Spring Opening

Dozer and rotary plow on Watchman Cut
Rotary plow clearing snow on Watchman Cut

NPS Photo

Ever wonder why Rim Drive is closed during the winter? At an average elevation of 7,000 feet, both East and West Rim drives sit high in the Cascades and receive on average about 50 feet of snow each year. This snow is shaped by strong winds into drifts that can be more than 30 feet deep in some places.

To clear all that snow, Crater Lake's road crew uses two large bulldozers to push the snow off the roadway and feed it to a rotary blower, which picks up the snow and blows it off of the road.
Crater Lake's road crew usually starts tackling deep snow on West Rim Drive in April. They must begin this early in the season in order to get to all 33 miles on Rim Drive, nine miles of North Entrance Road, as well as Cloudcap Road and Pinnacles Road.

The work can be slow. The typical pace of spring opening is about 1/5 mile cleared per day. And there are often spring snow storms that delay progress, requiring the road crew to clear their way back to their dozers after each storm. Once the road is exposed though, it absorbs heat from the sun, which helps it "melt out."

During spring opening, newly exposed road surfaces become seasonal opportunities for visitors to hike and bike without having to worry about cars. Be sure to walk in the middle of the road to avoid snow and ice from collapsing snow banks. And make sure to give park vehicles and heavy machinery plenty of space.

While spring opening is underway, please remember that winter conditions still rule at Crater Lake this time of year. Snow and ice may continue into June. Also, as the snow begins to melt it can become more unstable. Remain far back from the edge of the caldera wall.

Lead bulldozer during spring opening at Watchman Trailhead
Lead bulldozer during spring opening at Watchman Trailhead

NPS Photo

Last updated: May 15, 2016

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Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake, OR 97604


541 594-3000

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