Crater Lake is what is left of Mount Mazama in southern Oregon. About 7,700 years ago Mount Mazama had a very large eruption. It is supposed that as the magma chamber emptied a ring of vents formed around the peak of Mt. Mazama and as this ring was completed, the entire top of the mountain collapsed on itself, creating a very large deep caldera.
Over the next several centuries this caldera was slowly filled with snow melt and rain fall and became this beautiful lake. There is no water flowing into or out of Crater Lake which means that the water it contains is some of the purest water on the planet. It is also the deepest lake in the US 1,949 at the deepest point and an average depth of over 1,100 feet. Of course, with no inflow or outflow, the depth varies with weather conditions. But with average snow fall of 44 feet, it stays pretty full.
The magnificent blue of the lake is due to the great clarity and great depth of the lake. Sunlight is basically sucked into the lake and absorbed, only the shorter blue rays are able to be reflected thus giving the lake its signature deep blue color. The blue is much more vibrant on a sunny day, and as you can see it was pretty cloudy and rainy during part of our visit. The combination of misty rain, being partially in the cloud and our high vantage point gave this nice shot of a rainbow looking down at the lake.
The caldera rim ranges from 7 to 8,000 feet above sea level and the lake is at about 6,000 feet. They estimate that Mt. Mazama was at least 12,000 feet when it collapsed meaning that over 4,000 feet of mountain was sucked up into the empty magma chamber, and the resulting caldera was almost 2,000 feet deep. The blast that occurred when the mountain collapsed is estimated to have been 100 times stronger than Mt. St. Helens explosion in 1980. But that was not the end of Mazama’s volcanic activity. Wizard Island in the lake is evidence that the caldera attempted to fill itself via subsequent eruptions. Actually, there are several cinder cones in the lake from later volcanos, but only Wizard is visible above the surface of the lake.
The lake is surrounded on all sides by steep walls some as high as 2,000 feet. In the summer they have a boat ride that takes you around the lake and to Wizard Island, but the only way down is to walk a mile down the steep edges and then after the ride walk back up. Unfortunately (or not) they stopped the boat rides the week before we arrived. The web site said that they were stopping early this year due to lack of employees??? Who knows, I am not sure if I was relieved or disappointed that they were stopped. If they were still going we would have had to do it and I am not sure if I would have made it back up???
Another interesting feature in the lake is the Phantom Ship. This is a natural rock formation on the southeastern side of the lake that resembles a ghost ship especially on foggy and rainy days. See the difference.
Although the lake is the main attraction, the park has other attractions. Waterfalls, hikes, canyons and the like are numerous within the park. There are also these features called pinnacles. On the eastern side of the caldera about 7 miles from the rim are these beautiful spires or pinnacles. They were originally volcanic vents and when the very hot volcanic gasses shot up thru the surrounding ash it created some what of a cement. Over time the softer material has eroded and these pinnacles remain.
They also boast that they have the highest paved road in Oregon within the park. A short side road takes you up to Cloudcap Overlook at 7,865 feet. It is aptly named Cloudcap as you can see what a difference a day makes…
Also, we have seen trees like these a lot of places. The wind and weather only allow them to grow on one side, but I have never heard them called “Flag Trees.” So we learned a new term.
Peace Love and keep the volcanoes quite!!!