(Last updated 1/28/06)

Located near the southern end of Oregon's High Cascades, Crater Lake National Park,
the nation's 5th oldest (1902), was the culmination of a 17-year long lobbying effort by William G. Steel, who became fascinated with the lake as a Kansas schoolboy, then spent most of his adult life fighting for its preservation. The nearly circular lake, ca. 5 miles N-S by 6 miles E-W, is actually a caldera basin, formed about 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the top 5,000 ft of Mt. Mazama (once 12,000 ft high) after it erupted cataclysmically, spewing out nearly 12 cubic miles of material in a few days (the largest eruption ever in the Cascade Range, over 40 times greater than that of St. Helens in 1980). Although it has no outlets or inlets, over time the caldera filled with water, and eventually a balance was achieved between precipitation falling into the lake and evaporation -- its level (usually cited as 6,176 ft) has fluctuated by less than 15 ft in the past 100 years. At 1,932 ft, the lake is the deepest in North America (average depth 1,500 ft), and seventh deepest in the world; its clarity, at 134 ft (1994), is also a record

A number of Cascade peaks can be seen from the lake rim's lofty height (which averages 7,100 ft) - about 15 miles to the north, from left to right: Mt. Bailey (8,363 ft); Diamond Peak (8,750 ft; ca. 25 miles further north) with Diamond Lake just visible in front of it; Red Cone (7,363) in the center foreground with the Three Sisters (almost 90 miles north) barely visible behind and to the right; and Mt. Thielsen (9,182 ft; an eroded volcanic plug), behind the barren ash layer of the Pumice Desert

Wizard Island (left), a classic cinder cone that rose above water level only 800 years ago, is an indicator of continued volcanic activity in the area (another is the Merriam Cone, which rises 1,394 ft from the caldera floor, but is still over 500 ft below the surface); just behind it on the rim are The Watchman (8,013 ft) and Hillman Peak (8,151 ft). The latter (right), the rim's highest point, is the remainder of one of Mazama's many ancillary volcanoes, sliced in half by the caldera's collapse

Although it looks relatively small when seen from the high rim walls, Wizard rises 764 ft above the surface of the lake (the dark blue water in the foreground, left, is Fumarole Bay). The crater at its top (right) is 300 ft wide and 90 ft deep; the narrow passage between the island and the shore is Skell Channel.

East of the lake, a view of the partially eroded volcanic cone of Mt. Scott (left; 8,929 ft), the highest point in the Park; just south of Sun Notch on the south rim, the 100-ft multi-tiered Vidae Falls, the highest waterfall in the park - normally a torrent (fed by melting snow) that pours into Sun Creek in July (center), it's a mere trickle by late September (right)

Crater Lake's Rim Drive (1918), ca. 33 miles long, is the result of another lobbying effort by William Steel; it circles the lake, with most of it right on the rim, providing continuously spectacular views. Looking past Hillman Peak, a view of layered Llao Rock (left; ca. 8,000 ft; 1,870 ft above the lake's surface) from the shoulder of The Watchman; looking past the Pumice Castle, a view of Cloudcap (right; 7,960 ft), the highest point on the east rim

About 300 ft long and rising 160 ft above water level, the vertical slab of dense andesitic lava known as the Phantom Ship - perhaps the oldest rock in the caldera - is a remnant of one of the many dikes formed by seepage through cracks on Phantom Cone, a volcano that preceded Mazama. Its name derives from the mast-like appearance of its spiny backbone, and from its ability to disappear into the shadows at certain times of the day

About 6 miles southeast of the caldera, The Pinnacles are eroded spires of cemented ash, some over 200 ft high, that mark post-eruption fumaroles - vents for the superheated gasses trapped beneath the layers of pumice and scoria that flowed from Mazama's eruption; the ones shown here line the rim of Sand Creek

Crater Lake Lodge (1909-15), another Steel lobbying effort, sits right on the edge of the southwest rim, ca. 900 ft above the lake. Built by a private developer in 1929, the National Park Service acquired it in 1967, closed it in 1989 when the Great Hall Wing was declared unsafe, reopened it in 1995 after extensive rebuilding

Views looking northeast from the back terrace of the Lodge: (left) the protrusion on the far left is Wizard Island, with Llao Rock visible on the rim behind; (right) the prominent feature on the right is Cloudcap

The colors of sunset play out on Garfield Peak (8,054 ft) just east of the Lodge, another spectacular feature of the terrace view

More Cascade peaks are visible to the south (left) from a viewpoint just above the Lodge: Union Peak (7,698 ft; ca 8 miles away), with Mt. McLoughlin (9,496 ft; ca. 35 miles away) to its left; (right) just visible on the horizon at far left behind Upper Klamath Lake (which lies ca. 12 miles east of McLoughlin) is California's Mt. Shasta (14,161 ft; ca. 100 miles south of CL)

Return to Home Page