History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park
Construction of Rim Drive
Segments 7-C and 7-C1 (Grotto Cove to Kerr Notch)
Available funds for letting a grading contract from Grotto Cove and the summit of Cloudcap in September 1933, plus short-term uncertainty over the L-line near Mount Scott, resulted in splitting segment 7-C away from what was now called (for contracting purposes, at least) 7-C1. The grading contract for 7-C and the spur road to Cloudcap (4.4 miles in all) went to Dunn and Baker, who were also awarded the contract for widening 7-B and 7-C in 1934. It made for a smooth transition, especially since this firm had the benefit of a long working season that year.
Clearing and grubbing were included within the bid items for grading 7-C, just as they had been for the previous segment. Other similarities to previous grading contracts were items like the masonry headwalls for culverts and the limited amount of old road obliteration. Dunn and Baker experienced more difficulty than Von der Hellen and Pierson with rocks rolling beyond the toe of fills during blasting operations. Some damage, for example, resulted when in an accidental overcharge of powder sent a large quantity of rock below a cut near Scott Bluffs. Having to repair the damage made the most challenging part of rough grading even slower, since the stipulated light shooting had to be followed by construction of a retaining wall. Superintendent Canfield described these rock formations as difficult, but ones that the contractors handled efficiently and in the same manner as those in segment 7-A.
After completing most of the items as part of widening 7-B and 7-C, Dunn and Baker went to work during the summer of 1935 grading one of two units in segment 7-C1. This section of 1.5 miles extended from the Cloudcap Junction (where the spur road to the summit diverges from Rim Drive) to Sentinel Rock. Von der Hellen and Pierson, meanwhile, started grading the other unit of 7-C1 (a section of 2.4 miles of road between Sentinel Rock and Kerr Notch) that summer after having finished grading in 7-B.
All the rough grading in 7-C and 7-C1 meant that the amount of landscape work accomplished during the 1935 season was relatively small, apart from subcontractors finishing the culvert headwalls and some planting related to old road obliteration in the Cloudcap vicinity. Lange made a point, however, of describing two associated problems that rose to the top of his list to correct over the following summer. One resulted from cuts where one side of the cut was too low in height to be properly sloped. He acknowledged that a number of landscaped parking areas were necessary for visitors to enjoy the scenery and make repairs to their vehicles if necessary, but any proliferation of unintended parking areas detracted from Rim Drive being able to harmonize with its surroundings. Lange wanted these areas converted into slope banks where at all possible, and then showed an example of the recommended treatment in his annual report for 1936.
An even larger problem stemmed from daylighting prominent viewpoints in 7-C for fill material, thereby compounding the challenge of having to obliterate old road on soils that tested virtually sterile. Lange began making an argument for extensive landscape treatment of what he began to call “parking overlooks” in 7-C and 7-C1 as part of his season ending report for 1935. He pointed to certain examples, such as the excessive daylighting at Skell Head, in identifying five localities for special landscape treatment as part of a future surfacing contract.
Lange made preliminary sketches of five parking overlooks, going somewhat beyond what had become the standard treatment for viewpoints along Rim Drive. In addition to masonry guardrail to delineate the edge of the rim for motorists, Lange added a bituminous walk running the full length of the wall as well as a stone curb to separate the viewing platform from parking. Each of the five overlooks featured an island defined by a combination of weathered boulders and logs so as to protect a small amount of planting that consisted of native shrubs and trees. He argued that the islands helped to diminish the size of each of the daylighted overlooks, thereby placing each of them into proper scale in relation to Rim Drive. The islands also provided greater safety by separating motorists using the road from those leaving or entering each overlook.
Interpretive marker and parapet wall at Skell Head.
