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Crater Lake National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Location of Crater Lake in southwestern Oregon
Location southwestern Oregon, USA
Nearest city Medford
Coordinates 42°56′29″N 122°09′04″W / 42.9415172°N 122.1511399°W / 42.9415172; -122.1511399Coordinates: 42°56′29″N 122°09′04″W / 42.9415172°N 122.1511399°W / 42.9415172; -122.1511399 [1]
Area 183,224 acres (74,148 ha)
Established May 22, 1902
Visitors 388,972 (in 2006)
Governing body National Park Service

Crater Lake National Park is a United States National Park located in southern Oregon, whose primary feature is Crater Lake. This National Park was established on May 22, 1902, and it is the sixth oldest National Park in the U.S.[2] This park encompasses the Crater Lake caldera, which rests in the remains of a destroyed volcano (eventually named Mount Mazama) and the surrounding forestland and hills. This is the only National Park in Oregon.

The lake is 1,949 feet (594 m) deep at its deepest point[3], which makes it the deepest lake in the United States, the second deepest in North America, and according to Wikipedia's list of lakes by depth, the ninth deepest anywhere in the world.[note 1] However, when comparing its average depth of 1,148 feet (350 m) to the average depth of other deep lakes, Crater Lake becomes the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and the third deepest in the world. The impressive average depth of this volcanic lake is due to the nearly symmetrical 4,000-foot (1,200 m) deep caldera formed 7,700 years ago during the violent climactic eruptions and subsequent collapse of Mt. Mazama and the relatively moist climate that is typical of the crest of the Cascade Mountains.

The caldera rim ranges in elevation from 7,000 to 8,000 feet (2,100 to 2,400 m). The United States Geological Survey benchmarked elevation of the lake surface itself is 6,178 feet (1,883 m). This National Park covers 286 square miles (741 km2). Crater Lake has no streams flowing into or out of it. All water that enters the lake is eventually lost from evaporation or subsurface seepage. The lake's water commonly has a striking blue hue, and the lake is re-filled entirely from direct precipitation in the form of snow and rain.



Relief map of the Crater Lake area

Volcanic activity in this area is fed by subduction off the coast of Oregon as the Juan de Fuca Plate slips below the North American Plate (see plate tectonics). Heat and compression generated by this movement has created a mountain chain topped by a series of volcanoes, which together are called the Cascade Range. The large volcanoes in the range are called the High Cascades. However, there are many other volcanoes in the range as well, most of which are much smaller.

About 400,000 years ago, Mount Mazama began its existence in much the same way as the other mountains of the High Cascades, as overlapping shield volcanoes. Over time, alternating layers of lava flows and pyroclastic flows built Mazama's overlapping cones until it reached about 11,000 feet (3,400 m) in height.

As the young stratovolcano grew, many smaller volcanoes and volcanic vents were built in the area of the park and just outside what are now the park's borders. Chief among these were cinder cones. Although the early examples are gone—cinder cones erode easily—there are at least 13 much younger cinder cones in the park, and at least another 11 or so outside its borders, that still retain their distinctive cinder cone appearance. There continues to be debate as to whether these minor volcanoes and vents were parasitic to Mazama's magma chamber and system or if they were related to background Oregon Cascade volcanism.

After a period of dormancy, Mazama became active again. Then, around 5700 BC, Mazama collapsed into itself during a tremendous volcanic eruption, losing 2,500 to 3,500 feet (760 to 1,100 m) in height. The eruption formed a large caldera that, depending on the prevailing climate, was filled in about 740 years, forming a beautiful lake with a deep blue hue, known today as Crater Lake.[4]

The eruptive period that decapitated Mazama also laid waste to much of the greater Crater Lake area and deposited ash as far east as the northwest corner of what is now Yellowstone National Park, as far south as central Nevada, and as far north as southern British Columbia. It produced more than 150 times as much ash as the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

This ash has since developed a soil type called andisol. Soils in Crater Lake National Park are brown, dark brown or dark grayish brown sandy loams or loamy sands which have plentiful cobbles, gravel and stones. They are slightly to moderately acidic and their drainage is somewhat excessive or excessive.

