Resources 1984 – D. William Gladstone Steel

VI. Steps Leading Toward Establishment of Crater Lake National Park

D. William Gladstone Steel

In 1870 a young Kansas farm boy happened to glance at the newspaper in which his just-consumed lunch had been wrapped and focus his attention on an account describing a unique lake in Oregon whose sapphire-blue waters were nestled in the midst of a crater and surrounded by precipitously steep walls. Burning with a desire to view it himself someday, Steel gladly moved to Oregon with his family in 1871 It was not until 1885, however, that he managed to reach the lake. Accompanied by a friend, J.M. Breck, Steel took passage on the Oregon & California Railroad to Medford, where he caught a stagecoach for the bumpy, dusty ride to Fort Klamath. There the two travelers ran into Captain Clarence E. Dutton, an army officer detailed to the Geological Survey who was the leader of a small military party escorting the famous geologist Joseph LeConte of the University of California on a summer trek through the Pacific Coast mountains to examine volcanic phenomena. Steel would later find both Dutton and LeConte to be sympathetic allies in his fight to save the natural resources of Crater Lake.

Steel and his companions walked the rest of the way to the lake, arriving at the rim on August 15. Steel’s first view of the magnificent scenery and its inspiring beauty gripped him with a consuming passion:

Not a foot of the land about the lake had been touched or claimed. An overmastering conviction came to me that this wonderful spot must be saved, wild and beautiful, just as it was, for all future generations, and that it was up to me to do something. I then and there had the impression that in some way, I didn’t know how, the lake ought to become a National Park. [8]

Steel’s party had brought a canvas-bottomed canoe from Portland, in which they paddled over to Wizard Island for a brief exploration. They stayed in the area several days and left with a grim determination to save the lake and its environs from private defacement and improper use.

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