National Park Service
Crater lake Phantom Ship
Design and Construction of Circuit Roads
Construction of Rim Drive
Other Designed Features along Rim Drive
Postwar Changes
Design and Construction of Approach Roads
Construction and Use of Other Roads

History of Rim Drive
view towards Klamath Lake

Looking south toward the Klamath Basin from Dutton Ridge.

Construction and Use of Other Roads

Designation of roads as "secondary" and "service" for purposes of documentation is simply a way to classify what cannot be termed a "primary" route such as a circuit or approach road. In this context secondary roads are available for both visitor and administrative use, but remain in an unsurfaced condition so that annual re-grading is needed. There is only one such road in Crater Lake National Park, the so-called "Grayback Motor Nature Trail," which connects Lost Creek Campground with what is presently a picnic area and trailhead below Vidae Falls. A number of secondary roads originally built for fighting forest fires have been converted to trails. Vehicles on these roads were largely restricted to administrative use until 1971, when the NPS banned all motorized travel in the backcountry. Service roads, by contrast, are shorter but more broadly defined to encompass surfaced access available for either public or administrative use. These are largely confined, however, to the three main developed areas of Rim Village, Park Headquarters, and the Annie Spring vicinity. Paved campground loops and access to residential facilities predominate in those three localities, though this category also includes two unsurfaced loops at Lost Creek Campground, as well as entry to a pair of bone yards on one approach road.

Secondary Roads

Route 6 (Lost Creek to Vidae Falls)

This remnant section of the old Rim Road is really an alternate to a portion of Rim Drive, so one BPR engineer recommended it be known as "Route 7 Alt." in 1946. It was used as such during the first decade following the end of World War II because rock fall on Anderson Point, Dutton Cliff, and Sun Grade often blocked Rim Drive for at least part of several summer travel seasons. By the mid 1950s, however, NPS master plan drawings indicated that this road had assumed the designation of "Route 6." Some grading of it by park crews for maintenance purposes undoubtedly took place, most likely on an annual basis, yet planners in 1968 described this road as having been "abandoned" almost three decades earlier. They nevertheless found it in "fair to good condition" and easily passable by automobile.

The impetus for identifying at least one "motor nature trail" in national parks such as Crater Lake has often been attributed to NPS Director George Hartzog, who ordered that this type of experience be considered as part of the master planning process in 1968. As originally conceived, planners of that time saw the "Grayback Ridge Motor Nature Trail" as a one-way gravel road destined to receive "minimal use" given its location away from the main travel corridor between Annie Spring and the North Entrance. They nonetheless called the interpretive possibilities "exceptional," so R.G. Bruce, a park naturalist, designed sixteen wayside exhibits for placement at regular intervals between Lost Creek and Vidae Falls. Once installed, however, these devices were criticized in one interpretive plan as being overly lengthy in regard to text while also failing to effectively develop the designated theme. By the time the NPS undertook its first general management plan for Crater Lake in 1976, a new group of planners called the Grayback wayside exhibits "obsolete," noting that a newly printed guidebook removed the need for them.

Rapidly escalating fuel costs and gasoline shortages affecting park operations led Superintendent James Rouse to propose closing the Grayback Road to the regional director in September 1979. He justified such a move by presenting the idea that vehicle access by way of segments 7-D and 7-E made the Grayback Road redundant as a motor nature trail, given the one-way circulation system clockwise then in force on this portion of Rim Drive. Less than four years later, however, he wrote to a new regional director about abandoning those segments of Rim Drive in favor of widening and improving the Grayback Road. Rouse mentioned having recently met Lange, who told him of the road location controversy involving 7-D and 7-E1 during the 1930s, though he placed greater emphasis on cost savings derived from abandoning 5.5 miles of Rim Drive extending from Kerr Notch to Vidae Falls.

His successor, Robert E. Benton, eventually opted for the status quo in keeping all of Rim Drive open for summer travel and then directing that circulation on it return to a two-way system in 1987. The Grayback Road, meanwhile, remained one-way and at roughly the same graded width (12') as when originally constructed in 1913, though Benton thought the motor nature trail designation was outmoded and at one point asked his division chiefs for recommendations on possible uses. Declining fuel prices and an increasing park budget over the last half of the 1980s insured annual re-grading of the road, though its status as a "motor nature trail" became a casualty to shifting priorities in NPS planning.

