12 Deep Facts About Crater Lake National Park
By Megan Snyder
If you aspire to be one of about 500,000 people who trek to Crater Lake National Park each year, chances are you'll try to spot its strikingly blue lake during one of just three or four months when there isn’t snow on the ground. But the area has more than liquid assets. Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park’s 183,224 acres are filled with evergreens, old-growth forests, and volcano remnants. Here are 15 more highlights from Oregon’s only national park.
1. THE PARK’S NAMESAKE FEATURE WAS FORMED FROM A COLLAPSED VOLCANO.
The basin that eventually became Crater Lake formed when a 12,000-foot-tall volcano called Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed 7,700 years ago. The volcanic basin, called a caldera, eventually filled with water and became the lake that we know today.
2. CRATER LAKE IS THE DEEPEST LAKE IN THE U.S.
Bottoming out at 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America. (For some perspective, if you placed New York City's One World Trade Center at Crater Lake’s deepest part, there would still be 151 feet of water above the tower’s highest point.) The body of water also ranks as the ninth deepest lake internationally.
3. THE AREA WAS ONCE REVERED BY THE KLAMATH PEOPLE.
docentjoyce, Flickr // CC-BY-SA-2.0
Long before it became a national park, the Klamaths and other Native American tribes considered the lake to be a spiritual place; only those who possessed great wisdom and strength could view it. Llao Rock, which rises nearly 2,000 feet above the lake’s surface, is named after one of the Spirit Chiefs that the Klamath believed created Crater Lake.
4. A CHILDHOOD DREAM LED TO IT BEING DESIGNATED AS A NATIONAL PARK.
In 1870, a child in Kansas named William Gladstone Steel read about Crater Lake in a newspaper. He vowed to visit the lake one day, and finally did in 1885. Steel then made it his mission to have Crater Lake named as a national park, which finally happened on May 22, 1902.
5. THERE ARE NO STREAMS FLOWING IN OR OUT OF THE LAKE.
The water level is maintained only by precipitation, evaporation, and seepage, which helps to explain the water’s clarity and extremely blue appearance. In fact, when white explorers discovered the area in 1853, that’s exactly what they called the pristine body of water: Deep Blue Lake.
6. SNOW COVERS THE PARK FOR EIGHT MONTHS OF THE YEAR.
The park is snow-covered from October through June, but with an average annual snowfall of 44 feet, snow can stick around into July. Although it’s cold enough for flakes to fly, the lake itself doesn’t completely freeze over. The last time the surface was completely frozen was 1949, though it came close to a total freeze in 1985.
7. THERE IS A SHIP-SHAPED ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE.
Known as Phantom Ship, the island is an ancient rock formation resembling a large, abandoned sea vessel standing 170 feet above the water.
8. A DESERT OF PUMICE STRETCHES ACROSS THE NORTHERN PART OF THE PARK.
The eruption of Mount Mazama shot astronomical amounts of ash skyward, and helped create the park’s Pumice Desert, approximately 50 feet deep, following the eruption. The desert is porous and cannot sustain much plant life, though what does exist there is rugged enough to endure the landscape.
9. THERE IS ALSO A PUMICE CASTLE ON THE GROUNDS.
oceanyamaha, Flickr // CC-BY-SA-2.0
If a pumice desert isn’t enough volcanic rock for you, then perhaps a castle will do the trick. The park’s Pumice Castle is a bright, rust-colored pumice outcropping on the eastern wall of the caldera.
10. THE PARK'S PINNACLES, A COLLECTION OF NEEDLE-LIKE ROCK FORMATIONS, WERE REVEALED AFTER YEARS OF EROSION.
Llywrchvia, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
The tall, skinny forms rising above the Sand Creek Canyon once acted as vents for steam and gas that swirled below the canyon’s surface. The rising heat solidified the ash into the towering pumice figures that stand at over 50 feet.
11. WIZARD ISLAND ISN'T MAGICAL.
Don't expect to find Harry Potter on the island. Named for its resemblance to a sorcerer’s hat, Wizard Island is the top of a cinder cone volcano within Crater Lake. Boat tours of the lake include a stop at the island to let visitors get a closer look at the 800-year-old trees growing there.
12. A HEMLOCK HAS BEEN FLOATING UPRIGHT IN THE LAKE FOR OVER A CENTURY.
When people talk about the Old Man of the Lake, they aren’t disrespecting their elders; they’re talking about Crater Lake’s 30-foot-tall floating hemlock. Visitors can try to spot the four-foot section that rises above the lake as the wind currents slowly move it along.