William Gladstone Steel, and John Breck, a druggist from Portland, and two other friends, head for Crater Lake, via Fort Klamath. There they met Captain Clarence E. Dutton, also en-route to the Lake. Steel spends the night at the Fort, collecting and writing down Indian legends as told by tribal story tellers and O.C. Applegate. “At Fort Klamath I met Allen David, chief of the Klamath Tribe of Indians, from whom I got the tradition of its discovery. He informed me that, many years ago, the Klamaths came suddenly upon the lake and at once realized that the Great Spirit dwelt there…” Will Steel, from a speech given January 3, 1917 at the National Parks Conference in Washington, D.C.
Steel and Breck, anxious to reach the lake, leave the main body of travelers as they leave Fort Klamath and hurry on ahead. When the two men finally spot the Lake, the water is so blue they are startled. Standing speechless for several minutes, the two men stare at the spectacle before them. Finally Steel breaks the silence by saying, “Johnny, there isn’t a claim around or near the lake. It all belongs to the government and it’s up to you and me to save the lake.” Breck replies, “You are right, but how are we going to do it?” After several moments of silence, Steel answers that the area should become a national park. Steel becomes so agitated by the idea that he becomes distressed. Thus begins Will Steel’s forty-nine year involvement with Crater Lake.
Captain Dutton soon arrives on the Rim, and the Steel and Dutton spend many hours discussing the national park idea as well as the Lake’s mystery and inspiring beauty. The captain suggests that they circulate a petition asking President Cleveland to set aside ten townships as a public park.
“While standing on the rim of the lake with Prof. Joseph Le Conte, the thought occurred to me that at no point around this wonderful cauldron had the hand of man yet desecrated it with peanut stands or other marks of desolation and something should be done to forever save it for the people of this great country. How to accomplish this was the question, so I turned to the professor for counsel. We discussed it at length and finally decided the only way was to have a national park created. Ways and means were discussed, and work of preparation commenced then and there. A petition to the President was prepared…” Will Steel, from a speech given January 3, 1917 at the National Parks Conference in Washington, D.C.
Steel names Llao Rock, elevation 8,046 feet and 1,869 feet above the lake, after the Indian deity, Llao, who was supposed to be the special guardian of the Lake. Steel recognizes the “Fire Bird” form of Llao Rock based on the Indian legends that he had heard being told over a campfire at Ft. Klamath the night before.
To learn more about the Lake, Captain Dutton launches a small, leaky, canvas boat and the men of the expedition explore the shoreline, and the island. Steel names several of the Lake’s prominent features, including Wizard Island, “because of its weird appearance” and its resemblance to a wizard’s hat. The crater at the top was named the Witch’s Cauldron.
August or Sept.
“When returning to Portland, I stopped at Roseburg to confer with Hon. Binger Hermann, Congressman from Oregon, in reference to having the land surrounding the lake withdrawn from the market, with the intention of creating a national park. A petition to President Cleveland was at once drawn up, and signed by Mr. Hermann. It was circulated by a large number of prominent citizens, and forwarded to its destination. (Steel, 1891)