NATURALIZATION IN THE RIM AREA
Crater Lake National Park
by Merel S. Sager, Assistant Park Architect.
Field Headquarters, San Francisco, Calif.
November 18, 1932
NEED FOR NATURALIZATION
When visitors are brought into the national parks they must be transported to
the points of greatest interest and they must be supplied with food, lodging,
and recreation. It is obvious that certain lands, which we refer to as
"developed areas", had to come into existence. It might be said that these areas
have had to be "sacrificed" in the sense that they could not be "preserved
unimpaired". Although these developed areas make up an extremely small per
centage of the total park area, they are responsible for lasting impressions
gained by every visitor. In too many instances, the park visitor sees only what
can be viewed from these developed areas. How important it is then that we keep
these areas in harmony with natural surroundings and diligently prevent the
appearance of wear. although there are approximately 18 miles of Rim area at
Crater Lake National Park, the term has come to refer more especially to the
section from the foot of Garfield Peak to the cafeteria, a distance of about
one-half mile. Every serious minded person who has the spirit of park
preservation at heart regrets to see any area so intensively used by the
visiting public that it becomes divested of vegetation. Only those visitors who
return to the park a second time, after a period of years, notice and remark
unfavorably about these changes.
The developed area in Crater Lake, known as the "Rim area", unquestionably
had the same appearance many years ago as some other unmolested areas on the Rim
have today. For example, Sun Notch, although it is accessible by foot trail, is
so little visited that it bears no noticeable marks of human wear. In a large
measure because of this fact, Sun Notch is commonly considered the most
attractive point from which to view the lake. This opinion is shared by Mr.
Wirth Ryder of the University of California Fine Arts Department and Mr. Gunnar
Widforss, noted National Park artist. Here we find trees in abundance along the
Rim, with open areas covered with grass, sedges and wild flowers. Here, in spite
of sandy soil and extreme climatic conditions, nature has seen to it that beauty
flourishes. The contrast in one's emotional reaction gained at Sun Notch as
compared with one gained at the Rim area can not be adequately described. It
must be experienced to be understood. It seems reasonable to believe that before
the advent of the wear and tear of thousands of visitors, the Rim area was
equally beautiful and inspirational.
For years, it has been the ambition of the Landscape Division to restore the
area so that it will assimilate much of its original beauty and plan it so that
thousands of visitors may use it without further permanent damage.
Up to 1928 parking was unrestricted. It was common practice for motorists to
park their autos anywhere along the Rim, and some were parked dangerously close.
The result of this practice, along with the poor, sandy condition of the soil,
rendered the entire area between the road and the Rim an unattractive sand
waste. The soil is composed of a high per centage of volcanic tuff, which was
constantly being shifted by the wind. The fact restricts, to a great degree, the
number of species of shrubs and trees which can be expected to grow. This
elevation is also conducive to certain extremes in weather and climate, which
are a constant hindrance to abundant plant growth. Even after the restriction of
auto parking, the condition of the soil and the fact that no cross walks were
there to guide pedestrian traffic, this area has not and could not of its own
accord again become covered with vegetation.
LANDSCAPING - SEASON OF 1930
In the summer of 1930 some naturalization was done between the head of the
Lake Trail and the plaza. The soil was first made ready by removing one foot of
the sand and replacing it with good soil and peat moss. Where trees and shrubs
were planted, the soil, of course, was prepared deeper. During this first year
several methods of ground cover planting were tried. One area was raked fine and
sowed in the fall with seeds of native wild flowers and grass. Another area was
similarly prepared and planted in the spring. In the latter case Kentucky
bluegrass seed was mixed with the native seeds. The fall sowing resulted in an
abundance of high, straggly grass, not entirely satisfactory in appearance,
since there was no variety in size or kind. The spring sowing gave a more
pleasing effect. Many kinds of grass became established, including the Kentucky
bluegrass, as well as a variety of flowers. The Kentucky bluegrass, however,
became quite bunchy.
Other portions were sodded, and after observation it appeared that this
method was the most effective in that the final appearance could be controlled.
Much of the sod was composed of several native sedges, which, of course, are
grass-like in appearance, but tougher, and capable of withstanding considerable
The shape of the area to be naturalized was long and narrow. It was decided
to keep the view across the area reasonably free from obstruction. Trees were
planted in small groups occasionally to lend variety, and not in great enough
numbers to cause and obstruction to the view of the lake from the road. The
trees planted were the mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana and several kinds of
firs, Abies concolor, Abies nobilis and Abies lasiocarpa.