26 Signs

History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park


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Other Designed Features along Rim Drive


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Customized signage for Rim Drive evolved from a CCC project begun in 1936 at Park Headquarters that aimed to replace various types of metal signs posted throughout the park. Enrollees produced hand-carved wood signs of varying sizes with raised letters painted chrome orange (for visibility at night) against a dark brown background, based on Lange’s drawings of entrance, directional, and building signs. Their production and placement greatly accelerated over the summer of 1938 after establishing an outdoor workshop at the CCC camp near Annie Spring. Lange reported that 200 signs had been completed by November, including some that identified parking areas and points of interest on Rim Drive. Through photographs in his season-ending report, he attempted to show how this type of sign possessed good visibility, if properly placed, for conveying mileage and direction on Rim Drive. These examples included signs mounted in a triangular configuration at road junctions and others slotted into bollards.

entrance sign
East Entrance motif.

CCC enrollees produced more signs at Camp Oregon Caves over the following winter and began installing them upon returning to Crater Lake for the 1939 season. They reestablished a workshop at the park that summer for a crew of fifteen men to carve, assemble, and then place eighty signs. Lange provided “field sketch details” as drawings for the crew to follow as he had the previous year, but the signs completed that year varied somewhat more in size and shape because of emphasis on the individualization of signs for points of interest located along Rim Drive. Although he originally expected to complete the project by October, the shift away from standardization may have accounted for why the crew did not finish installation of the remaining signs until 1940.

The sign project’s apparent success stood in sharp contrast to the lack of orientation markers or literature describing each of the observation stations, ideas once advanced by Merriam and embraced to some degree by the naturalists. At one point Assistant Superintendent and Chief Park Naturalist Donald Libbey had plans drawn to install markers similar to one on top of Pilot Butte in Bend, but he transferred before the NPS could fund the project. Lange’s recommendation in 1935 for a “binocular instrument” at each of the observation stations quickly dropped off the list of prospective projects, as did the suggestion from Merriam about placing inconspicuous holders for interpretive literature targeted specifically at the stations and substations. The latter probably resulted when no one came forward to implement the recommendation by Merriam that experts produce literature for each of these stations, even after Howel Williams began his classic study of the park’s geology in 1936 and actively continued his fieldwork through 1939

Crater Lake
View of the lake from a point on the rim above Grotto Cove.