William Gladstone Steele


Steel was a tireless promoter. His promotions included the set aside of a Cascade Forest Reserve encompassing Crater Lake, creation of Crater Lake National Park itself, tourist access to the park, and even creation of an elevator that would carry park visitors from the rim of the lake to its surface - fortunately an unsuccessful endeavor.

The following excerpts are from Steel's description of his own first visit to the Crater Lake's surface in 1886 as part of a geologic survey team led by Army Captain Clarence Dutton. Their survey included soundings of the lake from the dory Cleetwood which had been lowered from the rim for this purpose.

The day after launching the Cleetwood, nine members of our party made the circuit of the lake on a sort of casual observation, or tour of inspection. The scenery was grand far beyond our most sanquine expectations. Four strong oarsmen soon brought us to Llao Rock, and as we gazed in silent wonder at its rugged sides, reaching nearly half a mile above us, for the first time did we realize the immensity of such a spectacle. Never before did I fully understand the meaning of figures when they run into the thousands of feet, vertical measurement. Beyond Llao Rock was a beautiful little bay, and beyond it a larger one, probably one mile long by a quarter mile deep.... As this point had not only never been named, but probably was never before visited by human beings, we decided to christen it Cleetwood Cove.... Beyond it towered an immense cliff, very high, with broken, rugged sides, picturesque and sublime, which I insist on naming Dutton Cliff, in honor of Capt. Dutton, who has done and is doing so much to make Crater Lake justly famous.

...The night was clear and the full moon perfect, and after the camp was wrapped in slumber I stole out, reaching the surface of the lake about midnight. In an hour I had pulled out to the center, where I remained motionless. The overpowering impressiveness cannot be comprehended, as I looked above and saw a full, round, glowing moon, and below I saw another just like it. The Pleiades were beautiful and bright above, and just as bright below. I rested suspended in space within the center of a round, glowing ball of light, with nothing of earth left but a great knot-hole about me, while there was the Milky Way stretching across the heavens above and across the heavens below, forming a band around the whole. In a certain sense I enjoyed the scene, but have never cared to repeat it, and never can, for superstition will never permeate the air as it did then.

William Gladstone Steele, Steel's Editorial Excursion, 1904. A collection of news clippings from around the country promoting a "see America first" tour of the western states and especially Crater Lake. Excerpts from many of Steel's writings, including The Mountains of Oregon, are quoted at length. The materials are available in the Oregon Collection at the University of Oregon Knight Library.

Last modified in August, 2019 by Rick Thomas