History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park
The Army Corps of Engineers Road System
The engineers left Crater Lake in 1919, mainly because the NPS felt it possessed sufficient expertise to oversee future road construction. An NPS employee named Alex Sparrow served as park superintendent from 1917 to 1923, so this contention possessed some validity. Until 1925, however, Congress failed to appropriate even the $50,000 allotted to the engineers in 1918 for road construction and maintenance, which meant that all park roads remained unsurfaced while nothing more than preliminary surveys took place for two additional approaches to Crater Lake. One route, the Bear Creek Road, was to run from Wineglass on the northeast rim and then descend toward Cascade Spring on its way to the park boundary. The contemplated road location matched that of a rail spur from the mainline of the Southern Pacific, one first proposed in 1908 but not attempted. The road suffered a similar fate, with one of the problems being lack of funding for a connecting road through an adjacent national forest.
Engineers proceeded further on the Sun Notch Road, a short approach envisioned to be 1.5 miles in length and starting from where the Rim Road crossed Sun Creek. They agreed on a final location, but left it to Sparrow and the NPS to build a “trail” to Sun Notch in 1919. Upon its completion, the superintendent advised motorists that the first mile was passable for automobiles.
Something of a northern approach route came into being when the NPS built a trail passable for “light” vehicles between the north boundary and a point on the Rim Road below Llao Rock. It literally dodged around trees over the entire length of 8 miles, but the Forest Service connected the terminal point at the north boundary with a road that reached Diamond Lake in 1922. The trail remained in a primitive state, however, as the NPS road maintenance crew of thirty men were busy with other priorities in the park. Sparrow’s successor, C.G. Thomson, saw travel from Diamond Lake on the increase and in 1924, called for conversion of the trail into a suitable road. This project, along with his proposal to establish a checking station near the park’s north entrance, did not feature among NPS priorities in allocating its limited road budget.