Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crater Lake National Park

7700 years ago there were several volcanic eruptions occurred at Mount Mazama in southern Oregon. These explosions blew 100 times more material into the atmosphere than Mount St. Helen's did in 1980. Within 24 hours the center of the mountain imploded downward creating a huge crater 6 miles across. The magma chamber was empty so the debris filled in the bottom of the crater making it a huge bowl with no drainage. Slowly over the next several hundred years the crater filled in with water and thus we have Crater Lake. There were people living here at the time and their stories have been handed down with amazing accuracy through hundreds of generations. Several woven sandals carbon dated to 10,000 years ago were discovered nearby.

Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful natural things I have ever seen. The National Park has been developed just enough to make it accessible without destroying it.

Crater Lake is the deepest and clearest lake in North America. The clarity gives it a deep blue color that has to be seen to believe. This view of Wizard Island is taken from Rim Village looking north.

At the Crater Lake Lodge

Life is Good

Taken from the Lodge looking away from the lake to the west

The Cascade range. The flatness here is from glaciers

Another view of the lake with Wizard Island looking south

The Park Service runs a trolley that drives the 23 miles long road around the crater. There are  a dozens stops at various vistas. Our guide was volunteer ranger, Jim Allen. He has been volunteering in various National Parks for 5 years.

A self portrait!

A closer look at Wizard Island from Discovery Point.

A Clark's Nutcracker, named after William Clark of  the Lewis & Clark exploration.
This bird's diet consists mainly of the seeds of the Whitebark Pine which, in turn, depends on the bird to spread  its' seeds. The Whitebark Pine is threatened by extinction by White Pine Blister Rust and Mountain Pine Beetles.
There is a hormonal remedy for the beetles but no help for the rust yet.

The color of the lake is a deep blue from every angle. 

Several eruptions happened in the 100 years after the original implosion of Mt Mazama with some of them rising above the water level. The island to the right of center is called Phantom Ship. 

On our third day in the park we went for a boat ride around the lake. This required a 15 mile drive from our campground to the Cleetwood Cove Trail. From the trailhead there is a 1.1 mile hike to the lake. The vertical drop is 700 feet. After the 2 hour boat ride guess what? You guessed it! You have to hike back up that 700 feet. We did just fine. I saw some people struggling especially one woman who forced me to review in my mind the elements of CPR

Debbie at the start of the hike down. The path was well laid out and had awesome views at every turn.

There are only 5 boats on the lake. 2 like this for tourists. 1 for "rescue" and 2 research boats.
That's it. No canoes, kayaks or pleasure boats allowed. If you had one how would you get it to the lake? This boat was helicoptered in 5years ago.

Our guide was Jan Allen, wife of Jim Allen pictured above. She is an archeologist by profession and has volunteered in 5 different National Parks over the last 5 years. Both of the Allens gave us tremendous information about the geology, biology, hydrology, history and everthinglolgy of the crater and the park.

A close up view of Wizard Island

The Devil's Backbone. This rock formation goes down several hundred feet below the surface.
As the magma erupted and cooled the lava cooled in different ways in different areas. This Rock was very hard while the surrounding material was soft and eventually eroded away.

In the shallow areas the water is aquamarine color

There are no rivers or springs that feed Crater Lake and none that drain it. All of the water in the lake comes form rain and snow melt which we can see below in the form of a waterfall.  Water leaves the lake via evaporation and seepage from one area that is shown later. The water level only varies a few feet from year to year. The deepest part of the lake is just short of 2000 feet deep making Crater lake the deepest in North America.

We saw dozens of such waterfalls on our trip around the lake.

Phantom Ship close up

Here you can see a shelf where the color changes from green to blue.

We had nothing but sunshine in 3 days at Crater Lake.

Here is a hard monumental rock above with softer porous lava below. The porous shelf extends well into the lake. This area accounts for the seepage of water out of the lake. In spite of extensive studies no one knows where the water goes. There is no evidence of Crater Lake's water entering into the Klamath or Rogue River Basins.

On the way back up the trail we had lots of nice places to catch our breath and enjoy one more look.

I just could not stop taking pictures. Believe me, I said to myself several times,
"Enough with the pictures. Put the camera away."
Next thing you knew there was the camera in my hands again.

3 days in Crater lake national Park is just barely enough. 5 to 7 days would have allowed us to try more of dozen or so hikes around the park. Mazama Village and Campground were perfect for us. On lour last night here we saw about 12 Airstreams in the F loop that were from Northern California on a caravan. Looked like fun. We are headed now to Arcata California along the northern coast. Look for our next post.


  1. What a great informative post and lovely photos! We're in the Olympic National Park right now and headed down the coast. We hope to make a stop at Crater Lake, but it might be close to the end of October so who knows what the weather will be like and if the campgrounds will still be open. Seems like we're following a similar path to you so I'm taking note of all your posts for future visits. http://www.watsonswander.com/

  2. Looks like so much fun. we are planning that for next fall.

  3. Frank, your photos are spectacular. We did the boat tour last year...it's hard to explain to people the color of that water!! So glad you enjoyed yourselves! Now looking forward to your great California adventures :)

  4. The pictures are AMAZING! Thanks for taking sooo many. This is now a must see for our next Airstream adventure!!

  5. You just gave me the boat tour I missed years ago at Crater Lake. Absolutely magical. I didn't realize the waters were such a gorgeous aquamarine blue even close up. Glad it was a sunny day for you.