Park features

The Pinnacles

Some notable park features created by this huge eruption are:

  • The Pumice Desert: A very thick layer of pumice and ash leading away from Mazama in a northerly direction. Even after thousands of years, this area is largely devoid of plants due to excessive porosity (meaning water drains through quickly) and poor soil composed primarily of regolith.
  • The Pinnacles: When the very hot ash and pumice came to rest near the volcano, it formed 200-to-300-foot (60 to 90 m) thick gas-charged deposits. For perhaps years afterward, hot gas moved to the surface and slowly cemented ash and pumice together in channels and escaped through fumaroles. Erosion later removed most of the surrounding loose ash and pumice, leaving tall pinnacles and spires.
Other park features
  • Mount Scott is a steep andesitic cone whose lava came from magma from Mazama's magma chamber; geologists call such volcano a "parasitic" or "satellite" cone. Volcanic eruptions apparently ceased on Scott sometime before the end of the Pleistocene; one remaining large cirque on Scott's northwest side was left unmodified by post-ice age volcanism.
  • In the southwest corner of the park stands Union Peak, an extinct volcano whose primary remains consist of a large volcanic plug, which is lava that solidified in the volcano's neck.
  • Crater Peak is a shield volcano primarily made of andesite and basalt lava flows topped by andesitic and dacite tephra.
  • Timber Crater is a shield volcano located in the northeast corner of the park. Like Crater Peak, it is made of basaltic and andesitic lava flows, but, unlike Crater, it is topped by two cinder cones.
  • Rim Drive is the most popular road in the park; it follows a scenic route around the caldera rim.
  • The Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile (4,260 km) long distance hiking and equestrian trail that stretches from the Mexican to Canadian borders, passes through the park.
  • Old-growth forests covering 50,000 acres (20,000 ha).[5]


Aerial view of Crater Lake

Local Native Americans witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama and kept the event alive in their legends. One ancient legend of the Klamath people closely parallels the geologic story which emerges from today's scientific research. The legend tells of two Chiefs, Llao of the Below World and Skell of the Above World, pitted in a battle which ended up in the destruction of Llao's home, Mt. Mazama.[6] The battle was witnessed in the eruption of Mt. Mazama and the creation of Crater Lake.

The first known European Americans to visit the lake were a trio of gold prospectors: John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaac Skeeters who, on June 12, 1853, stumbled upon the long, sloping mountain while looking for a lost mine. Stunned by vibrant blue color of the lake, they named the indigo body of water "Deep Blue Lake" and the place on the southwest side of the rim where he first saw the lake later became known as Discovery Point.[2] But gold was more on the minds of settlers at the time and the discovery was soon forgotten. The suggested name later fell out of favor by locals, who preferred the name Crater Lake.

William Gladstone Steel devoted his life and fortune to the establishment and management of a National Park at Crater Lake. His preoccupation with the lake began in 1870. In his efforts to bring recognition to the park, he participated in lake surveys that provided scientific support. He named many of the lake's landmarks, including Wizard Island, Llao Rock, and Skell Head.

With the help of geologist Clarence Dutton, Steel organized a USGS expedition to study the lake in 1886. The party carried the Cleetwood, a half-ton survey boat, up the steep slopes of the mountain then lowered it to the lake. From the stern of the Cleetwood, a piece of pipe on the end of a spool of piano wire sounded the depth of the lake at 168 different points. Their deepest sounding, 1,996 feet (608 m), was very close to the modern official depth of 1,932 feet (589 m) made in 1953 by sonar.[2] At the same time, a topographer surveyed the area and created the first professional map of the Crater Lake area.

Partly based on data from the expedition and lobbying from Steel and others, Crater Lake National Park was established May 22, 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt. And because of Steel's involvement, Crater Lake Lodge was opened in 1915 and the Rim Drive was completed in 1918.[2]

Highways were later built to the park to help facilitate tourism. The 1929 edition of O Ranger! described access and facilities available by then:

Crater Lake National Park is reached by train on the Southern Pacific Railroad lines into Medford and Klamath Falls, at which stops motor stages make the short trip to the park. A hotel on the rim of the lake offers accommodations. For the motorist, the visit to the park is a short side trip from the Pacific and Dalles-California highways. He will find, in addition to the hotel, campsites, stores, filling stations. The park is open to travel from late June or July 1 for as long as snow does not block the roads, generally until October.[7]

Although snow covers Crater Lake National Park for eight months of the year (average annual snowfall is 14 m, or 533 in), the lake rarely freezes over due in part to a relatively mild onshore flow from the Pacific Ocean. The last recorded year in which the lake froze over was in 1949, a very long, cold winter. A 95% surface freeze occurred in 1985. The immense depth of Crater Lake acts as a heat reservoir that absorbs and traps sunlight, maintaining the lake temperature at an average of 12.8 °C (55 °F) on the surface and 3.3 °C (38 °F) at the bottom throughout the year. The surface temperature fluctuates a bit, but the bottom temperature remains quite constant.


