History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park
Historic American Engineering Record Addendum to Crater Lake National Park Roads, HAER No. OR-107
LOCATION: Crater Lake National Park consists of 183,224 acres located primarily in Klamath County, Oregon, though about 4 percent of the park is in the adjoining Douglas County and 1 percent in Jackson County. The total mileage for all primary highways in the park is 69.89, of which the circuit around the rim accounts for 32.27 miles. Secondary and paved service roads in the park amount to 13.75 miles, for a system total of 83.64 miles.
DATES OF CONSTRUCTION: Circuit roads: Rim Road (1913-19), superseded by Route 7, Rim Drive (1931-40). Approach roads: 1. West Entrance Road — part of Fort Klamath — Jacksonville wagon road (1865), with some relocation (1905-06), Medford Road (1914-17), superseded by Route 1 (1925-28) with widening and minor realignment (1972-76); 2. South Entrance Road — part of Fort Klamath — Jacksonville wagon road (1865), Fort Klamath Road (1914-17), superseded by Route 2 (1926-28) improvements (1940), with some widening and realignment (1962); 3. Munson Valley Road — part of road to the rim from Annie Spring (1904-05), part of both Rim Road and Fort Klamath Road (1913-14), superseded by Routes 3 and 4 (1926-28), widening and minor realignment (1963); 4. East Entrance Road — Pinnacles/Rim Road (1913), superseded by Route 5 (1929-30, 1932-36); 5. North Entrance Road — auto trail (1919), superseded by Route 8 (1932-36), with widening and some realignment (1985-87).
STRUCTURE TYPE: Park road system
DESIGN: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Public Roads (Public Roads Administration, Federal Highway Administration), National Park Service
OWNER: National Park Service, Crater Lake National Park.
SIGNIFICANCE: The primary roads in Crater Lake National Park were designed and constructed to provide visitor access to the park’s scenic features, which are largely concentrated along the rim of Crater Lake. Blending roads harmoniously with the landscape was the stated goal of the National Park Service in its collaboration with the Bureau of Public Roads, most notably on the circuit called “Rim Drive.” The aim of subordination in road design to geological phenomena, dramatic vistas, and subalpine forests also applied to the approach roads, particularly where ancillary attractions like the “Pinnacles” or Annie Creek Canyon could be seen by motorists. The Rim Drive, however, remains an especially noteworthy example of “naturalization” among all national park roads built during the 1930s.
Remnants of other roads at Crater Lake illustrate construction methods that date to 1865 and changed once horse-drawn grading equipment became available a decade or so later. Early wagon roads were eventually realigned for highways designed for automobiles, but pieces of a circulation system built by the Army Corps of Engineers from 1913 to 1919 are still evident in the park, particularly in places near the rim. Evolving design standards can also be seen within the current road system, a product of a collaboration that began in 1926 between the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads.
PROJECT HISTORIAN: Stephen R. Mark, 2003
PROJECT INFORMATION: Documentation of Crater Lake National Park’s road system was conducted during the summer of 1999 by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), a long-range program aimed at documenting historically significant engineering and industrial works in the United States. HAER (Eric DeLony, Chief) is a division of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. This project was funded by the Federal Lands Highway Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the NPS Park Roads and Parkways Program. Fieldwork, drawings, and photography were completed under the direction of Todd A. Croteau, Program Manager, and Tim Davis, Program Historian. The recording team consisted of field supervisor and historian Christian Carr (Bard Graduate Center) and architectural technicians Sarah Lehman (University of Oregon), Walton Stowell (SCAD Savannah, Georgia), and Simona Stoyanova (ICOMOS, Bulgaria). Jet Lowe of HAER produced the accompanying large format photography. Stephen R. Mark, Historian, produced the historical report, which was edited by Justine Christianson, HAER Historian.