History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park
Construction of Rim Drive
Segment 7-E (Sun Notch to Park Headquarters)
The initial P-line run by BPR assigned segment 7-E to a route linking Sun Notch with Rim Village, but the subsequent adoption of a “combination line” led to dividing the segment into two pieces for contracting purposes. A sort of “middle line” connected Sun Notch with Vidae Falls and became 7-E1, while 7-E2 roughly corresponded to the old “low line” running from Vidae Falls to Park Headquarters. Some adjustment to the road mileage stipulated in the respective grading contracts was still necessary, however, due to the uncertainty that existed in 1936 over what the site development around Vidae Falls might entail. This resulted in shortening the contract for grading 7-E1 by four tenths of a mile so that it could be combined with 7-D2 and then advertised for bid.
Dunn and Baker completed all of the rough grading and most of the finish portion of the contract in 7-E1 during the 1937 season. Just over a mile in length, 7-E1 turned out to be relatively easy work. In running above the western margin of Sun Meadow and along the bottom of a slide on the flank of Applegate Peak, the new road provided Lange with an opportunity to show a particularly good example of bank sloping through a heavy rock slide. The only other landscape item that he or the superintendent noted in 7-E1 concerned the need to obliterate an old “motor trail” improved by the CCC in 1933, one that started toward Sun Notch where the old Rim Road crossed Sun Creek.
BPR awarded the contract for grading 7-E2 to E.L. Gates of Portland in October 1937. This meant that work on the final 3.3 miles of Rim Drive began the following spring, with the nagging question of whether to construct a bridge or use fill to span Vidae Creek finally resolved. Gates constructed the fill over the following summer, which included placement of a pipe culvert with stone headwall at both ends. Lange estimated the contractor to have completed 90 percent of the rough grading in 7-E2 that season. Photographs in his final report for 1938 showed ditch and slope treatment along one stretch of road, some old road obliteration through bank sloping, and placement of what he called a “culvert drain” with rough stone pavement less than a mile from Park Headquarters.
Aside from planting, most of the remaining items in the grading contract pertained to completing the road connection below Vidae Falls to the proposed Sun Creek Campground. A need to relieve pressure on the campground at Rim Village drove selection of new sites, such as Sun Creek, away from where the lake could be seen. As one of several satellite areas, NPS officials hoped that a new campground below Vidae Falls might provide an attractive alternative to the problems associated with overuse in Rim Village. Superintendent Leavitt liked the Sun Creek site, but did not want it opened for use by visitors until properly developed so as to avoid damage to the trees and ground cover. The first step toward building the campground came in the form of a serpentine road going down a quarter mile from Vidae Falls to an area that once served as an informal picnic site on the old Rim Road. A bank slope constructed at its intersection with the Rim Drive served the dual purpose of reducing the campground road’s presence to motorists traveling the main route, yet also afforded sufficient visibility from one road to the other.
Plans for a stopping point beneath the waterfall called for widening the road fill on the upstream (or northern) side of Rim Drive, so as to allow for parallel parking. Installation of a stone drinking fountain at this parking area came in July 1939, but construction of additional landscape features had to wait until the subsequent surfacing contract was let. These included building a raised walk 4′ wide in front of Vidae Falls, which was separated from the roadway by a stone curb. Just as they had in 7-D, Lange and other NPS landscape architects anticipated distinguishing the Vidae Falls parking area from Rim Drive through the use of pavement having a rougher texture and somewhat lighter color finish.
Introduction of the fill spanning Vidae Creek constituted what Lange termed as the “major landscape problem” in 7-E2. He reported that it required more than 1,000 yards of topsoil in preparation for planting the entire slope as part of making the fill conform to surrounding terrain. This effort required more than 5,000 plants, shrubs, and trees. Al Lathrop, formerly one of Lange’s assistants for CCC work, had charge of a crew numbering ten men and paid by the contractor. They needed sixteen days to plant a mix of species that included willows, mountain hemlock, huckleberry, purple-flower honeysuckle (twinberry), and spirea. A sprinkling system was needed so that the plantings on the fill could initially be watered every day, then two or three times per week until early autumn. Lange described the source of water as a “reservoir” built at the “head” of Vidae Falls, located about 100′ above the fill and out of sight from Rim Drive. From there a 3″ line was placed to one side of the falls and connected to smaller lines spaced about 30′ on centers across the planted slopes of the fill. He estimated it might take two or three seasons for the planting beds to provide the desired effect.
Leavitt expressed some satisfaction in writing to Cammerer that all grading contracts let in conjunction with building Rim Drive were finally complete as of September 1939. Lange mentioned this milestone in his season-ending report for the year and optimistically projected the surfacing phase to be finished in 1940, with the paving to follow in 1941. The surfacing of 7-E did indeed come about over the following season, but the funding request for paving this road segment languished throughout World War II and for more than a decade afterward. The NPS simply had to make do using oil and asphalt treatments aimed at protecting the subgrade and surfacing material of this road segment.
Parapet of the Sinnott Memorial.