Daily Trips (1931)

There are many hiking trails inside the park, and several campgrounds. Unlicensed fishing is allowed without any limitation of size, species, or number. The lake is believed to have no indigenous fish, but several species of fish were introduced beginning in 1888 until all fish stocking ended in 1941. Kokanee Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) and Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) now thrive and reproduce here naturally.[8] Swimming is allowed in the lake, and the boat tours, which stop at Wizard Island a cinder cone inside the lake, operate daily during the summer. All lake access for people is from Cleetwood Trail, a steep walking trail, and there are no roads for cars, trucks, or wagons that lead to the waterfront. All of the boats in the lake were delivered by helicopter.[9]

Numerous observation points along the caldera rim for the lake are readily accessible by automobile via the "Rim Drive", which is 33 miles (53 km) long and has an elevation gain of 3,800 feet (1,200 m).

The highest point in Crater Lake National Park is Mt. Scott at 8,929 feet (2,722 m). Getting there requires a fairly steep 2.5-mile (4.0 km) hike from the Rim Drive trailhead. On a clear day visibility from the summit exceeds 100 miles (160 km), and one can, in a single view, take in the entire caldera. Also visible from this point are the white-peaked Cascade Range volcanoes to the north, the Columbia River Plateau to the east, and also the Western Cascades and the more-distant Klamath Mountains to the west.

The scenery of Crater Lake is fully accessible during the summer months. Heavy snowfalls in this park during the fall, winter, and spring months force many road and trail closures, including the popular "Rim Drive", which is generally completely open from July to October, and partially open in some other months, such as May, June, and November.

See also


  1. ^ Crater Lake is often referred to as the seventh deepest lake in the world, but this former listing excludes the approximately 3,000 feet (910 m) depth of subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica, which resides under nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m) of ice, and the recent report of a 2,740 feet (840 m) maximum depth for Lake O'Higgins/San Martin, located on the border of Chile and Argentina


Satellite view of Crater Lake
  1. ^ "Crater Lake National Park". Geographic Names Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-11-09.  
  2. ^ a b c d "Crater Lake". National Park Service. Retrieved 2006-08-18.  
  3. ^ Larson, Gary L.; Collier, Robert; Buktenica, Mark (January 2007). "Long-term limnological research and monitoring at Crater Lake, Oregon". Hydrobiologia (Doetinchem: Springer) 574 (1): 1-11. doi:10.1007/s10750-006-0342-6. ISSN 1573-5117. Retrieved November 12, 2009.  
  4. ^ Manuel Nathenson; Charles R. Bacon, David W. Ramsey (2007). "Subaqueous geology and a filling model for Crater Lake, Oregon". Hydrobiologia vol. 574: 13–27. doi:10.1007/s10750-006-0343-5.  
  5. ^ Bolsinger, Charles L.; Waddell, Karen L. (1993), Area of old-growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington, United States Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Resource Bulletin PNW-RB-197,  
  6. ^ "Park History". National Parks Service. Retrieved 2006-08-18.  
  7. ^ Albright, Horace M.; Frank J. Taylor. Oh, Ranger!. illustrated by Ruth Taylor White (Centennial ed.). Riverside, Connecticut: The Chatham Press, Inc.. Retrieved 2006-08-18.  
  8. ^ "Fish and Fishing at Crater Lake National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2006-08-18.  
  9. ^ Barnard, Jeff (24 July 2003). "New tour boats give Crater Lake a lift". Corvallis Gazette Times (Corvallis, OR).  

Further reading

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Crater Lake in the Cascade mountains.
Crater Lake in the Cascade mountains.

Crater Lake National Park [1] is a United States national park located in southern Oregon, in the United States. The centerpiece of the park is Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States, known for its deep blue color.



