Thursday, June 16, 2016

Crater Lake National Park, 6/09/2016

Located about 30 miles north of where we were staying in Prospect, OR, Crater Lake National Park is located in the Cascade Range. Mount Mazama, a 12,000' mountain that is part of the Cascade Volcanic arc, erupted about 7,700 years ago blowing the top of the mountain off. The eruption was 42 times the force of the eruption of nearby Mount St. Helens. What remained was a deep crater that eventually filled with rain water and snow melt (it took about 720 years to fill to its current level), creating what is known today as Crater Lake. There are no rivers or creeks that flow into or out of the lake. Mount Mazama is a dormant, but not extinct, volcano. 

With a depth of 1,943' it is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the 10 deepest in the world. The clarity of the water has been measured to a depth of 175' (a world record). There is a ring of moss that starts about 100' below the surface and continues down to about 450'. This is attributable to the amount of sunlight that is able to penetrate the incredibly clear water of the lake. The width of the lake is 5 by 6 miles and it contains 5 trillion gallons of water. Only 2% of the lake floor has been explored!

We entered the park at the Annie Spring Station (south side of the park). Our first stop was the Steele Visitor Center, where we obtained information about the part of the park that is open this time of year. We watched the 22-minute video shown here every half hour, Crater Lake: Into the Deep (informative and so well-done). 

When we visited, the West Rim Road was open to vehicles for 6 miles (between the southern and northern entrances). It is closed during the winter months. Pedestrians and pets are permitted on East Rim Road beyond the barriers. All of the hiking trails, though, are still covered by snow here. There are many ski trails of varying level of difficulty in the park during the winter months. Roads open each year based on the weather, usually by the end of June/beginning of July. The park averages 44' of snow annually.

We went to Rim Village to walk along the paved Rim Trail (dogs allowed). Oh my, the beauty of Crater Lake cannot be captured in photographs. It is truly breathtaking, especially the first time you see it!

The lake is invisible 50% of the time during the winter and spring. We were thrilled that we had such a clear day to enjoy the view. I think Sadie was as mesmerized as we were with the sheer beauty of the lake.

The brilliant blue color of the water is spectacular.

Also located at Rim Village are: the Rim Cafe & Gift Shop, another small information center, the Community House, and the Crater Lake Lodge

The Crater Lake Lodge first opened in 1915 with few amenities, except the fantastic view of the lake 1,000' below. It was not well maintained over the years (due to financial pressures and the terrible weather conditions 8 months of the year), and was eventually purchased by the National Park Service. Major renovations at a cost of $15M were completed in 1994. Today there are 71 rooms (with modern conveniences, a wonderful balcony that overlooks the lake, and the Great Hall (for fine dining). 

We took a stroll through the lobby where you can find a small exhibit area with displays about the history of the Lodge (a National Historic Site). 

Between 1888 and 1941, the lake was stocked with fish to promote recreational activities. Two of the species survive today: Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. Fishing is permitted with artificial lures only. The trees that can be seen around the rim are mountain picturesque. 

After the eruption of Mount Mazama, smaller volcanoes in the crater continuing erupting for the next 300 to 400 years. Wizard Island was formed by a cinder cone volcano during that time. The crater depth is 90' and the width is 300'. It rises 764' above the lake. During the summer months, ranger-led boat trips are available. You can be dropped off for a hike to the rim of the cone and picked up later by a subsequent boat. 

In some areas the cliffs around the rim of the lake rise to 2,000'. The large rock in the second photo is Llao Rock. Klamath Native American oral histories tell the legend of the cataclysmic battle (the eruption of Mount Mazama) between Llao, god of the underworld, and his rival, Skell, their sky god. Crater Lake remains a sacred place for the tribe who continues to hold ceremonies here.

The surrounding countryside is gorgeous, too. In the first photo, you can see Union Peak (7,709') and Mt. McLaughlin (9.,495') in the second. Mount Shasta can also be seen from here on clear day.

Sadie had a lot of fun eating the snow! I think she remembered it from when we lived in PA.

We saw lots of golden mantled ground squirrels and Clark's nutcrackers (named by Clark of William and Clark fame). Sadie was particularly interested in the squirrels!

Admission to the park is $10/vehicle. Of course, our senior pass got us in for free. If you are ever in this area of the country, Crater Lake is well worth a visit. To find out information on what is open in the park when you want to visit, check out their website. 

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