Standing in Oregon's only national park, the historic Crater Lake Lodge has been one of the main landmarks within the park since 1915.
The history of the lodge and the park itself is perhaps best told through the story of one man, William Gladstone Steel. Born in Ohio in 1854, Steel was a mail carrier who accompanied the first U.S. Geological Survey expedition to Crater Lake in 1886. Led by Captain Clarence Dutton, the survey used piano wire to determine the lake's astonishing depth. While performing their scientific observations, Steel, like all others who visit Crater Lake, was struck by the lake's remarkably clear and reflective deep blue waters. He was further responsible for naming numerous geological landmarks of the lake, including Wizard Island, Llao Rock and Skell Head.
Upon his return to Portland, Steel almost immediately began lobbying for the creation of Crater Lake National Park, and after 16 years of persistence, Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill making it the nation's sixth national park in 1902. Called a "one-man chamber of commerce," Steel is also credited with being the first to suggest the construction of a lodge to host and attract the public, and in 1909 he convinced Portland developer Alfred Parkhurst to begin construction along the rim high above the water's surface.
Steel's ambition didn't stop with the lodge. Not only was he the first to envision a road circumnavigating the lake's rim, he wanted to construct an elevator to take visitors down to the lake's shores and to provide vehicular access onto Wizard Island. Fortunately, neither of these latter two ideas came to fruition.
The 71-room lodge has dealt with periods of few visitors during the Great Depression as well as years of great interest and crowds following World War II. Ownership changed from public to private hands numerous times until 1967 when the National Park Service acquired the building. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, though poor funding and maintenance issues have persisted in spite of this designation.
Today the lodge is still owned by the National Park Service, but the accommodation services and restaurant are run by a private concierge. Overall the lodge is in remarkable condition, benefiting from a $15 million overhaul in 1995.
Note: Crater Lake Lodge is only open mid-May through mid-October.