Visitors to Crater Lake National Park will soon have a new way to tour the state's crown jewel in eco-friendly style.
A trio of restored vintage trolleys are scheduled to make their maiden runs on Friday, July 2, running a series of eight, two-hour tours daily for up to 27 passengers. The newly formed Crater Lake Trolley Tours company was formed by Jim Robinson, who owns a shuttle company in Klamath Falls. The rigs run on natural gas, which produces significantly fewer emissions than gasoline.
The park's rim drive is a 33-mile loop around the caldera, situated about 7,000 feet above sea level and 1,000 feet above the lake. Closed by winter snow, the road opens in increments as snow melts and equipment clears deep drifts. The entire route is traditionally cleared in time for the July 4 holiday.
Robinson said the idea had been "on the back burner" for a few years and began to materialize with support from park officials and purchase of the old trolleys earlier this year.
"This is an idea we had six or seven years ago and always wanted to pursue. We always thought it would be neat to have something like this for the rim drive," Robinson said.
"The biggest advantage is that the park wants to keep the least amount of vehicles on the rim drive as possible," he said, "so this will do that, and it's educational and green."
Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman said the addition of the trolleys was a natural choice for the park and requires no special permitting process.
"They're not introducing anything not already there on a regular basis," Ackerman said, "and it's natural gas (fueling the trolleys), which is better for the environment. It also could relieve congestion if visitors opt to park their vehicles and take the trolley."
While natural gas is not always as readily available as gasoline, Robinson said a planned Avista fueling station in Klamath Falls would provide fuel for the trolleys.
Tours, which will cost $27.50 for adults and $20 for kids ages 5 to 12, will include a park ranger's interpretive talk.
Ackerman said the trolleys would give visitors an opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenery rather than concentrate on the road.
"It can be challenging to drive (the rim) with a lot of curves and grades," he said.
"Some people may prefer to experience the loop on a trolley and be relieved of the responsibility of driving so they can focus on enjoying the lake instead of having to watch the road."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.