Crater Lake: Investing beyond the caldera

Crater Lake attracts millions of visitors from across the country who make the journey to gaze at its strikingly clear waters, marvel at Wizard Island, and be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding glacially capped volcanoes.

The positive economic benefits to the surrounding communities, fueled by these tourism dollars, cannot be denied. Crater Lake’s gateway communities like Roseburg, Bend, Medford, and Klamath Falls can benefit greatly by expanding tourism opportunities in the region. Promoting and protecting this landscape both inside and out of the park borders will ensure it provides lasting benefits to our communities well into the future.

The $43.7 million spent by visitors to Crater Lake and 661 jobs it supports has a multiplier effect on the small gateway communities around it. Oregonians are quickly realizing the value and potential of this bourgeoning tourism and recreation industry. While the recreation industry accounts for 8 percent of Oregon employment, it also represents 15 percent of the new jobs created in 2012, according to most recent reports. Preserving the wild landscapes in and around the park can guarantee this rapidly expanding economic opportunity is being taken advantage of in the southern Cascades.

Tourists who encounter a crowded parking lot at Crater Lake, or are turned off by seasonal construction around the rim, are open to recreation prospects beyond the caldera. Many areas outside the park currently get few visitors but could be huge draws if better promoted. Destinations like Indigo Lake, an easy and accessible hike offers high rewards as you reach the crystal blue waters. Or perhaps the stunning Upper Rogue Canyon trail which meanders along the headwaters of the Rogue River, passing pristine old growth forests and picturesque Rough Rider Falls. These spectacular natural gems outside the park would be enough to easily consume a weekend or more and should be protected.

The Crater Lake region serves as the birthplace of many of our iconic rivers: the Umpqua, Deschutes, Klamath, and Rogue. People come from across the nation to try their luck catching a salmon or steelhead in the world renowned Rogue River. According to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife report, fishing brought in $640 million to Oregon statewide. Yet as little as a 3-4 degree rise in water temperature can be deadly for fish. By protecting and maintaining the spawning ground and habitat quality around Crater Lake, we can continue to offer sportsmen and industry alike world-class fishing opportunities.

That same 2011 Fish and Wildlife report also highlights wildlife viewing, a $1.7 billion activity in Oregon alone. As a critical wildlife migration corridor connecting the east and west sides of the state, Crater Lake is particularly well suited to take advantage of these recreation dollars spent on travel and equipment. Bald eagles, Roosevelt elk, pine marten, black bear and more make this area their home, so safeguarding this unique economic engine would not only benefit wildlife but the wildlife viewing industry around it.

The Crater Lake neighborhood is more than just a park. It is an entire region that can bestow enormous benefits for the people who come to visit and the people who call these gateway communities home. Fortunately, those who have the power to protect this area are the people who represent us in Washington: Senators Merkley and Wyden, and Representatives DeFazio and Walden. By protecting this landscape, we are doing more than just defending our natural heritage. We are creating an enduring legacy that will continue to captivate the imaginations of people who arrive from around the country to live, work, and play.

Photo Credits
Larry Turner