Crater Lake was formed from the collapse of Mount Mazama, a volcano in southern Oregon that once stood about 11,000 feet tall. A series of destructive eruptions around 5000 BC caused the mountain's peak to collapse into its lava chamber, resulting in a caldera nearly six miles wide. Over time, snowmelt and rain collected in the crater to form the lake, which at 1,949 feet deep, is presently the deepest in the USA, 2nd in North America, and 9th in the world. Based on a comparison of average depths, however, Crater Lake at 1148 feet, is the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and third deepest in the world.

The first known white man to reach the lake was prospector John Hillman, who found the lake in 1853. Largely through the efforts of naturalist William Gladstone Steel, the United States declared Crater Lake a national park in 1902.

Crater Lake Visitor Center before the snow melt
Crater Lake Visitor Center before the snow melt

Crater Lake's location high in the Cascade mountains (about 6,000 feet above sea level) means that snow is often visible year-round. The lake is often enveloped in heavy snow during the fall, winter, and spring, forcing the closure of roads and trails. In fact, the lake averages 533 inches of snow a year. Consequently, the best time to visit Crater Lake is in the summer months, when all facilities, roads, and trails are open.

Get in

By plane

The nearest major airport to Crater Lake National Park is Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, located three miles north of Medford and 80 miles south of the park.

By car

From the north

  • From Eugene, Portland, and points north on I-5: Follow Interstate 5 south to Roseburg, then take Oregon 138 east to the park's north entrance.
  • From Bend and Central Oregon: Follow U.S. 97 south to Oregon 138 west to the park's north entrance.

The north entrance is typically closed for the winter season (mid-October to mid-June).

From the south

  • From Medford and points south on I-5: Follow Interstate 5 north to Medford, then take Oregon 62 north and east to the park's west entrance (open year round).
  • From Klamath Falls: Follow U.S. 97 north to route 62 north and west to the park's south entrance (open year round).


Entry fee is US$10.00 for seven days. National Park Passes and Golden Passports are accepted.

Map of Crater Lake National Park
Map of Crater Lake National Park

The 33-mile Rim Drive encircles Crater Lake, giving varied perspectives of the lake, rim, and surrounding terrain. Open only during the summer from late June to mid-October, there are many overlooks with interpretive signs. The only access to the lake itself is by steep trail to Cleetwood Cove, where boat tours of the lake are offered. Numerous picnic areas are along the Rim Drive, as is hiking access from Rim Village to Garfield Peak. Rim Drive also accesses Lightning Springs (west side), Cleetwood Cove (north side), Mount Scott (east side), Sun Notch Viewpoint and Crater Peak (south side). Both Kerr Notch and Sun Notch Viewpoints are particularly spectacular viewpoints, with views down to Phantom Rock and across the lake to Wizard Island.

There are many trails open to horses. But, if you're not a cowboy then hiking the trails is also a great experience. While on the trails keep an eye open for the many buffalo grazing in the hills.

