44 Route 8 (North Entrance to Diamond Lake Junction)

History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park


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NPS and BPR Collaboration on Approach Roads


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Route 8 (North Entrance to Diamond Lake Junction)

Although the NPS used a bulldozer for widening the Diamond Lake Auto Trail to a “standard width” in 1930, BPR ran a P-line survey for the prospective North Entrance Road later that summer. A section of the proposed alignment proved unsatisfactory to Sager and other NPS landscape architects since there was a possibility that it might cut through the middle of the Pumice Desert as part of a tangent almost 5 miles in length. Shifting the line half a mile east where it crossed the Pumice Desert made enough difference to Sager that he agreed to a new alignment. This one also kept the road in timber longer so as to reduce any scar seen from the rim, while also breaking up the tangent to some extent. Sargent thus staked what became the L-line in May 1931 and it met with NPS approval shortly thereafter.

The contract for grading almost 8 miles of road between the Diamond Lake Junction and the park’s north entrance went to A.C. Guthrie and Company of Portland in September. Their crew of about twenty men then cleared the roadway for another month, until bad weather forced suspension of the job. Rough grading began when work resumed in July 1932, with the contractor also required to do a considerable amount of roadside cleanup, old road obliteration, and slope rounding. The cleanup came partly in response to mountain pine beetle infestations during the 1920s in this part of the park, attacks that resulted in considerable loss of lodgepole pine. Obliteration of the old auto trail crossing the Pumice Desert largely consisted of removing the shoulders, so the old line was still somewhat visible from afar. Sager, however, “felt sure” that in several years natural re-seeding of sedges and other “low vegetation” would help. He also commented that flattening and rounding of slopes at the road margin greatly added to the highway’s appearance, so much so that BPR included this item as a specification for all subsequent grading contracts in the vicinity.

Rim Drive
East Rim Drive near Anderson Point, looking northwest toward Kerr Notch.

With the grading contract well on its way to completion by late August, BPR began advertising for a surfacing project to encompass both the West Rim Drive (Route 7-A) and the North Entrance Road. Like other contracts awarded from 1931 to 1933, it contained incentives aimed at alleviating unemployment, such as a cap of thirty hours per week for each man working under special wage rates. The Homer Johnson Company of Portland submitted the low bid, but did not begin the job until August 5, 1933, due to a heavy snow pack at the rim. With a roadway of 22′ already established by the grading contractor, BPR specified a surfaced width of 18′ on both routes, in accordance with park highway standards of 1932.

One NPS landscape architect, Armin Doerner, observed that work was slow in getting underway, but this comment had more to do with the subcontracted masonry guardrails along Route 7-A than the surfacing done by the prime contractor. Johnson completed the job by October 1934 so that paving both routes could take place over the following summer. The paving contractor, J.C. Compton of McMinnville, used the latter half of the 1935 season to complete all but the sealing of several miles along the North Entrance Road.

Once construction of this approach finished in the late summer of 1936, CCC enrollees began building an entrance sign motif on the park’s north boundary. Its design, which featured a large wooden sign with raised lettering, hung from a log projecting horizontally from an imposing stone masonry motif, matched one for the East Entrance, but visitor numbers through each “gate” reflected opposite trends. Motorists using the East Entrance had been declining steadily once a road connection between U.S. 97 and the North Entrance through an adjoining national forest was initially graded in 1931. Increased traffic brought by the opening of the Willamette Highway nine years later led to placement of a temporary entrance station on the park’s north boundary, a structure replaced by a portable kiosk in 1949. NPS planners projected an adjoining development during this period, something that included two staff residences, a fire cache, and even a small campground. The scarcity of water in this locality, however, restricted facilities to a ramshackle building used to house seasonal rangers and two pit toilets.

Developments along the North Entrance Road during Mission 66 were limited to a parking area in the Pumice Desert that featured an island to provide motorists who stopped with some separation from moving traffic. The parking area contained an interpretive marker, one originally intended to convey the “story” of Pumice Desert as well as identify peaks seen in the distance. Although Mission 66 provided a golden opportunity for funding road reconstruction over a decade beginning in 1956, the NPS elected not to widen what had become the park’s most heavily used approach route. Park officials simply saw the North Entrance Road as lower priority to the southern approaches used year round.

Widening as part of a reconstruction project eventually came about as the result of studies conducted by the Federal Highway Administration in 1980 and 1983. Planners saw ample justification for a new road having 28′ of surfaced width, given the traffic volume of 600 vehicles a day, as well as a need to accommodate both recreational vehicles and bicyclists. Other key parts of the project included realignment of the Diamond Lake (North) Junction, expansion of the parking area where the Pacific Crest Trail crossed the road, and a new development near the boundary in accordance with park expansion approved by Congress in 1980. The latter consisted of moving the entrance station about 1.5 miles north to a point where a rest area and turnaround could be built close at hand. Reconstruction commenced in 1985, but the contractor defaulted, so the project remained at a standstill over the following year. It finally came to a close in 1987, with the only subsequent changes along Route 8 consisting of building a new checking station four years later, as well as an entrance sign and motif modeled after the precedent set by the CCC at the old park boundary.


view towards Klamath Lake

Looking south toward the Klamath Basin from Dutton Ridge.