Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

Information provided by the National Park Service

Few places on earth command overwhelming awe from observers, but Crater Lake, in south central Oregon, certainly does. Even in a region of volcanic wonders, Crater Lake can only be described in superlatives.

Stories of the deep blue lake can never prepare visitors for their first breathtaking look from the brink of this 6-mile-wide caldera which was created by the eruption and collapse of Mt. Mazama almost 7,000 years ago. Even seasoned travelers gasp at the 20-mile circle of cliffs, tinted in subtle shades and fringed with hemlock, fir, and pine: all this in a lake of indescribable blue.

Crater Lake Vacation

Crater Lake National Park is host to a diverse array of activities. While enjoying the natural scenic wonders, park visitors may hike in old growth forests, participate in a variety of interpretive activites, camp out or stay in an historic hotel, or even cross-country ski during the eight-month-long winters in the high Cascades.

Preserving this environment for the continued use and enjoyment of the public is also a major goal of the National Park Service. Resource managers are invloved in studies on lake ecology, forest ecosystems, geologic processes, even the role of fire in maintaining healthy relationships between the forests and the land. Their work yields valuable data on the natural systems which have created and maintained that which we fondly call Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake National Park has been recommended as a wilderness preserve, a place where we may forget ourselves for a time and enjoy a surge of healthy outdoor exploration.

Visitors to the park enjoy multiple opportunities to explore the caldera and enjoy all the spectacular view points on the 33-mile-long rim drive. A peaceful guided boat tour, hiking trails and interpretive programs are offered in the summer and ranger-led snowshoe walks and many trails for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Crater Lake Lodging

Crater Lake Oregon is widely known for its intense blue color and spectacular views. During summer, visitors may navigate the Rim Drive around the lake, enjoy boat tours on the lake surface, stay in the historic Crater Lake Lodge, camp at Mazama Village, or hike some of the park's various trails including Mt. Scott at 8,929 ft. Diverse interpretive programs enhance visitors' knowledge and appreciation of this national park, 90 percent of which is managed as wilderness.

The winter brings some of the heaviest snowfall in the country, averaging 533 inches per year. Although park facilities mostly close for this snowy season, visitors may view the lake during fair weather, enjoy cross-country skiing and participate in weekend snowshoe hikes.

Crater Lake History and Legend

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. The battle was witnessed in the eruption of Mt. Mazama and the creation of Crater Lake. The Klamaths revered the lake and the surrounding area, keeping it undiscovered by white explorers until 1853.

That year, on June 12, three gold prospectors, John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaac Skeeters, came upon a long, sloping mountain. Upon reaching its highest point, a huge, awe-inspiring lake was visible.

"This is the bluest lake we've ever seen," they reported, and named it Deep Blue Lake. But gold was more on the minds of settlers at the time and the discovery was soon forgotten.

Captain Clarence Dutton was the next man to make a discovery at Crater Lake Oregon. Dutton commanded a U.S. Geological Survey party which 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. Dutton's soundings of 1,996 feet were amazingly close to the sonar readings made in 1959 that established the lake's deepest point at 1,932 feet.

William Gladstone Steel devoted his life and fortune to the establishment and management of Crater Lake National Park. 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. Steel's dream was realized on May 22, 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill giving Crater Lake national park status. And because of Steel's involvement, Crater Lake Lodge was opened in 1915 and the Rim Drive was completed in 1918.

For more information about Crater Laker National Park, visit the Crater Lake Trust website.