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July 23, 2024

New Crater Lake tour boats flown in Monday will be ready for tours next week

A helicopter lowers a new tour boat into Crater Lake Monday. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
June 27, 2023

Three new boats, now bearing Native American names, can carry more passengers than previous vessels

By Lee Juillerat for the Rogue Valley Times

CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK — Three larger, quieter, more eco-friendly boats that will be used for tours on Crater Lake were flown to the lake by helicopter Monday.

“We wanted to get these into the lake as soon as possible,” said Tony Beckerley, district manager for Aramark, the parent company of Crater Lake Hospitality, Crater Lake National Park’s concessionaire.

Following a shakedown period and pending approval from the U.S. Coast Guard, lake tours could begin by the end of next week, Beckerley said.

The three new tour boats have names associated with regional Indian tribes.

One boat is named “Modokni,” pronounced mo-dock-nee, which means “Belonging to Modoc” in the Modoc language. Another boat, “Nimi,” pronounced New-muh, means “people,” in the Northern Paiute language. The third boat, “Ouk-Seek-Nee,” means “people of the lake” in Klamath language.

A helicopter lowers a new tour boat into Crater Lake Monday. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch

The 41-foot-long, 13-foot-wide boats, made by Grants Pass-based KatanaCraft, were flown to the eastern shore of Wizard Island by a Chinook helicopter. The boats had been taken to Rim Drive’s North Junction parking area, where they were attached to the helicopter and flown to the bay near the Wizard Island boat docks. Earlier Monday morning, crews from Crater Lake Hospitality and KatanaCraft hiked to the Cleetwood Cove boat dock, where they boarded the three tour boats being replaced, and motored to the island to assist in moving the boats to their new home.

The first flight at 10:30 a.m. didn’t carry a boat but instead held a large container with items for the boats, including tools and life vests. The copter then returned to the North Junction, where the first new boat was attached to the Chinook and flown to the island. The process was then repeated two times and completed by noon. After a break, the copter began flying the old boats, which have been used since 2003, back to the North Junction parking area for transport out of the park.

Because of publicity about the new boats, the lake-viewing areas at Rim Village and Discovery Point were packed with more than 1,000 spectators. A sampling of license plates indicated the cars, pickups, RVs and motor homes were from dozens of states. One couple from Tennessee said they stayed an extra night after learning about the event.

Providing new boats has been a goal of park officials for several years to allow more visitors to experience the lake. The standard two-hour lake circuit tours include an interpretative park ranger to provide information on aspects of the lake’s geology, how the lake was created, its human history and more. Beckerley said there are also plans to resume shuttle trips to and from Wizard Island, where people can hike to the island’s caldera, fish, swim or relax for a multi-hour period before returning to Cleetwood Cove.

A helicopter lowers a new tour boat into Crater Lake Monday. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch

Beckerley and Travis Hamlyn, KatanaCraft CEO, said the new boats should provide for even better visitor experiences. Each boat can carry 55 passengers and two crew members, a significant increase over the 34 passengers on the former boats. Because each boat has two independent engines, one boat will not have to be kept at the Cleetwood Cove boat docks, which was required in case a boat with passengers experienced engine problems.

“This boat was specifically made for Crater Lake,” Hamlyn said, noting planning and design work began last summer, with approval from the National Park Service being received last October. The boats were constructed at KatanaCraft in Grants Pass.

The new boats come at a cost. Although no specific figures were provided, Hamlyn and Beckerley said the cost for each boat was “in the realm” of six figures. Both said a major goal was to provide larger, quieter, more eco-friendly boats. Likewise, both noted planning included consultation and approval from park officials, including long-time Superintendent Craig Ackerman.

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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