In 1938, newly-appointed Crater Lake Park Superintendent Leavitt and Chief Ranger Crouch aimed to increase park visitation and recreation. Achieving this goal often meant that the interests of the park’s human visitors trumped the interests of the park’s natural inhabitants.
Although the lake’s aquatic ecosystem was originally barren of fish, fingerlings were planted in Crater Lake and surrounding streams. Stocking the lake in order to “improve recreational opportunities” goes back to 1888, and the last recorded stocking was of rainbow trout in l941.
Park rangers used salt bricks to attract deer and wildlife for the visitors to enjoy. By 1920, park employees had used food to tame many brown bears. Visitors loved watching these tame bears. Park staff even gave the bears human names.
In 1921, Superintendent Alex Sparrow, commenting on the “friendly disposition” of the bears, noted that “there is not a case on record of campers being disturbed by them.” Inevitably encounters between bears and humans couldn’t be safely regulated and, because of injury and property destruction, the park service tried to reverse this policy.
In l943, 87 “troublesome” bears were killed in Crater Lake, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks.
Today one can fish at Crater Lake — but don’t feed the bears!
Sources: Fairbanks, C. Warren. “Crater Lake, Fishing, 1952,” Nature Notes: Crater Lake National Park, Vol. XVIII-1952, www.nps.gov/archive/crla/notes/vol18f.htm; Harmon, Rick. Crater National Park: A History. Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 2002; Smith, Larry and Lloyd, “A Chronological History and Important Event Log of Crater Lake National Park,” (revised 1977). As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.