“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” — Danny Kaye
Throughout history, all the great and grandiose superlatives have been written about Crater Lake. The bluest water, highest hills, biggest sky – and all are true. There is no place quite as magical or eternally appealing as this glorious lake; Oregon’s only National Park.
Despite the immensity, Crater Lake has a subtle appeal, too, in that it brings one back to simplicity and self-renewal. After the ice cream and gift shops, there is little to do but drive around, hike near, or sit down and just look at the lake.
It is simple — just a massive, blue lake, sky and land. It is peaceful. The only motion is a slow-moving boat or two, a few begging squirrels and lazy clouds. This is what snags the visitor and makes the trip to this perfect place the memory of a lifetime. The gentle immersion into peace and stillness.
Crater Lake exploded into existence in a brutal way. Over 7,000 years ago, a violent volcanic eruption, more than forty times the power of Mt. St. Helens, collapsed towering Mt. Mazama and created an enormous depression in the earth. The hot molten lava sealed the bottom of this crater. In time, rainfall and melting snow filled this huge bowl, creating the magnificent lake we revere today.
Crater Lake is positioned near four Native territories – the Klamath, Takelma, Umpqua and Molala Nations. This area was, throughout history, a spiritual quest site for Native Peoples. Because of that, Natives kept its location secret from trappers and hunters for centuries. Three gold seekers, following streams through the Cascade Mountains in 1853, discovered the lake; one documented “this is the bluest lake I’ve ever seen.”
Considered the Father of Crater Lake National Park, William Gladstone Steel, learned of the lake and at age eighteen, left the Midwest in 1885 for Oregon and devoted himself to Crater Lake and surroundings for the next fifty years. Steel threw himself into all scientific surveys, named many of the peaks, built most of the trails and championed for National Park status. Because of his drive, Crater Lake Lodge opened in 1915 and the Rim Drive was completed in 1918. Thank you, Mr. Steel; you have left us a masterpiece.
Nearly 500,000 visitors a year come to Crater Lake. The intense blue is impossible to accurately describe or photograph, but it is sealed forever in memories. The color is a powerful shock, even if one is seeing it for the hundredth time.
At 1,932 feet, Crater Lake is our country’s deepest lake and the seventh deepest lake in the world. It is six miles in circumference. Two large islands sit within the lake – Wizard Island, the largest and a destination for boaters, and Phantom Ship, an interesting rock formation resembling an old pirate ship.
Winter snows average a depth of forty-four feet, making this a snowshoe and cross country ski paradise.
Teddy Roosevelt was awed and overwhelmed by the beauty of Crater Lake, and in 1902 he made the area our nation’s 5th National Park. It is a place like no other: dramatic nature, intense color, and quiet hugeness. It is the place of memories and reflection. Come and see for yourself.
But be warned: once will not be enough!