Crater Lake National Park protects 183,225 acres around the caldera of Crater Lake, a remnant of a collapsed volcano. With a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, second deepest in North America, and ninth deepest in the world. In spite of a thick haze from a large forest fire nearby, Crater Lake was the most intense blue color we’ve ever seen.
Repeated volcanic eruptions for 400,000 years built up the 12,000-foot Mount Mazama. Then just 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama exploded in its most violent eruption ever. As its magma chamber emptied, the mountain could no longer support its own weight and collapsed, forming a deep caldera. Centuries of rain and snowfall filled the caldera, creating the deep Crater Lake. Today precipitation is balanced with evaporation and seepage, resulting in a nearly stable lake level. This photo shows the grey monolith Llao Rock, which rises 1,800 feet above the lake. It’s a remnant slope of Mount Mazama and gives an idea of the massive size of the original volcano.
Because there are no streams carrying sediment into Crater Lake, it’s the purest large body of water in the world. Astonishingly, the water in Crater Lake is more pure than the water that comes out of most home faucets! In 2003, scientists were amazed to discover that UV rays penetrated deeper in Crater Lake than was thought theoretically possible, so a benchmark in physics had to be reset. Moss doesn’t grow within 85 feet of the lake’s surface because the UV rays are so strong through the pure water.
The park was established in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the fifth U.S. national park and is the only national park in the state of Oregon. This photo shows a pumice desert, where even thousands of years after the last eruption, life still struggles to take hold.
Grouse is a relative of the chicken. This cute little grouse had no fear of us as she pecked around on the ground for food.
In the middle of Crater Lake is Wizard Island, a volcanic cinder cone that rises 755 feet above the lake. Wizard Island is larger than it looks—315 acres! After the major eruption of Mount Mazama described above, smaller eruptions over the next several hundred years created a series of cinder cones on the caldera floor. Wizard Island is the only cone large enough to rise above the surface of the lake. In the photo above, Theresa is sitting below a lookout tower on The Watchman, a peak that rises a couple thousand feet above the west side of Crater Lake.
If you love snow, then Crater Lake is the place to go. Up to 37 inches of snow have fallen here in a single day, and in the winter of 1950, the park was buried in 75 feet of snow. The average snow depth in spring is 15 feet. Winter starts here in September and doesn’t end until late June. This photo shows the nearly 9,000-foot Mount Scott–the highest point in the park–reflecting off Crater Lake.
The 33-mile Rim Drive completely circles the edge of Crater Lake, providing visitors with a view of this magnificent lake from every angle. Click on this photo to see a large panorama of Crater Lake.