Routes 25-49 (fire roads)

What were called "motorways" or "truck trails" at one time originated in 1929, when park employees began laying out a "fire control system" of access roads intended to cross the largest number of sections possible in the backcountry. Construction began the following year, with the initial 22 miles built without cutting what Sager called "larger" trees. He described the roads as being of a low standard, being built by a bulldozer that simply scraped away forest litter down to mineral soil and then pushing material to one side. This method did not provide for drainage, so the roadbed often became a ditch or gully where it traversed the lowest part of the terrain.

Almost 130 miles of fire roads became part of this system, with most of the construction completed by 1934. Grades varied between flat and 10 percent along most of the motorways, where 12' became the standard width. The fire roads remained unsurfaced, so portions damaged by erosion or characterized by high centers sometimes made travel on them a challenge. Their proliferation came in response to a desire to suppress fires started by lightning in remote corners of the park, or to reach patrol cabins built by the CCC in 1933-34. Employees could drive the roads for recreational purposes by permit, but the rangers installed locked gates at public entry points to stop visitor use of the motorways, since there were fears in the NPS about intentional or inadvertent ignitions in the backcountry.

Regular maintenance of the motorways commenced in 1941 as part of fire suppression activities and continued sporadically until 1971, when the NPS stopped virtually all motorized administrative access to areas in the park now studied for their suitability as legally designated wilderness. The shift toward managing much of the backcountry as wilderness, even though Congress failed to act on formal NPS recommendations made in 1974, led to making roughly 52 miles of fire roads part of the park's maintained trail system. Subsequent trail reroutes aimed at enhancing the wilderness experience of backcountry visitors have since slightly reduced that total.

Service Roads

Rim Village

All three service roads at this site extend from the main roadway that links Crater Lake Lodge with a cafeteria and plaza. The Rim Cabin road (Route 10) runs for one-fifth of a mile, beginning west of the cafeteria and going behind that structure to a point down slope of the plaza. A sinuous network of roads in the former Rim Campground (Route 11) allow for vehicle circulation through what is currently a picnic area. Another road approximately 800' in length provides employees with access to the concessionaire's dormitory, a building erected in 1973.

The concessionaire funded the construction of twelve cabins clustered behind the cafeteria in 1931, each being located along the outer edge of an unsurfaced road loop. Twelve additional cabins were built slightly further east of the first group over the ensuing decade, thus necessitating extension of the road to a point below, but not connected with, the plaza. With removal of the cabins in 1985, most vehicle traffic on this service road went to a loading dock located at the rear of the cafeteria.

Scenic Overlook along Rim Drive
A parking area on East Rim Drive above Grotto Cove.

Formalizing the Rim Campground with a defined set of roads and designated sites began in 1933, as a way to control impacts in the face of heavy use. CCC enrollees planted shrubs to screen sites, installed picnic tables and fireplaces, and partially buried logs in order to define parking spurs. Driving on unsurfaced roads created dust, so the NPS preferred using oil as a palliative rather than crushed stone surfacing, given higher costs and noise associated with the latter. Increases in visitation and the popularity of camping, even during the Depression, generated a need to expand the campground, so the NPS responded by adding a new road loop south of the existing one in 1934. Aside from providing more campsites, the new loop had enough room for an "open air theater," one where interpretive programs could be held on summer evenings.

The theater never materialized, but more expansion along with reconstruction of the campground came during the summer of 1957. The contracted portion of this Mission 66 project consisted of clearing and grubbing for new road construction, building new subgrades with a crushed stone base, then paving with asphalt. Obliteration of several old road sections and restoration of construction scars continued on a day labor basis for the next two seasons, in conjunction with setting barrier rocks to define fifty-five campsites. In addition to a paved surface at least 12' wide that extended over nine-tenths of a mile through the campground, the project brought about a new entrance road from the main roadway through Rim Village, one wide enough to allow two way traffic. The need for a more spacious entrance, as well as several wider arterial roads, became moot in the summer of 1975 when the NPS discontinued overnight camping at Rim Village in favor of a picnic area that received only a small fraction of previous visitor use.

