Crater Lake National Park which was created in 1902 is in the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon. The park includes 183,224 acres of mountains, peaks, evergreen forests with more than 90 miles of hiking trails. Our purpose in visiting was to see its crown jewel, Crater Lake.
Where else can you see a deep blue pure lake, surrounded by sheer cliffs nearly 2,000 feet high; a picturesque island in the midst and a volcanic past. We've seen photos showing the lake and its clear blue colors, unfortunately the day of our visit the skies were were overcast and hazy.
To see the lake you need to pay an entrance fee to enter the park. Currently, fees range from $12 for bicycles/pedestrians to $25 for a 7-day vehicle pass. (If you've purchased an America the Beautiful Pass national park pass, admission if FREE; thankfully we have a lifetime senior pass purchased a few years ago in VA before a very steep price increase.)
Crater Lake is the deepest U.S. lake (1,943 feet), the second deepest in North America and the ninth deepest lake in the world. The lake is 5x6 miles across, with a caldera rim ranging in elevation from 7,000 to 8,000 feet and an average lake depth of 1,148 feet. It’s filled by snowfall and one of the clearest lakes in the world. The lake has no inlets or tributaries and due to the absence of pollutants its waters are among the purest in the world.
Years ago, a cluster of volcanoes, called Mount Mazama, dominated the landscape, rising to an estimated 12,000 feet. An eruption some 7,700 years ago destroyed the upper portion of the volcano. Molten rock was expelled and the summit area collapsed during the eruption, forming a large volcanic depression (caldera).
Aside from its creation, what’s most remarkable about the lake is its remarkable deep blue color. The intensity results from reflecting blue and green light off the clear. colorless water. The sky gives the lake its blue color which is intensified by its contrast with the surrounding rock walls.
When the caldera cooled, rain and snow accumulated to form a lake. It’s been estimated that about 720 years was required to fill the lake to its present depth of 1,949 feet. After some time, the slopes of the lake's caldera rim more or less stabilized, streams restored a radial drainage pattern on the mountain, and dense forests began to revegetate the barren landscape. Some hydrothermal activity remains along the lake floor. Scientists suspect that at a future date, Mazama may erupt again.
Crater Lake has two small islands. Wizard Island, located near the western shore of the lake, is a cinder cone that rises about 764 feet/316 acres in size. Phantom Ship, a natural rock pillar, is located near the southern shore.
There’s no sediment as the lake is fed directly by precipitation and no rivers flow in or out of it. Evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate that scientists estimate can replace the total amount of water every 250 years.
If you should be traveling through the state of Oregon at some, we'd recommend a drive through Crater Lake National Park — entrance fee aside it's well worth the cost to see Crater Lake. There are several scenic overlook points throughout the park.
If you buy an annual park pass, you'll be able to visit all 58 U.S. national parks at no added cost — that would be a wonderful adventure, one that we haven't done (yet).