02 Introduction

History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park


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Located in south central Oregon, Crater Lake National Park embraces a portion of the Cascade Range. The park’s main feature, Crater Lake, is the deepest volcanic lake in the world. Framed by jagged, steep-walled cliffs of a caldera produced by the climactic eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama approximately 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake is renowned for both its clarity and intense blue color. The rim rises anywhere from 500′ to almost 2,000′ above the lake’s surface, creating a spectacular visual effect.

Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902 and has been expanded twice from the original 156,902 acres reserved for the “protection and preservation of the game, fish, timber, and all other natural objects therein.” It currently encompasses 183,224 acres and ranges from the summit of Mount Scott at 8,929′ above sea level to a point on the park’s southwest corner where the elevation is 3,980′. About 80 percent of the park area is formally recommended as wilderness, though one legislative proposal submitted in 1994 supported wilderness designation for 97 percent. The latter includes all but a small buffer around the developed areas and roads currently in use during the summer season.

More than three-quarters of the total number of park visitors come during the four summer months (June, July, August, and September). Annual totals reached a plateau of a half million in the early 1960s and have remained around that figure ever since, though these numbers can fluctuate as much as 20 percent from one year to the next. A majority of summer visitors make their first trip to the park, but the time spent within its boundaries averages just four hours. Visitor services and access are restricted during the winter months, when snow removal operations are necessary to maintain a road connection from the west or south entrances to an observation point at Rim Village. Winter weather over this period of eight months thus forces closure of roughly two-thirds of the park’s road system.