CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK – Nearly everyone in Southern Oregon has made a visit — or several — to Crater Lake National Park. The attraction, of course, is the lake itself.
But have you ever stopped to take the short walk to the headwaters of Annie Spring or hiked up to Dutton Creek? Taken the drive to the see the Pinnacles and the park’s former east entrance? Or stopped at the Goodbye Creek picnic area and wondered how the creek got its name?
Crater Lake is a world to itself, but there’s more to see than its stunningly blue waters. Some sights aren’t possible this summer because of closures created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancellation of lake boat tours and Wizard Island visits. Absent, too, are ranger-guided hikes, campfire talks, programs and displays at visitor centers.
But along with viewing the lake from vantages at Rim Village, overlooks along Rim Drive or, even better, from lake level at Cleetwood Cove, consider visiting some of the park’s seldom visited locations.
Quick stop at Dutton Creek
An easy choice is available almost immediately after entering the Annie Spring entrance station. Instead of driving to the park information center in Munson Valley, which is closed because of the pandemic, at the bend in the road just before crossing a bridgepark at a pullout on either side.
For a longer visit, follow the trail near the spring north a half-mile to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail left goes toward Highway 62 and the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Take the trail to the right, which curls around Munson Point and in about 1.7 miles reaches another junction. From there, follow signs to the Dutton Creek Campground, a great turnaround spot or place for a picnic before retracing your steps.
Rim Drive offers several wow-inducing lake views. Discovery Point and the Watchman Overlook are must-stop spots, but for more camera-clicking views pause at the Pumice Castle and Phantom Ship overlooks.
Pinnacle of the trip
From the Phantom Ship overlook, it’s seven miles off East Rim Drive via Pinnacles Road to the pinnacles. It’s only about a mile the parking area for the delightful hike to Plaikni Falls, an easy two-mile roundtrip.
Based on park records, the Plaikni Falls Trail is the park’s second busiest. To avoid the crowds, keep driving the Pinnacles Road. Within a few miles are the guardian-like walls that line Wheeler Creek. At the road’s end, the formations transform to a wonderfully weird series of needle-like pinnacles.
Geologists explain the pinnacles were created during Mount Mazama’s cataclysmic eruption 7,700 years ago. As Mazama collapsed, fiery avalanches of high-speed superheated ash roared down Mazama’s flanks, filling Wheeler and Sand creeks. Inside the flow, the gases welded the loose ash into solid rock pillars. Over millennia, the creeks eroded most of the loose ash, revealing the formerly hidden hardened vents as evocative formations of spired pinnacles.
A forgotten entrance and Goodbye
Along with the main overlook, others viewpoints provide perspectives of the prickly pointed pinnacles. It’s an easy half-mile walk through the lodgepole pine forest and along the creek to the stone monument that marks the location of the park’s former east entrance. The sign is gone, but the stone boundary marker built by Civilian Conservation Corps crews in 1937 remains. The entrance was closed in 1956 because of low use. It reopened from 1971 to 1973, when it was closed permanently.
History of another sort is behind the naming of Goodbye Creek, a picnic area and appropriately-named stop for visitors exiting the park via the south entrance. One of only two brides in the park — the other crosses over Annie Spring and Annie Creek — the first Goodbye Bridge was built in 1913. The current bridge was built in the 1950s after the original collapsed in 1942.
The name, Goodbye, stems for a yearlong battle that began in 1912 when efforts began to oust William F. Arant, Crater Lake’s first superintendent. After a series of politically motivated disputes that mimic current times, Arant was forcibly removed in July 1913 by U.S. Marshal Leslie Scott.
According to newspaper reports, when Arant refused to comply with a deadline requiring him to leave, “Arant told Scott, ‘I would like to see somebody try and remove me from my own house.’ However, in less than one minute he (Arant) was passed through two doors and landed in the front yard. He returned immediately and was again ejected without ceremony but with dispatch.”
According to the story, Arant later returned with friends, forced his way back into his office, and was ejected four more times. Arant, his wife and his brother, who was helping to build the then-unnamed bridge, camped at the park while William Steel, known as “The Father of Crater Lake,” assumed duties as superintendent and moved into the former Arant home. The paper said the Arants were granted permission to remain “until the bridge upon which the Arants have been working on is completed.”
It wasn’t a smooth transition. Along with intense political bickering, there were threats, an alleged fist fight, and in 1917 a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that approved Arant’s ouster.
The “Smith Brothers History of Crater Lake” tells, “A creek in the park where the (Arant) superintendent and his brother had been building a bridge was given a poignantly appropriate name at the time of their departure: ‘Goodbye.’ As U.S. Marshal Leslie Scott bid ‘goodbye’ to [the] Arant family, he named a bridge and a creek beneath a bridge ‘Goodbye’ because it was the last piece of work completed at Crater Lake by the ‘retiring’ Superintendent.”
After taking over as superintendent, Steel renamed several park sites. Arant had given his name to some of the park’s prominent locations but his name remains only at Arant Point, a 6,800-foot high dome rising 565 feet above the surrounding countryside south of Mazama Village.
When driving between the South Entrance and Rim Village, take a moment to say hello to the Goodbye Bridge.