History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park
World War II effectively delayed the full completion of Rim Drive until the Mission 66 years of park development, largely because budgets at Crater Lake and elsewhere in the National Park System remained at barely custodial levels until 1957. At that point an infusion of project funding began to come as part of preparing for the fiftieth anniversary of the NPS (to be celebrated in 1966) that also corresponded to greater annual visitation that drove the need for new facilities as well as the redesign of existing ones. NPS officials cited Rim Drive as an outstanding example of past collaboration with BPR at the beginning of “Mission 66,” and they even singled out the park’s road system as illustrating the type of control exerted by the NPS planning process. Master plans and related documents supposedly guarded against “whims of opinion or varying methods of development” brought by changes in personnel.
The “progression of work and revision” guided by the park’s master plan for the most part centered on building new employee housing at Park Headquarters and developing a campground near Annie Spring, though a number of smaller projects were also funded by Mission 66. As for changes along Rim Drive during this period, only the parking and trail to the lake at Cleetwood Cove merited attention through revision of the master plan. By the end of Mission 66, however, the master plans once prepared by resident landscape architects and then approved by the superintendent and personnel in central offices had largely given way to sporadic site plans and other assistance supplied by professional staff stationed away from the park.
Much of the Rim Drive became a one-way system oriented clockwise beginning in 1971 in response to a management objective that arose from concern on the part of some in the NPS that the road between Rim Village and the Diamond Lake Junction had become too congested. As the greatest change to circulation around the rim since adoption of the “combination line” between Kerr Notch and Park Headquarters, the one-way system seemed to create more problems than it solved. NPS planners stationed in Denver observed that it generated a greater number of traffic accidents (due to higher vehicle speeds in the absence of opposing traffic) and many complaints over the sixteen summers that it remained in force. The supposedly problematic road segment 7-A opened for two-way traffic again in 1976, so that discussion of widening that portion of Rim Drive gained momentum. Previous development at the Watchman Overlook and subsequent reconfiguration of the Diamond Lake Junction, however, had greater impact on the road as originally designed and built.