Best Places To Visit In Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is one of the premier national parks in the United States. William Gladstone Steel petitioned Congress for 17 years to preserve this remarkable creation of nature and finally won. It was declared a national park in 1902 on May 22nd.
Crater lake is the deepest lake in the United States. It's ranked the 9th deepest worldwide.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Crater Lake is the deep blue water that has become synonymous with Crater Lake. Many people ask if something is added to the water. The deep blue is due to the purity of the water.
The water itself is crystal clear and visibility in the water at Crater Lake was measured in 1994 at a phenomenal 134 feet.
One of the other contributing factors to the blueness of the lake is the fact that there are no tributaries to the lake. There are no rivers or streams in and no rivers or streams out.
The lake is filled each year by only rain and snow runoff. The proportion at which evaporation occurs and then is replenished seems to be an amazingly consistent balance.
The lake depth fluctuates a little every year but for the most part, remains static. It has not changed in depth more than 16 feet in over 100 years.
Facts About Crater Lake
Crater Lake is the kind of national wonder that leaves one breathless. It has such a calm and serene beauty that you find yourself wishing you could stay forever.
- Crater Lake wasn't created by a meteor falling. It was once a huge mountain, Mount Mazama which exploded with such force over 7000 years ago that the remaining walls of the mountain couldn't remain standing. They simply caved in to create the caldera or crater that exists today.
- The lake over time filled with water and what now remains is one of Mother Nature's most prized places on earth.
- Crater Lake is over 1900 feet deep. It was first measured in the 1800s by a geology team using a weight and piano wire. Their measurement was almost identical to that performed in the 1990s by more scientific methods.
- Mount Mazama was 12,000 feet high when it erupted over 7000 years ago.
Things to Do at Crater Lake
There is one way down to the shore of the lake. That's by way of the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The trail is 1.1 miles long but descends 700 feet.The walk down isn't too bad but the trip back up is a little strenuous.
There are an additional 100 miles of hiking trails around the national park with innumerable photo opportunities.
Once down to the lake shore, you can fish in Crater Lake. However, you can only fish from shore or from Wizard Island. The island is reachable only by the tour boat and a ticket must be purchased.
Two species of fish live in the lake, the only survivors of five which were introduced into Crater Lake prior to the 1940s.
You can fish for Rainbow Trout or Kokanee Salmon but only artificial bait is allowed since live bait could change the ecology of the lake.
The fishing at Crater Lake is unlicensed and there is no limit to the number of fish you can catch.
There is one boat tour around Crater Lake with a naturalist who explains the geology and facts about Crater Lake. It also takes tourists out to Wizard Island for fishing. Tickets must be purchased for the boat tour or the fishing on Wizard Island.
-Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Snow Shoeing
You can do cross country skiing, skiing and snow shoeing at Crater Lake.The winter can last 8 months at the lake because of its high elevation at over 7000 feet above sea level. November through April are the months that Crater Lake receives the most snow but October through June, you will still see snow at the lake. Some years, July and August will still have snow on the ground.
The snow views at Crater Lake are breathtaking and the quiet is like nowhere else on earth.
You can sign up to go on trolley tours around Crater Lake. These are educational as well as a photo op a minute. The tours cover the entire rim of the lake stopping at each of the innumerable fantastic view points.
The national park rangers at Crater Lake are experts on the plant and animal life as well as the history of Crater Lake. It's a great way to see the lake and not have to drive the treacherously narrow roads yourself.
-Driving Around Crater Lake
The lake is open year round but parts are closed from October to June.This is due to the snow pack and treacherous driving conditions. If the year has had a particularly great amount of snowfall, it's not unusual for snow to remain from the previous year when the new snow starts to fall in autumn.
The roads driving around the rim of Crater Lake are all without guardrails and the drop is precipitous should someone lose control of their car. For safety reasons, many of the roads close due to inclement weather and it's best to always check ahead for current conditions.
For the best pictures you'll ever get, try a photo shoot at Crater Lake. On a recent visit, this author used two different cameras having never shot the lake before. I found that my Nikon Coolpix offered me the best panoramic views while my Nikon D5100 was great for some closeups of the two islands and the many ground squirrels and birds that I encountered.
November to April will afford a photographer the best snowy pictures while July, August and September will offer less snow but more in terms of thunderstorms and rain. The latter three months are the warmest months usually for daytime temperatures, though because of the elevation, nights are quite cool at Crater Lake.
There are two campgrounds within Crater Lake National Park - Lost Creek and Mazama. There are handicapped access sites available as well as tent camp sites and RV sites. Check with the Crater Lake National Park Service for more information.
Bike tours are very popular at Crater Lake. You can get more information through the National Park Service or contact any number of bike tour companies.
Mountain biking is popular as well at the lake but extreme caution is required on main roads as there is no shoulder on the steep and narrow roads around the rim.
-Lodging and Restaurants
The historic Crater Lake Lodge offers one of the most incredible views of the lake you can find. Built in 1915, the lodge's back porch sits on the rim of the lake with incredible views of Wizard Island and the entire lake. See the video below for a great live view of the lake from its back porch.
The lodge has 71 rooms and an upscale restaurant in the lodge. However, the lodge is rustic in that it does not offer amenities such as wifi, Internet or televison.
You can also stay in one of the 40 Maza Cabins within the national park.
There are two other restaurants within Crater Lake National Park and a general store.
The Future of Crater Lake
There have been many folks lobbying for "improvements" to Crater Lake. In this writer's humble opinion, this would be a travesty of magnificent proportions. People leave comments on the historical lodge's website about how horrible it is to come to the lodge and not have wifi, Internet or TV.
To stand out on the deck or gaze from the windows of the lodge and see the view is priceless. The fact that there are not these high tech age "amenities" is as it should be in this writer's opinion.
An additional note, however, in 2012, the lodge did add complimentary wifi for its guests. It was amazing to me on a visit later in the year how few people were talking on cell phones, however, as most were using their phones to take pictures.
This author did avail herself of the Internet in our room when we stayed in October and it was nice to be able to connect. However, by and large, people didn't seem connected to their computers and for the most part seemed to appreciate the place they were for what it is--absolutely breathtaking.
There is also a push for helicopter tours around the lake. The ecological damage that this could do is indescribable. Wildlife would be irreparably damaged and it could result in ecological imbalances for this region forever.
One of the most striking features of Crater Lake is the vast and utter quiet. To take this away would be unthinkable.
Groups like Oregon Wild are currently fighting for the preservation of this beautiful national park in particular to be left "as is." This writer hopes that we as guests on this planet will find it within ourselves to leave some things as untouched as when we found them.
Crater Lake National Park is a must see on anyone's list who travels the state of Oregon.