John Waldo


Waldo Lake sits on the crest of the central Oregon Cascades. It was named in honor of Judge John Waldo of the Oregon Supreme Court. In 1891 Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act allowing the President to set aside tracks of federal forest land in order to protect watersheds and to prevent exploitation from logging, mining, and grazing. Judge Waldo was not only an early advocate of the law, but successfully pressed for its application to set aside the forests of the Oregon Cascades.

His journals and letters document extended camping trips over the course of many summers in the late 1800s, ranging from Mt. Hood on the Oregon-Washington border to Mt. Shasta in Northern California. As the excerpt below suggests, wilderness was a refuge to enjoy with friends, a provider of all of ones needs, and, most importantly, a place to enjoy in its "free, unaltered" state.

Waldo Lake, Wednesday, August 1st, 1888.

I am seated before a camp-fire, the shadows of night darkening the forest on the bear haunted shores of Waldo Lake. We hear the wild note of the Loon, and the hum of the multitudinous mosquitos near at hand. The fire blazes and crackles and shines upon us three-Ed, Harry and me. We came over today on an exploring trip and expect to be out two or three days more. The lake looks beautiful lying embossomed in the evergreen forests - dark timbered peninsulas jutting into it, with the broad snow fields of Diamond Peak and blue mountains looking down upon it. Fire has not troubled its shores, and everywhere about it extends the green aromatic forest.

Here grows the graceful white pine, tall feathery hemlocks, and mast-like firs (Abies concolor) with white moss swaying from their branches and curving about their trunks. Here are evidences, too, of some of the wild inhabitants. The footprints of the timid deer denote his recent presence and rapid flight. The blue grouse lifts himself out of the low huckleberry bushes at our approach, settles himself among the hemlock branches and looks securely down upon us from his perch, but we have long arms he knows not of - they reach him, and down he comes for our breakfast tomorrow.

But the fire burns low, I must draw my sleeping bags over me, and hope to sleep well in the free, unaltered wilderness.

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