  • The Pinnacles can be reached in the summer from the Rim Drive on a paved, 6-mile road. These eerie spires of eroded ash rise from the edges of Sand and Wheeler Creeks in pinnacle-fashion. On the way you'll pass Lost Creek Campground. Once upon a time, the road continued east of the turn-out, to the former East Entrance of the park. A path now replaces the old road and follows the rim of Sand Creek (and more views of pinnacles) to where the entrance arch still stands. An different route back to the Rim Drive, is to take the Grayback Road, a one-way, westbound only, gravel road.
  • Steel Information Center, Phone: +1 (541) 594-2211, extension 402. Daily year round, except for Christmas day. April - early November, 9AM-5PM. Early November - early April, 10AM-4PM. A park ranger is on duty to assist you with information, weather forecasts, backcountry camping permits, ski route advisories, and safety tips. A 20 minute film The Crater Lake Story describes the formation of Crater Lake through a story passed down by Native Americans of this area and is shown throughout the day in the auditorium.
  • Rim Village Visitor Center, located on the south rim of the caldera, approximately 200 yards west of the Crater Lake Lodge. Open early June through late September. General park information, backcountry camping permits, and educational sales items are available here.
  • Sinnott Memorial Overlook and Crater Lake Lodge. Both of these facilities have interpretive displays and exhibits which are open to the public in the summer.
Crater Lake
Crater Lake
  • If you want to explore the lake a little closer you should experience a boat tour. Only for those who are willing to hike about 15 minutes down into the crater. Access is by 1.1 mile Cleetwood Trail which descends 700 feet to the lake surface. Guided tours explore Wizard Island. The price can be expensive at $25 per person but it's well worth it
  • Fishing Season May 20 through Oct 31; however, it is legal to fish the lake year round. All waters in the park are open to fishing and no license is required. Fishing is allowed in the park from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. All waters are restricted to use of artificial lures and flies only. No organic bait of any kind can be used in Crater Lake National Park. This includes live or dead fish, power bait, and fish eggs or roe. The lake contains Kokanee Salmon and rainbow trout. No private boats or flotation devices are allowed. Fish must be packed out, they can not be cleaned at the lake. Streams contain Eastern, Rainbow, German Brown and Bull Trout. The streams, however, are largely inaccessible due to the steep canyons surrounding them.
  • Scuba Diving, Permits (no charge) are only issued from the Canfield Building (Ranger Station) in the Park Headquarters complex. A ranger will confirm your diving ability and give you specific information about diving in the lake. The lake level is at 6,173 feet in elevation, so high altitude dive tables should be used in planning your dive. Access is by Cleetwood Trail is 1.1 miles in length and descends 700 feet to the lake surface. You must be able to carry all your equipment up and down the trail. Wheeled vehicles are prohibited. Restrooms are available at the top and bottom of the Cleetwood Trail but there are no food or drinking water facilities.
  • Day Hiking. There are over 90 miles of trails, with marked routes from 15 minutes to more than two hours. Hiking or climbing inside the caldera is prohibited. Conditions within the caldera are extremely dangerous. The Cleetwood Trail is the only safe and legal access to the lake’s shore.
  • Dogs and other pets are not allowed on park trails.
  • Smoking is not allowed on any trail.
  • Bicycling is permitted only on paved roads and the Grayback Drive.
  • Feeding wild animals, including birds, is prohibited. Feeding animals is dangerous for you, bad for them, and harmful for the ecosystem.
  • Stay on trails to protect vegetation and fragile hillsides. Shortcutting trails, particularly on switchbacks, can damage slopes, making them more susceptible to erosion and visual damage.
  • Be prepared, Equip yourself with water, food, warm clothing, rain gear, and anything else appropriate to the trail you take. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
  • Leave all rocks, plants and artifacts undisturbed for the enjoyment of future hikers.
  • Do not drink water from park streams or from the lake without properly treating it.
  • Bicycling is welcome on the paved roads only, NOT trails. That includes the 33 mile Rim Drive. Bicycling is difficult because of the steep hills and high altitudes and also because the Drive may not have shoulders and has blind curves. It is only for riders experienced with traffic. Recommended only in July, August and September.
  • Ski or snowshoe on ungroomed trails by permit only.
  • Hunting is not permitted in Crater Lake National Park.


While exploring keep an eye out for the gift shop that has many interesting souvenirs from paintings to postcards. You could even take home a custom carved wood sign.


Crater Lake Lodge Restaurant, Phone: +1 541 594-1184, Rim Village. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spectacular views of Crater Lake. Dinner entrées emphasize the Pacific Northwest. Crater Lake Lodge Restaurant pictures and information.


Be aware that the waters there contain a lot of minerals and it is advised that you bring your own water with you while hiking the trails.



The Historic Prospect Hotel, 391 Mill Creek Drive, Prospect, Toll free: 1-800-944-6490 or Phone: (541) 560-3664, fax: (541) 560-3825, [2]. Built in the late 1800's and offers a cozy and comfortable night's stay. Be aware that there is high demand and you should plan your travels well in advance. They also have great breakfast

Park service facilities:

  • Crater Lake Lodge, Phone: +1 (541) 830-8700, Open From 05/24/2006 To 10/16/2006. 71 rooms. Normally open mid-May through mid-October. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
  • Mazama Village Motor Inn, Phone: +1 (541) 830-8700, Open From 06/02/2006 To 10/02/2006. Has 40 units and is located in the Mazama Village complex. Reservations are recommended.


The National Park Service runs two campgrounds:

  • Lost Creek Campground Open mid July to early October (weather permitting). Has 16 tent sites.
  • Mazama Campground, Open mid June to early October (weather permitting). Has 200 sites, Reservations are not taken, however sites are usually available. Running water, flush toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings are provided.
This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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