Record visits expected to Crater Lake National Park this summer
The National Park Service has given the interim green light for a major rehabilitation of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, the only trail that accesses the lake, as well as improvements to the boat dock area at Crater Lake. [Mail Tribune/file photo]
A tour boat passes by Phantom Ship on Crater Lake. Popular boat tours will not work in the national park this year as park officials brace for the possibility of record crowds. [Mail Tribune/file photo]
Crater Lake National Park officials are preparing for a record number of visits this summer.
“All indications are that the visits this summer are going to be very, very high,” said Superintendent Craig Ackerman.
Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of visitors were recorded in July, August and December. This could cause problems for visitors and cause delays in entering the park and, once inside, finding parking, especially at Rim Village.
Additionally, several park facilities, including the Munson Valley and Rim Village Visitor Centers, will remain closed this season. Currently, only limited ranger programs, such as junior ranger activities, campfire programs, and ranger guided walks, are scheduled.
Lake boat trips and Crater Lake tram tours are permanently canceled.
The Steel Visitor Center at park headquarters will be closed for a two-year renovation project, with visitor services being moved to a temporary facility in Mazama village, near the park’s south entrance. The rehabilitation will update all systems, ensure structural integrity and preserve its cultural history, Ackerman said.
The Crater Lake Natural History Association sales office will operate out of the Rim Village community daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office sells books about the park and the area as well as field guides, maps, park themed clothing, postcards, snacks and park related items. A percentage of the proceeds is used to help fund research projects and interpretive programs related to the park, such as the Night Sky Program, Pika Studies, and Lake Research.
Concession facilities, including the Annie Creek Gift Shop / Restaurant, Mazama Campground, and Rim Village Gift Shop / Restaurant, are open with some reduced dining options.
Mazama Cabins are already reserved for the entire season. Annie Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop has indoor seating, an outdoor patio, and serves lunch from 11 am to 3 pm and dinner from 5 to 8:30 pm Mazama Campground, which could open in a few days, will be on a reservation system from July 1st. The Mazama Village Camper Store and gas station are open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The historic Crater Lake Lodge is open but, as happened in 2020, the restaurant and Great Hall are only open to lodge guests.
Public washrooms are located at Rim Village, with vaulted washrooms at the Old West and North Entrance, Ponderosa and Goodbye Picnic Area, and Watchman Overlook.
Ackerman said the park began prescribed burning of brush piles along Highway 62 and around the administrative area earlier this month, but expressed concerns about a possibly inflammatory fire season. As of Friday, the park had received only 64% of its annual average snowfall, although its total precipitation was well above average.
“It fell as rain, not snow,” he said.
Visitors should be prepared to stand in long lines to enter the park, and once inside they may have difficulty parking in the Rim Village area. Additional parking will once again be available at Picnic Hill, the former Rim Village campground.
Ackerman said there are no plans to require reservations to enter the park, which is done in other national parks. Long-term plans include upgrading and possibly adding kiosks at the two entrance stations, the south entrance near Annie Creek and the north entrance. Due to the road configuration at the entrance to Annie Creek, the addition of a second kiosk will require a realignment of the road.
While work is progressing on the opening of East Rim Drive from the junction of the North Entrance to the Munson Valley, he expressed concern that those wishing to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail from 1.1 mile to the lake will not be able to do this until major land clearing is completed. . Falling trees, falling rocks and erosion over the winter months have made the trail unsafe, but it could be open later this month.
Park staff will again be stationed at the Rim Drive trailhead to prevent people from taking illegal items that could harm the purity of the lake, such as flotation devices. “We learned very quickly how to handle this,” Ackerman said, referring to staffing the trail with rangers last summer.
He expressed his disappointment that he had to cancel the ever popular lake boat tours and the increasingly popular Crater Lake streetcar tours, noting: “A lot of people called and asked if the streetcar tours would be offered. “
According to Ackerman, “It will be a summer impacted by COVID.”
For current information, visit the Crater Lake Hospitality website at www.travelcraterlake.com. Further information about the park is available at www.craterlakecountry.com.
Big plans for the future at Crater Lake
Major refurbishment of the Munson Valley Visitor Center is creating challenges for park staff and visitors, likely until fall 2022, and more major projects may be on the way.
Major projects planned for the coming years include continued improvements on East Rim Drive from Cleetwood Cove to Munson Valley and the possible construction of the park’s first true visitor center in Rim Village.
Ackerman, who is in his 14th season as a senior Crater Lake official, said the National Park Service’s budget for fiscal year 2022 includes approximately $ 45 million to continue improvements to approximately 17 miles of the East Rim. Drive. Major repairs and some possible realignments of the road are planned. During construction, visitors will not be able to complete the entire 33 mile Rim Drive tour, but will instead be required to make the round trip. The crews will concentrate the work on relatively short sections of the road, about two or three miles at a time. The impacts on the annual Crater Lake Rim Runs-Marathon and Crater Lake Ride the Rim events are uncertain.
Due to the generally heavy snowfall and the park’s short construction season, typically late June through October, work on the East Rim Drive is expected to be a multi-year project.
Other projects received an interim green light, including a major rehabilitation of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, the only trail that accesses the lake, as well as improvements to the boat dock area.
Construction of a visitor center in the village of Rim is tentatively scheduled for 2024. The current information stations in and around the Munson Valley are considered “visitor contact stations”. The new center, which has been the subject of discussions for more than 20 years, is expected to offer improved and expanded offerings.
Ackerman noted that the park’s trail management plan, which contemplates several new hiking trails as well as biking trails, is open for public review. Adding new trails, he said, should help disperse visitors.
The trails offered include Pumice Desert Overlook, Mazama Rock, Mazama Cleetwood Connector, Mazama to Picnic, Cascade Mazama Connector, Skell Head to Cascade Spring Connector, Skell Head to Cascades Springs Connector, and Headquarters Trail to Rim Loop, as well as several others.
Contact freelance writer Lee Juillerat at [email protected] or 541-880-4139.