37 Medford Road

History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park


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The Army Corps of Engineers Road System


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Medford Road

Despite being somewhat shorter in comparison with the Fort Klamath Road (6.8 miles to 11.4 miles), engineers planned two major realignments on the route linking Annie Spring with the West Entrance. The first took place in 1914, after they decided to dispense with a portion of Arant’s wagon road in order to make getting over the Cascade Divide easier. This involved a new alignment on “Corkscrew Hill,” starting above the “Corkscrew” and swinging north instead of descending to the west. What was essentially a reverse curve rejoined the old road in half of a mile, but dropped the maximum grade from 10 to 7 percent. More realignment followed in 1915, as the engineers responded to a request from the Department of the Interior for the road to follow Castle Creek from a point 1 mile west of the crossing at Whitehorse Creek to the West Entrance. The new alignment ran for more than 2 miles so that the actual entrance moved a half mile north from where the wagon road of 1865 crossed the park boundary.

An average force of twenty men and four teams worked to clear the road’s entire length from the crossing at Whitehorse Creek to the park boundary. They made a swath 30′ wide so that the standard width of roadway measuring 16′ from shoulder to shoulder could be built. Assistant Engineer George Goodwin characterized the new alignment as having long tangents and easy curves, with grade varying from 2 to 6 percent. Grading thus required a relatively small crew of sixteen men and four teams that utilized slip and Fresno scrapers. The steeper section on the Cascade Divide necessitated some excavation, a job largely accomplished by rolling displaced rock over the embankment or loading it on stone drags hauled by teams. Cross drainage consisted of thirteen corrugated iron culverts and one log bridge over Whitehorse Creek measuring 50′ long.

Subsequent work supervised by the engineers was largely limited to the annual regrading as part of road maintenance, though a log bridge crossing Little Whitehorse Creek had to be rebuilt in 1917. What Goodwin called a “permanent” construction camp on Whitehorse Creek two years earlier began to serve as a designated campground for visitors once the NPS assumed administration of the park, even though it was largely bereft of amenities. NPS appropriations did, however, allow for building a “checking station” at the new west entrance in 1917, a structure almost identical in size and appearance to one erected at the East Entrance. These two checking stations are thought to be among the first manifestations of what later became known as “NPS rustic architecture” anywhere in the National Park System.