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As It Was: Klamath’s Crater Lake Parkway Once Honored Kit Carson

In 1948, Klamath Falls began work on a popular new four-lane highway on the city’s north side to reduce heavy traffic that wound along narrow streets in residential neighborhoods along Biehn and North Ninth streets.

Some concerns were expressed.  Those living along the new highway wanted a stoplight and crosswalk at Portland Street for children walking to area schools.  The Herald and News newspaper suggested the new highway be named after legendary frontiersman Kit Carson, who passed through the area in 1846 on a military exploration led by John C. Fremont.

State officials denied both suggestions.  Undeterred, the newspaper persisted in calling it the Kit Carson Parkway.  Carson had led the expedition’s raid on a Klamath Lake Indian village, retaliating for a night ambush that had killed three expedition members.  Fremont said the raid killed 14 Indians, destroyed the village and its fish-laden drying scaffolds.  Historians believe the number of slain Indians was much larger, including women and children.   

Sixty years after the road was built, the Oregon Department of Transportation installed a crosswalk signal at Portland Street and accepted a local committee’s proposal to rename the highway as Crater Lake Parkway.

Sources: Proposed North Entrance Work Slated To Get Under Way Soon." Herald and News, 1 April 1989 [Klamath Falls, Ore.], p. 1; "Your Reading Habits." Herald and News, 16 Sept. 1949 [Klamath Falls, Ore.], p. 6; "Today’s Roundup." Herald and News, 25 April 1949 [Klamath Falls, Ore.], p. 4.

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.