and relating their position to specific segments of the landform, a soil scientist develops a concept or model of how they were formed. Thus, during mapping, this model enables the soil scientist to predict with a considerable degree of accuracy the kind of soil or miscellaneous area at a specific location on the landscape.

Commonly, individual soils on the landscape merge into one another as their characteristics gradually change. To construct an accurate soil map, however, soil scientists must determine the boundaries between the soils. They can observe only a limited number of soil profiles. Nevertheless, these observations, supplemented by an understanding of the soil vegetation-landscape relationship, are sufficient to verify predictions of the kinds of soil in an area and to determine the boundaries.

Soil scientists recorded the characteristics of the soil profiles that they studied. They noted soil color, texture, size and shape of soil aggregates, kind and amount of rock fragments, distribution of plant roots, reaction, and other features that enable them to identify soils. After describing the soils in the park and determining their properties, the soil scientists assigned the soils to taxonomic classes (units). Taxonomic classes are concepts. Each taxonomic class has a set of soil characteristics with precisely defined limits. The classes are used as a basis for comparison to classify soils systematically. Soil taxonomy, the system of taxonomic classification used in the United States, is based mainly on the kind and character of soil properties and the arrangement of horizons within the profile. After the soil scientists classified and named the soils in the park, they compared the individual soils with similar soils in the same taxonomic class in other areas so that they could confirm data and assemble additional data based on experience and research.

While a soil survey is in progress, samples of some of the soils in the area generally are collected for laboratory analyses. Soil scientists interpret the data from these analyses and tests as well as the field observed characteristics and the soil properties to determine the expected behavior of the soils under different uses. Interpretations for all of the soils are field tested through observation of the soils in different uses and under different levels of management. Data are assembled from other sources, such as research information and field experience of specialists.

Predictions about soil behavior are based not only on soil properties but also on such variables as climate and biological activity. Soil conditions are predictable over long periods of time, but they are not predictable from year to year. For example, soil scientists can predict with a fairly high degree of accuracy that a given soil will have a high water table within certain depths in most years, but they cannot predict that a high water table will always be at a specific level in the soil on a specific date.

After soil scientists located and identified the significant natural bodies of soil in the park, they drew the boundaries of these bodies on aerial photographs and identified each as a specific map unit. Aerial photographs show trees, buildings, roads, and rivers, all of which help in locating boundaries accurately.

<< previousnext >>