A service road leading to the concessionaire's dormitory overtopped a portion of the road built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1914. Located just east of the Rim Campground and at the outer edge of a broad pumice field south of Crater Lake Lodge, this service road leads to an employee parking lot situated adjacent to the dormitory. After burial of electrical, water and sewer lines underneath the old roadbed to serve the dormitory, the road was paved to a width of 14' as part of construction activities taking place over the summer and fall of 1973.

Park Headquarters

Of the three service roads at this site, the oldest connects a utility area or maintenance yard with an administrative plaza situated at an entry point with the Munson Valley Road. This road also extends uphill from the administrative plaza and provides vehicular access to a residential area built with the intention of housing permanent NPS employees during the summer season. At the south end of the maintenance yard is another service road, a one-way loop serving the residential area for temporary NPS employees called "Sleepy Hollow." Across the Munson Valley Road from Sleepy Hollow is the park's largest residential complex, "Steel Circle." The road through it (Route 21) consists of an outer loop where housing units were located and an inner access that allows employees to reach a building used for social functions and gatherings.

Metamorphosis of what the Army Corps of Engineers initially called "Camp 2" began in 1926, when the NPS built a warehouse and incorporated stone masonry in its ground floor walls. This type of construction immediately gained favor over earlier log structures and became the preferred mode of construction as the headquarters development expanded over a wider area over the next seven years. The need to establish a defined circulation system quickly became evident in the wake of largely unconfined vehicular access to the site.

Grading of a service road to connect the new administrative plaza with both the utility and residential areas took place in 1933, with all excavation done by hand to maximize the numbers of men hired on this public works project. With most of the grading completed that fall, laborers began surfacing a portion of the roadway with 4" of crushed rock obtained from a contractor who used a preexisting quarry located about 5 miles from Park Headquarters. A short construction season dictated that the contract had to be completed in 1934, though subsequent settling under traffic meant surfacing needed water, then be mixed, and re-laid. The NPS let another contract for crushed rock in 1935, so that this material could be integrated with emulsified asphalt and spread roughly 1" in depth. It was then rolled, and the process repeated twice more before motorists began to use the road surface.

Some rough grading of a service road from the utility area to Sleepy Hollow began in 1933 as part of building the first five cabins there for temporary employees. They appeared on both sides of the road and were joined by three additional structures in 1936. Finish grading, surfacing, and paving took place over the following summer to the same specifications as the service road through the administrative plaza. Lange added two parking areas along the Sleepy Hollow road in 1937 as part of accommodating employees still housed in tents. The parking areas disappeared when the utility area expanded in 1957, an undertaking that included establishing a road connection between it and the new residential area to be built across the Munson Valley Road. Piecemeal removal of cabins in Sleepy Hollow started in 1984 and continued over the next five years so that a new housing area for temporary employees could be constructed on the site in 1990. Contractors realigned the service road as part of the project so that new structures were situated on the inside of a paved access loop.

Grading of the road through the Steel Circle housing area occurred in 1956 as a precursor to building a number of units largely consisting of duplexes with flat roofs. A portion of the site had once been used as a landfill, so the contract included grading the original access road from Rim Drive in addition to creating a main entrance from the Munson Valley Road. The former connection did not last long, due to fears that visitors might unduly disturb residents, so the road in Steel Circle has only one entry point. Contractors surfaced this road in September 1957 so that paving could be completed prior to the end of the construction season.

Annie Spring vicinity

Much like they had at Rim Village and Park Headquarters, NPS landscape architects turned their attention to this site once collaborative planning and design with BPR engineers established the alignment for the road junction and stream crossing. By 1926, planners envisioned a surfaced "plaza area" where Routes 1 and 2 met adjacent to the Annie Creek Bridge, yet they also called for less development in this area in favor of more facilities at Park Headquarters and Rim Village in the future.

