Resources 1984 – B. Entrance Road and Bridges 5. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Plans the Park Road System

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

VIII. Roads of Crater Lake National Park

B. Entrance Road and Bridges

   5. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Plans the Park Road System

The severest problem with which early park superintendents had to grapple was lack of sufficient appropriations to properly develop and manage their areas. Usually it required from three to seven years after a park had been established before funds for its care and maintenance were provided. In certain instances, however, such as at Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake, assistance in building road systems was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. [17] In 1909 William Steel had requested Congress to appropriate funds with which to make a preliminary survey for a road system within the park. He met with success, and by September 1910 three teams of government engineers commanded by Major J.J. Morrow were at work in Crater Lake National Park “laying out a complete system of roads and making plans for one of the most extensive line of improvements ever made in any of the Western parks.” [18] This work was made possible by a special appropriation of $10,000.

Travel within Crater Lake National Park during the time the surveys were being made was still memorable. The same Medford woman whose journey to the lake in 1909 was recounted earlier, revisited it again two years later, noting that great improvements had been made in the road. Upon reaching the camp at the base of the rim, she saw that a new, small “horse-pin” road had been carved up to the top of the rim. “The road was so hazardous that the party had to cut down lodgepole trees and use them in lifting the rear of the wagons around the curves.” [19]

A visitor by automobile in 1911 (the first year an auto permit was issued) writes of leaving Fort Klamath and entering onto a section of road that began to climb and where in places there was hardly clearance for the car as it passed between giant pines and firs on the way to the park entrance:

Only a few miles further we stopped at the station where lives the keeper of the Crater Lake National Park. The superintendent of the park took our names, collected a dollar and handed us a permit to use the roads of the park. . . . The rules are simple. Automobiles are required to give warning at turns in the road and to keep the outside of the grade. They are not allowed on the roads except between the hours of 6:30 and 10:30 in the morning and between 3:30 and 8:30 in the afternoon. The Crater Lake National Park is one of three national parks into which automobiles are permitted to go. . . . From here on it was steep climbing. . . . twice we forced the machine at high speed through drifts that lay across the road. . . . We rushed at a third snowdrift–and stuck there. . . . All hands piled out and dragged pine branches to put beneath the wheels and we made another try, but this time the engine would not start. We were on such a steep hill that the gasoline in our feed tank . . . would not flow to the carbureter [sic]. A pump was attached to the auxiliary tank under the back seat and gasoline was forced to the engine. With one of us pumping and the rest shoving and manipulating the pine boughs we made the start and chugged upward toward the blue sky. Then suddenly we gasped. Another sky lay almost underneath our feet. We were on the rim of Crater lake. [20]


Illustration 17. Crater Lake highway lunchroom. Courtesy Southern Oregon Historical Society.


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