Rim Drive Historic District

The period of significance for the Rim Drive Historic District is 1926 to 1941, reflecting the years of development when planning and design efforts were undertaken by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads. With work relief funding from the federal government, the road and its associated features were designed to provide access to the area's unique scenic features while also blending into the area's natural character.

The Rim Drive plan included the development of “stations” where certain views helped visitors appreciate “elements derived from the geological story of Crater Lake and those arising from elements of pictorial beauty.” John C. Merriam, from "History of Rim Drive," Crater Lake National Park, pg. 18

A person stands beside a low stone guardwall, overlooking a dramatic view of a lake and mountains.
The masonry guardwalls, parking areas and overlooks, and views of the breathtaking surroundings are all part of the Rim Drive Historic District cultural landscape.

NPS, 2010

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View from the Kerr Notch Observation Station, identified in a 1939 construction report as a parking area with

NPS Photo, Gjesfjeld, 2010

Rim Drive is located in Crater Lake National Park in southwestern Oregon. Built by the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) and the National Park Service (NPS) with federal work relief funding in the 1930s, the 31.6 mile Rim Drive Historic District and its associated 4.9 miles of hiking trails are at the center of the park’s vehicular and pedestrian circulation system during the busy summer season.

The road is circuitous, aligned around the lake starting from the junction at Rim Village and traversing clockwise to Park Headquarters in Munson Valley. Designed to highlight the natural beauty of the lake, Rim Drive was sited to avoid impinging on the splendor of the setting where the rugged surroundings are still shaped by the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Mazama, which occurred more than 7,700 years ago. Constructed to primarily provide vehicular access to scenic features, the road provides numerous observation stations, substations and parking areas with views and constructed vistas of Crater Lake, its geological formations, and surrounding environs.

From the rim, most visitors are struck by the intense color of the lake and associated setting where caldera walls tower from 550 feet to 1,900 feet above the surface. Much of the area around the lake and its immediate surroundings is heavily forested, yet distant peaks and other topographic features characteristic of this portion of the Cascade Range can be seen from Rim Drive. 

Subalpine forest grows along a rocky slope, where a stone wall holds up a road against the hillside.
Section of the Rim Drive between Grotto Cove and Kerr Notch.

NPS Photo/Gjesfjeld, 2010

The approximately 250 acre historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and is significant for its association with the history and development of Crater Lake National Park. Rim Drive is also significant for its association with landscape architects and engineers who produced an outstanding example of blending naturalistic and functional design elements.

As a linear designed landscape, the period of significance for the Rim Drive Historic District extends from 1926 to 1941, reflecting the period of development when planning and design efforts were undertaken by the NPS in conjunction with the BPR. 

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Designed
  • National Register Significance Level: State
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A, C
  • Period of Significance: 1926-1941

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Last updated: January 3, 2018