One exception was a campground to be located next to the new plaza, where in 1928, the NPS hoped to eventually accommodate 200 visitors. In the mean time, however, officials knew visitors preferred the Rim Campground, so improvements such as surfaced roadways and hardened sites with rustic log tables were centered on it. Annie Spring Campground thus consisted of an informal main parking area flanked by comfort stations and was largely used on an overnight basis by a few visitors who arrived late in the day. CCC laborers built a new comfort station there in 1934 and began clearing a loop road for an expanded campground that summer. Tables and fireplaces for fifteen sites followed over the next three years, so that by 1938, the official park brochure described the Annie Spring Campground as a comfortable alternative (in being situated at a lower elevation) to the larger and more popular Rim Campground.

Reconfiguration of the campground began in September 1956 with the aim of increasing its size to twenty-five sites. Contractors made a longer loop road, one sometimes referenced as Route 12, by moving the intersection with approach roads 300' further south in conjunction with realigning the Annie Spring road junction. Adding parking loops between the extant fifteen sites and along a slightly extended access road produced the desired expansion, one that included new comfort stations, tables, and fireplaces in 1957. Surfacing to a width of 15' also took place that summer so the campground could serve visitors displaced by construction associated with reconfiguring the camp facilities at Rim Village. Closure of the Annie Spring Campground came in 1968, in the midst of another road junction realignment, though its facilities had been pressed into service during the intervening decade only when the adjacent Mazama Campground filled to capacity.

Self-imposed limitations by the NPS on a wholesale expansion of the Rim Campground after 1941 stemmed from chronic impacts associated with over use. As annual visitation climbed above 250,000 in the immediate postwar period and then exceeded 370,000 in 1954, the need to develop one large campground away from the rim became more acute. Rather than expand southward from the Annie Spring Campground as envisioned in 1928, the NPS chose to develop a site located across Route 2 and used as CCC Camp Annie Spring from 1934 to 1941.

Grading of the first four campground loops occurred from August to November 1956, concurrent with placement of utilities. Over the following summer, surfacing of the campground roads (referenced collectively as Route 15) occurred at roughly the same time as installation of new tables having concrete bases and metal fireplace grates. Roads in the campground continued to expand with the clearing of a fifth loop in 1960, so that development of forty-five new campsites along it could commence the following July. Like loops A through D, the road that defined E loop had a surfaced width of 15' due to one-way circulation, though the main two-way access between loops went to 20'. Placement of barrier rocks around the sites finally completed the project in September 1963, only to be followed by construction of two additional loops (F and G) starting in August 1965. The last two loops were bid as a "package," one containing items such as road construction, extension of utilities, and development of fifty additional campsites. Placement of surfacing material followed by an oil treatment constituted what was virtually the last step in completing the job, one accepted by the NPS during the early part of August 1966.

A prospective realignment of the South Entrance Road adjacent to Mazama Campground that came to pass in 1968-69 allowed planners to consider how to allocate space between the old road location and the new. They initially foresaw adding more than 110 campsites in four new loops to the existing total of 190 in 1966, but two years later opted for a "trailer village" divided into units totaling 100 sites. Public opposition to the trailer village idea helped to stifle any new development there until 1987, when ten new quadriplex units were built to replace cabins demolished in Rim Village two years earlier. Although the concessionaire funded construction of these units, the NPS extended utilities and a service road with two loops to them. The NPS also funded a large parking lot for what it now called "Mazama Village," (given the new development's proximity to the campground) one largely aimed at supporting a camper store erected by the concessionaire in 1990.

A contractor began grading another service road in the vicinity during the summer of 1996 as the initial step to building a housing complex for concession employees supposedly displaced by the rehabilitated Crater Lake Lodge. Work completed over the following summer even included the park's first paved bicycle path, one that joined Mazama Campground with the construction site located across Route 2. It also included two loop roads that provided vehicle access to the central housing and service facility, a satellite dormitory, garage, and sites for recreational vehicles.

Outlying Areas

Two service roads located away from the three main developed areas are surfaced with gravel and can be found along the South Entrance Road, although they are restricted to administrative use. The roads are entries to the South Utility Area (Route 17), a bone yard located near the park boundary, and the Pole Bridge Quarry (Route 50) situated across Route 2 from the abandoned Cold Spring Campground. At Lost Creek Campground, by contrast, the two road loops (Route 14) have remained unsurfaced as part of a conscious effort to retain its primitive character in combination with the relatively informal campsites. The graded roads there have thus remained at 12' wide.

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