03 Army Road Crew Occupation, 1913-1918

Cultural Landscape Recommendations: Park Headquarters at Munson Valley, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon


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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, looking south, 1910’s

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters area c. 1917

A 1911 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers survey convinced Congress to fund construction of a road around Crater Lake. In 1913, money was appropriated for the project, and road opening scheduled for late 1918. A site central to the park’s proposed road system was selected at the upper end of Munson Valley by the Corps as a seasonal headquarters site. The headquarters site was located three miles from the rim in an area relatively protected by the surrounding valley walls where water and wood for building materials were readily available.

In conjunction with the first work season, the army built six log structures with steeply-pitched roofs including a headquarters building, storage barn, blacksmith shop, aid cabin, and cook shack that housed a kitchen/dining room downstairs and a dormitory upstairs. The structures were clustered on both sides of the main road to the rim, bisecting the site, and creating a general north-south orientation to the complex. There were no other “formal” roads through the site (or defined parking), and other than this main road, circulation was generally random and unstructured. Because of this random pattern of circulation, vegetation around the complex was virtually eliminated. With the exception of a flagpole erected near the headquarters building, and a stone sculpture, the landscape was primarily functional with little ornament. Open areas functioned as service and staging areas for Army crews. Built only for seasonal use during the short construction season, the complex was abandoned by the army when the road was complete in 1918.

Few remnants from the Army road crew occupation in Munson Valley exist today. Aside from several road segments that have been well disguised over the years and a general concentration of administrative uses, the Lady of the Woods sculpture is perhaps the only physical feature remaining from the Army’s presence in the area. The stone sculpture was carved in 1917 by Earl Russell Bush, a medical doctor who was attached to the Munson Valley road project and wanted to express his “deep love for the virgin wilderness.” It is located west of the administrative compound.(1) A similar intent was to guide systematic efforts of the National Park Service to implement the landscape design at Munson Valley in the 1930’s.