After describing how the stations located along Rim Drive might appear in his season-ending report for 1935, Lange obtained topography and other engineering data from BPR for the parking overlooks over the following summer. Whereas segments 7-A and 7-B had so far represented missed opportunities to properly develop the stations and substations along Rim Drive through the contracting process, Lange wanted to show what could be achieved at viewpoints located in 7-C and 7-C1. He included photographs in his reports of progress made at four parking overlooks in 7-C through the surfacing contract (the same one awarded to Milne for 7-B) during 1936, with each showing how the masonry guardrail looked in relation to logs used for demarcating the islands. Although still in the rough grading stage of construction, Lange anticipated similar landscape treatments at four parking overlooks in segment 7-C1. Rejection of bids for the 7-C1 surfacing contract in the fall of 1936 proved to be an eventual boon to the development of the parking overlooks, since BPR subsequently doubled the amount available for landscaping these viewpoints. The move reflected the need to transport and place weathered boulders, as well as the use of topsoil, peat, and fertilizers as soil amendments prior to planting some 400 trees and 600 shrubs at the parking overlooks. Lange produced site plans for seven overlooks located between the Wineglass and Kerr Notch that were formally approved in December 1936 and then incorporated in the revised set of plans, specifications, and engineering estimates used to solicit bids at the end of June 1937.
BPR awarded the surfacing contract for 7-C1 to the Portland firm of Saxton, Looney, and Risley in July, with the job getting underway in late August. The contractors made relatively quick work of spreading a base course over the 4 miles of this road segment, completing it in the fall of 1937. The landscape component was only half finished by the end of the season, even though the two foremen who reported to Lange directed a crew of twelve laborers. Planting required hauling topsoil and peat from “pits” located near Park Headquarters, in addition to using 3 tons of fertilizer obtained in Klamath Falls. Lange described preparation of the planting beds as a base of peat, to be followed by placing shrubs or trees, with topsoil and fertilizer put “around but not too close to the root system.” Duff was then scattered throughout the immediate vicinity of the planting. Crews followed the same procedure when planting at the parking overlooks during the 1938 season, although this time they were under the supervision of new foremen. They planted a total of 625 trees, as well as 2,300 shrubs and plants at the viewpoints over two summers.
The masons, meanwhile, added to guardrail previously completed in 7-C by finishing another 750 lineal feet of guardrail in 7-C1 that season. They also continued to place what Lange described as “excellent stone curbing” at the overlooks, in addition to the weathered boulders indicated on the site plans. Lange also assisted the masons by providing a working drawing for steps leading to a trail at Sentinel Point and a sketch for the stone drinking fountain installed at Kerr Notch. The additional touch of paving walks at four parking overlooks in 7-C came as part of the paving contract awarded in June 1938 to Warren Northwest, a construction company with regional offices in Portland.
The contractor erected its plant at the Wineglass road camp over the following month, situating it so as to be equidistant from both ends of a job that called for paving approximately 12 miles of Rim Drive between the Diamond Lake Junction to the road summit atop Cloudcap. In contrast to the work completed in 1936 along the 6 miles of 7-A, this contract included paving “gutters” in accordance with guidance developed by Thomas E. Carpenter, deputy chief architect for the NPS. His work reflected a trend toward shallower ditches requiring less maintenance, given that the bituminous paving acted as a seal against run off that might otherwise disintegrate surfacing material used to protect a road’s subgrade. The gutters were to work in concert with catch basins or inlets connected to culverts placed underneath the road at regular intervals. For this contract the “invert” was set at 5″ below the seal coat, with an actual level depth of 3″ in the paved gutter. Lange commented that the gutters had an “excellent appearance” in his report for September 1938, but the contractor returned in 1939 to do additional sealing because cold weather the previous fall caused some cracking.
With the paving contract essentially completed, Lange used a number of photos in his season-ending report for 1938 to show how landscape treatments improved typical road sections in 7-B and 7-C. In contrast to the numerous landscape items left unfinished in 7-A, both of the latter segments exhibited good examples of old road obliteration, bank sloping, and special landscape treatments such as adding dark soil to reduce scars. Paving and placement of catch basins in conjunction with the placement of backfill for gutters seemed to signify that the new Rim Drive was “rapidly becoming a reality,” with all work projected to be finished in the fall of 1940. Lange made a point of depicting the finished parking overlooks in 7-C and 7-C1 since they demonstrated how to rehabilitate damaged areas while properly developing the observation stations and substations. The only thing missing from 7-C1 was the paving, but it went to the top of Superintendent Leavitt’s funding requests for roads and trails beginning in 1939.