Increased visitors create issues for Crater Lake, during staff shortage

CRATER LAKE, Ore. — After closing for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic, Crater Lake National Park is open and seeing larger crowds than normal. With more people and staffing shortages, the park is running into new problems.

“Checked off license plates and there were cars from 25 different states,” Craig Ackerman, park superintendent, said.

Looking to get outdoors, visitors are flocking to Crater Lake. But because many staff members are housed at the park, COVID-19 protocols limit how many employees can be there. Now there’s less than half the number of staff on hand to handle the extra visitors.

“You can see the problem that might ensue when you have typical or even increased visitation and less than half of normal staffing,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman says they normally have 400 employees on hand. Now it’s less than 200. While he’s glad to see people enjoying the park, many visitors aren’t following the rules.

“Large numbers of people, who are probably unfamiliar with the rules, are just going out into various areas of the park and doing things that are prohibited activities or carrying prohibited materials down to the lake,” Ackerman said.

With prohibited items being brought in, Ackerman says the pristine water is in danger of getting contaminated.

“Kids with life jackets and water wings to pool rafts, inner tubes, inflatable paddle boards and kayaks and even one report of a six or eight person river raft being carried down to the lake. All of those are prohibited in the lake for a variety of reasons, but the primary concern is all of those could introduce aquatic invasive species into the lake,” Ackerman said.

That’s not the only rule some visitors are skipping over. Last week, park rescue staff responded to seven people in the caldera, who made their own path to the shore. The visitors were cited with illegal entry and creating a hazardous condition. The park says the only safe, legal way to access the shore is Cleetwood Trail.

As for the rest of the park, there are reduced hours for certain facilities and visitor centers are closed.

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Anna Weeks is the anchor of NBC5 News at 5 and 11 and Your Place @7 with Anna Weeks. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Originally from the Portland area, Anna loves exploring Southern Oregon. In her free time, she enjoys reading, running, and watching sports.
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