History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park
Route 1 — West Entrance Road
Superintendent Dave Canfield and a new entrance sign, 1936. NPS photo by George Grant.
Extending from the western boundary of the park to the road junction at Annie Spring, this segment of a state highway leading to Medford and the Rogue Valley is 7.7 miles long. This asphalt road consists of two lanes, each of them measuring 10′ wide, not including the shoulder. Signs notify drivers of the 45 mph speed limit on both ends of this road, but numerous and relatively short curves make it difficult to maintain that speed for any appreciable distance. The slowest section is just over a mile from the Annie Spring junction, in an area misnamed the “corkscrew,” where a reverse curve allows motorists to climb or descend the Cascade Divide.
The West Entrance Road possesses few stopping places or parking areas, even in comparison to other approach routes. With the numerous curves and forested roadside demanding the motorist’s attention, some visitors remain unaware they are in the park until reaching the entrance station located next to the road junction at Annie Spring. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) nevertheless crosses the roadway within a mile of the junction and a sign points to an adjacent unsurfaced parking area for trail users. Heading west from the PCT crossing, drivers have virtually nowhere to park alongside the roadway for about 5 miles until a paved pullout delineated with bituminous curb called “Elephant’s Back” is reached. It permits those who stop on either side of the road to see where the canyons created by Castle Creek and Little Castle Creek meet. A half mile to the west is another paved pullout overlooking Castle Creek Canyon that once served as the park’s west entrance before boundary expansion in 1980. The pullout features a vault toilet and information kiosk installed during 2001. Visitors can also stop at the current west entrance a little less than a mile further on, where a sign built in 1998 replicates a rustic log structure erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935.
The lodgepole pine and Shasta red fir are densely stocked along this route, so most visitors rarely see more than the road prism while traveling. Elephant’s Back furnishes something of an exception, since the canopy is open enough to indicate the expanse of a stream canyon just a short distance beyond the parking area. Some visitors notice the outline of Castle Point, a prominent feature seen as an outline through the “dog hair” stands of lodgepole pine, while driving in either direction a short distance east of Elephant’s Back. From there toward Annie Spring the forest canopy is dense and largely closed, though a portion of Whitehorse Bluff can be seen before climbing the divide on the reverse curve.