It all started with a big bang!
On June 22, we headed east from the coast to visit Crater Lake National Park. We had visited this beautiful volcano-turned-lake in 1996 and have looked forward to seeing it again ever since. Our friend Rick from On the Road with Maxine and Me had made the trek from Heceta Head a week before us and reported there was plenty of snow still adorning the park. With temperatures at lower elevations topping 100 degrees, we knew we had to get over there soon if we wanted to see it dressed in white!
The 12,000 foot volcano that once stood where Crater Lake now is was named Mount Mazama. Geologists estimate that it most likely had a similar appearance to Mt. Hood, which is further north in the Cascade range. It took around 400,000 years to reach its full height. Sometime back about 7,700 years ago the volcano came to life, rumbling and releasing steam and ash. Within a few weeks, the mountain erupted with such force that it emptied the magma chamber below it. In what was estimated to be over the period of just a few minutes, the roof of the chamber collapsed and the top of the mountain fell into it. It is thought that the force of the eruption was 42 times more powerful than the one at Mt. St. Helens in 1980. Subsequent eruptions created small volcanoes within the crater, but nothing like the big bang that caused the mountain to implode. Over the next several hundred years, rain and snowmelt filled the crater, creating the lake we see today.
Above is Wizard Island, which is actually a volcano within the caldera. There are two of these cones in the lake, but one of them is 500 feet below the surface. The lake is an incredible 1949 feet deep, the greatest depth of any inland body of water in the United States. No tributaries feed the lake, and the only outflow occurs through seepage. This keeps the water quality exceptionally pure. We were happy to see that there was still quite a bit of snow, despite temperatures in the upper 70’s at the crater rim. 😊. The green streaks on the water are a layer of pollen.
The lake gets its iridescent blue color from its massive depth and pristine water.
The drifts were still piled high against the visitor center, but almost all of the parks buildings were open for business.
This viewpoint was one of the few structures yet to be accessed…
…but the park workers were working hard to remedy that!
Edsel was dwarfed by this snowbank! When we asked the ranger if there were any picnic tables in the park, she pointed to this massive drift and said “Under there”. Guess we’ll eat in the Escape. 😉
Crater Lake Lodge was hopping with visitors…
…as were the mounds of snow surrounding the rim of the lake!
We saw several Clark’s Nutcrackers while we were there. This species of bird was first described by William Clark on the Corps of Discovery expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1805. They are able to carry hundreds of seeds in a pouch below their tongues, which they bury in small caches to eat at a later time. Since they aren’t able to eat the thousands of seeds they store, many trees take root and thereby renew the birds’ food source.
Until this visit, we thought these little inhabitants of Oregon were chipmunks. By completing our Junior Ranger books, we found out that they are actually Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels. Chipmunks have a striped head. Learn something new every day!
Little did we know back in 1996 that it would be 21 years before we returned. Even though we are hoping to visit again later in the summer, it was difficult to leave this beautiful place this time around. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Crater Lake, we highly recommend you do so!
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