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Crater Lake — The Most Beautiful Lake In The World(!?)

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon


The phrase “most beautiful in the world” is batted about with relative ease.  I've heard it used to describe dogs, cats, flowers, homely children and assorted celebrities.  Always it denotes something special to the observer but sadly only to that observer.  When referring to Crater Lake, however, the phrase “most beautiful lake in the world” may indeed be accurate.  It's a striking deep blue lake  — “The Jewel of the Cascades” — placed in an improbable location, near the top of an volcanic crater.


Picture 007 Crater Lake National Park

(Wizard Island, Crater Lake, Oregon) 


Crater Lake National Park is located in South Central Oregon.  Some might say it’s in the middle of nowhere but I found the drive along the Rogue River to the park to be beautiful.  The park is fairly isolated — about midway between Medford and Bend – with only a small Rim Village (including the beautiful historic Crater Lake Lodge) and a few tiny towns to provide services.   The Klamath Indians had been aware of and revered the lake for hundreds of years, but the first white prospector did not see it until 1853.  President Theodore Roosevelt declared it the country’s fifth national park in 1902.   It still is Oregon’s only National Park.  Although not classified as such, I think it should be one of UNESCO’s World heritage sites for it is quite unique.


Picture 002 Crater Lake National Park


Part of what makes a visit here special is that there are no distant views of the lake to prepare you for what you’ll see.  You literally need to be at the top of the collapsed rim to see Crater Lake.  My first view of it gave me goosebumps, it was so stunning.  Set against the steep (up to 2000 ft -- 600 m) cliffs of the remnant volcanic caldera (Mt. Mazama was the name of the volcanic cone that blew its top many thousands of years ago, much like Mt. St. Helens did more recently).  In this gigantic bowl sits this lovely body of bluest clear water, often still and as reflective of clouds and mountains as a mirror.  Occasional ripples stir the surface but it is usually a calm scene.


Picture 017 Crater Lake National Park

(Phantom Ship Island, Crater Lake, Oregon)


Once seen the image of Crater Lake will never be forgotten.  The lake is more than five miles across and at its deepest is almost 2000″ deep (600 m), averaging over 1000″ (300 m) in depth.  This makes it the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest lakes in the world.  It contains two islands, the largest of which is Wizard Island which most will recognize from photos of the lake.  The smaller island is Phantom Ship which resembles the masts of a shipwreck.


Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

(Snow persists in the Park well into June) 


The altitude of the rim is over a mile above sea-level at around 7000″, so its winters are long and cold and there’s lots of snow (almost 50 feet a year).  Snow can be on the ground from October until late June or early July.  Only a few hearty souls enter this Arctic landscape in the winter, which offers opportunities for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing.  The snow melt is what keeps the lake at its current fairly constant level supplemented by some rain during the summer; this being offset by evaporation and seepage into the ground.  While summer days are usually warm and dry, it can snow at any time so always be prepared for bad weather whenever you travel to the mountains.  And be sure to use your sunblock as the atmosphere at the rim is thin and you’re likely to get sunburn very quickly.


Picture 015 Crater Lake National Park

 (Crater Lake National Park -- Whitebark Pines)


A 33 mile road surrounds the rim of the Crater and it certainly is worth exploring.  It offers view points and changing perspective of the lake — best appreciated in how the islands appear different from each perspective — as well as beautiful views of surrounding meadows and distant peaks in the Cascade range.  As with most National Parks, speed on the road is limited, a good idea as it also is very popular with cyclists, so be cautious.


Picture 018 Rogue River Gorge

(Rogue River, Oregon, near Crater Lake National Park) 


Camping facilities are available and hiking is popular.  An large assortment of trails are available. The Cleetwood trail will take you down to the lakeside and a boat dock (daily boat tours to Wizard Island are available); it is the only trail that provides lake access but is strenuous, with an 11% grade.  Fishing is available (the lake has been stocked with trout and salmon) and certified divers also may use the lake (whose clear but cold waters afford excellent underwater views with visibility of almost 200 feet).


Images (21)
  • Entrance to Crater Lake National Park
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: Snow remains at this altitude (just below 7000 feet) well into July.
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: You can see the reminants of the volcanic caldera, now filled with water to a depth of almost 2000 feet.
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Wizard's Island, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: The island is said to be shaped like a wizard's hat
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: The water is among the purest you'll find anywhere
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: You can see the up-slope of the old volcanic crater which erupted 7500 years earlier
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: Still a lot of snow on the ground in mid-June
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: The day was beautifully warm and made for good snow-ball fights
  • Crater Lake National Park -- Whitebark Pines: Not many species can survive the harsh winters of the rim of the Crater.
  • Crater Lake National Park -- Whitebark Pines
  • Crater Lake National Park -- Whitebark Pines
  • Crater Lake National Park -- Whitebark Pines: I love twisted old trees!
  • Crater Lake National Park -- Phantom Ship Island: One of two islands in the lake
  • Crater Lake National Park -- Phantom Ship Island: Obviously resembles a ship -- hence the name.
  • Rogue River, Oregon
  • Rogue River Gorge, Oregon
  • Rogue River Gorge, Oregon
  • Rogue River Gorge, Oregon

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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Comments (3)

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Certainly is beautiful DrF !!

Those snow capped mountains scare me off from wanting to dive into the lake.

People do apply odd descriptions to wonderful things.

My favourite is "It was breath-taking"

The number of times I've applied the Heimlich manoeuvre to someone who's been choking on a magnificent vista.

Please tell me - are the Canadians addicted to calling everything "Awesome" too ?


Last edited by GarryRF

Thanks for your comments, Garry.  The lake, as you would expect for one so high up, is too cold for most people to want to swim in it.


But it's pretty awesome, eh?   I'd say the "eh?" is perhaps the best way to identify a Canadian.  Awesome I've heard used most everywhere I go, and Awesome certainly can be applied to this lake.


Hope you have a very pleasant New Year, GarryRF!

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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