By Chuck Woodbury
If you have never been to Crater Lake, you have not seen the bluest blue on Earth — its water! It’s amazing. It’s breathtaking. It’s gorgeous!
Crater Lake, in south central Oregon, is just shy of 2,000 feet deep at its deepest point, the deepest lake in the United States. No water comes in except snow melt and no water runs out. It’s the purest water on earth. Evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall. Every 250 years, the water is replaced.
The lake was born 7,700 years ago when 12,000-foot Cascade volcano Mt. Mazama blew its top and then the sides of the mountain caved in on themselves, forming the deep caldera that after about 700 years filled up with snowmelt. It holds 4.9 trillion gallons of water, the equivalent of about 74 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.
There’s a lot of snow to melt into the lake, about 44 feet a year. Yes, feet, not inches! Look at the picture of the stacked motorhomes and car to the left. If these vehicles were left at Crater Lake in the fall just as you see them, they would be buried by snow before spring.
Crater Lake is a National Park. People come from around the world to see it. Unlike most lakes, there are no fishing boats, no jet skis, no rubber rafts! Just water — deep blue water. The only way to get to the lakeshore is to hike a trail that descends 700 feet from the crater’s rim. From there, you can board an NPS tour boat to Wizard Island, a cinder cone volcano that rises from the bottom of Crater Lake.
Here’s interesting and/or useful information about Crater Lake:
•If all the ash from Mt. Mazama’s eruption 7,700 years ago was gathered, it would have covered the enter state of Oregon eight inches.
•A 30-foot tree stump, named Old Man of the Lake, has been bobbing vertically in the lake for more than a century. The low temperature of the water has slowed its decomposition. The tree can sometimes be seen from National Park Service tour boats.
•A midge fly lays its eggs on the surface of the lake. The eggs then sink nearly 2,000 feet to the pitch dark bottom where they then hatch and feed as larvae, maturing into pupae. The pupae then wiggle their way to the lake’s surface, where they emerge as an adult.
•The park’s two-lane rim road is 33 miles. It’s closed in the winter, usually by November 1. The park has two campgrounds, most sites primitive, open in the summer season only. There are a handful of sites as long as 50 feet with electric hookups. The lake has no native fish, but rainbow trout and kokanee salmon (landlocked version of sockeye) were planted. No fishing license is required. Inquire at the visitor center about the two areas where you can toss in your line.
•Seven-hundred-foot Wizard Island is impossible to miss, but most visitors never see the lake’s other island, Phantom Ship, even though it’s the height of a 16-story building!
•To get an idea of the depth of Crater Lake, at 1,943 feet, you could stand the following at the deepest point and they would still be underwater.
•1.5 Empire State Buildings
•3 Space Needles
•12 Statues of Liberty
•310 NBA players
•150 Winnebago Adventurer motorhomes
The park is open year-round, although most roads and trails are closed in the winter. Roads are plowed in winter to Rim Village, where there’s a visitor center and snack bar (excellent grilled cheese sandwiches).