Resources 1984 – D. Later Visits to Crater Lake

Historic Resource Study, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1984

III. Discovery of Crater Lake


D. Later Visits to Crater Lake

In mid-August 1865 an article appeared in the Oregon Sentinel mentioning the visit a week earlier of a party of citizens to “Great Sunken Lake” in the Cascade Mountains northeast of Jacksonville. Obviously referring to Crater Lake, it mentioned that “no living man ever has, and probably never will, be able to reach the water’s edge.” [14]These visitors fired a rifle into the lake several times in an attempt to ascertain the distance from the rim to the water, but evidently did little other exploring. It must be assumed that this group was probably composed of visiting citizens from Jacksonville who had gone out to inspect the progress on the Fort Klamath-Jacksonville wagon road and view the lake, Stearns stating that “the news of its [Crater Lake’s] discovery having already reached Jacksonville, and several besides the volunteers, who were building the road, having already seen it.” [15]

Shortly afterwards a party of eleven men, including John Bilger, J.B. Coats, Isaac Constant, T. Constant, James D. Fay, Herman Helms, a Mr. Kibbert, James Layman, John Neuber, W.A. Owen, and T. Willitt, guided by James D. Fay, arrived on the west side of the lake on September 3, 1865, during a hunting trip to Diamond Peak. On this side of the lake Fay and Helms found a gentler slope enabling their descent to the water, where they inscribed their names and the date on a nearby rock. Intrigued by the topography of Wizard Island, they resolved to return and bring a boat with which they could reach the island and explore its wooded slopes and craterlike summit. [16]

The reports now reaching surrounding settlements regarding the beautiful lake, its remoteness, and its many unique features were beginning to capture the imagination of more adventurous spirits. On October 9, 1865, a large party of citizens from Fort Klamath, including two women–Miss Annie Gaines and Mrs. O.T. Brown–accompanied by some army officers, visited the lake. During their sojourn there, Miss Gaines became the first woman to descend to the water’s edge. Annie Spring, and later the creek and canyon, were named in her honor. [17]

An 1868 editorial in the Oregon Sentinel mentions a party of gentlemen involved in mid-September in preparations for exploring the lake and taking soundings from a homemade boat. This may refer to the projected Sutton expedition, which, however, did not leave until the next summer. The article mentions that during the previous week a Mr. Cawley and a Mr. Beall, of the Rogue River valley area, had visited the lake with Captain Sprague, and two of the men had descended to the water. [18]


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