Deep Blue: From National Wonder to National Park

Crater Lake, southeast rim, hand-colored panorama, ca. 1907. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101859

August 12 – November 15, 2020

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In the Cascade mountains of Southern Oregon is a high ridge that looks deceptively like any other mountaintop. For thousands of years, people have climbed this ridge to glimpse from its crest an expanse of the deepest, bluest, clearest water they have ever seen — a pristine lake formed in the heart of an ancient volcano.

Crater Lake was created when Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed about 7,700 years ago. The lake that formed is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the clearest lakes in the world. The lake’s sublime beauty has awed visitors for centuries. Since 1874, professional and amateur photographers have sought to capture in pictures what words could not communicate: the natural wonder and beauty of Crater Lake.

In 1902, Crater Lake became a National Park, thanks to the work of William Gladstone Steel. In 1885, Steel visited Crater Lake and later recalled, “I decided to work till I had preserved it as a heritage for all people for all time.” Establishing the park was merely the first step for Steel, who spent the next three decades promoting the development of roads and tourist facilities at Crater Lake.

Deep Blue: From National Wonder to National Park is a photographic exhibit featuring the work of several photographers who focused their lenses on the immense beauty of Crater Lake and highlights the people involved in the establishment of Crater Lake National Park.

Phantom Ship, ca. 1907. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101943

Phantom Ship

Phantom Ship, ca. 1907

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101943.

Getting a boat down the steep rim to Crater Lake challenged the most intrepid visitor. William Gladstone Steel’s 1903 party managed the feat after great effort. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101872

Steep Rim to Crater Lake

Getting a boat down the steep rim to Crater Lake challenged the most intrepid visitor. William Gladstone Steel’s 1903 party managed the feat after great effort.

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101872.

Crater Lake Lodge nearing completion, June 30, 1914. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101876

Crater Lake Lodge

Crater Lake Lodge nearing completion, June 30, 1914. 

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101876.

William Gladstone Steel’s party at Crater Lake. From Left: Phil Metscham, Dr. Hill, Senator Fulton, Joaquin Miller, and Steel. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101870

William Gladstone Steel’s Party at Crater Lake

From Left: Phil Metscham, Dr. Hill, Senator Fulton, Joaquin Miller, and Steel. 

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101870.

Northwest rim, Crater Lake, with Glacier Peak (now Hillman Peak) and Llao Rock. Hand-colored panorama, ca. 1907. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101854

Northwest Rim of Crater Lake

Northwest rim, Crater Lake, with Glacier Peak (now Hillman Peak) and Llao Rock. Hand-colored panorama, ca. 1907. 

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101854.

The volcanic cone of Wizard Island erupted from the floor of Crater Lake less than one thousand years ago. Panorama by Kiser Photo Company, ca. 1907. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101860

Wizard Island

The volcanic cone of Wizard Island erupted from the floor of Crater Lake less than one thousand years ago. Panorama by Kiser Photo Company, ca. 1907. 

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101860.

The road to Crater Lake was so notoriously bad that Portland commercial photographer Benjamin A. Gifford featured it in this composite image to advertise “tough tires.” OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101975

“Tough Tires”

The road to Crater Lake was so notoriously bad that Portland commercial photographer Benjamin A. Gifford featured it in this composite image to advertise “tough tires.” 

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 101975.

Kiser Studio (left) and Crater Lake Lodge (right), at the southwest rim, ca. 1926. OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 103539

Kiser Studio and Crater Lake Lodge

Kiser Studio (left) and Crater Lake Lodge (right), at the southwest rim, ca. 1926. 

OHS Research Library, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, Org. Lot 140, OrHi 103539.