Resources 1984 – H. The Dutton Survey

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

VI. Steps Leading Toward Establishment of Crater Lake National Park


H. The Dutton Survey

In July 1886, in a further effort to involve the federal government in Crater Lake’s future, Will Steel persuaded Director Powell to send another Geological Survey party under Captain Dutton to the area to make a more thorough examination by surveying and sounding the lake. Steel was appointed by the government to prepare the boats and equipment to be used in the sounding process and to have charge of the work. Three boats were built in Portland, the largest measuring 26 feet long and christened Cleetwood (Golden Arrow). This craft and two other skiffs were shipped to Ashland on flatcars and hauled the next one hundred miles by wagon. The running gear of a wagon was utilized for Cleetwood, with a framework constructed on it to hold the boat in a strong canvas swing. Accompanying the expedition as a labor force were soldiers from Vancouver Barracks in Washington. The total party leaving Ashland on July 7 numbered thirty-five men and sixty-five horses and mules. Upon their arrival at the lake a week later, preparations were begun immediately to lower the boats into the water. They were placed in a framework of heavy timbers, upside down, and rigidly secured. The men then lowered them to the water by means of a heavy cable passed around a tree on the rim and played out as needed. By this laborious process, lasting for eight hours, sixteen men finally got a boat lowered to the foot of the caldera wall. Much peril was involved due to the steepness of the slope and the precarious footing resulting from melting snow and unstable rock slides. A trail was then laid out from the summit to make the daily descent and ascent of the rim easier during the survey work.


Illustration 6. Cleetwood on Crater Lake. Wizard Island and Llao Rock in background. Courtesy Oregon Historical Society.

The first measurement of the lake was attempted by Steel and other members of the party a few rods from shore. Casting the lead wire with a weight attached overboard, the men watched intently as the line passed over the pulley. Their expressions became incredulous as the line passed over the six-hundred-foot mark, then down eight, nine, and one thousand feet without stopping. After a quick check to make sure the machine was working properly, the line was again played out, and did not touch bottom until the weight had dropped, amidst great excitement, to 1,210 feet. In all, 168 soundings were made during uniform circlings of the lake, ranging in depth from 93 feet to 2,008 feet. Two parties of engineers on shore recorded the depths by determining the position of the boat at each cast by means of two plane tables planted on the rim walls. During the survey it was determined that the bottom of the lake was nearly flat except for three steep protrusions: