Region: Shasta Cascade|
Address: Hwy 62, Fort Klamath, OR 97626
Crater Lake has been an inspiration to people for hundreds of years. Local Native Americans witnessed the collapse of Mt. Mazama and kept the event alive in their legends. One ancient legend of the Klamath people closely parallels the geologic story which has emerged from today’s scientific research. The legend tells of two chiefs pitted in a battle which ended in the destruction of one of the chief’s home, Mt. Mazama. The battle was witnessed in the eruption of Mt. Mazama and the creation of Crater Lake.
In more modern history, Crater Lake was first seen by white men in 1853. That year, three gold prospectors came upon a long sloping mountain. Upon reaching its high point they found the huge awe inspiring lake. Since gold was more on the minds of settlers, the discovery was soon forgotten. The person considered responsible for originally establishing Crater Lake as a significant natural asset was William Gladstone Steel. His preoccupation with the lake began in 1870 and in his efforts to bring recognition to the park he participated in numerous scientific studies, and named many of the lake’s landmarks. Steel’s dream of gaining national park status was realized on May 22,1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation designating Crater Lake as a national park. Also, Steel’s continued involvement helped with the development of Crater Lake Lodge in 1915 and the Rim Drive. The drive which goes completely around the lake, was completed in 1918.
The lake itself is the deepest lake in the United States and 7th deepest in the world. There is no inlet or outlet to the lake with all the water coming from annual rain and snowfall. Because Crater Lake is filled almost entirely by snowfall, it is one of the clearest lakes in the world. A small volcanic island, Wizard Island, rises 764 feet above the surface of the lake. A small crater rests on the summit of the island. Two species of fish, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, the result of extensive stocking between 1880 and 1942, live in the lake.
The best time to visit Crater Lake is June through October if you wish to complete the loop around the lake on Rim Drive. During the other eight months much of the park is a snow covered wilderness receiving an average of 500 hundred inches of snow annually. When entering the park from the south the Annie Springs entry station brings you to the park headquarters and the William G. Steel Information Center. This is open year-round. Here you will find detailed information about the park, backcountry permits, exhibits, maps, publication sales and a 16 minute video about the park.
Continuing north from the visitor center will soon bring you to the Rim Village. This is the first overlook of the lake as well as the only lodging available on the rim of the lake. Crater Lake Lodge was established in 1915 and went through an extensive remodel in 1995. The views from the lodge are fantastic and meet anyone’s expectations of what a national park lodge should be. Other lodging and camping is available at the Annie Springs entry station in Mazama Village. The Mazama Village campground has 198 sites and the Mazama Village Motor Inn has 40 rooms. There is a lake overlook at the Rim Village Visitor Center. From the Rim Village there are several hikes that are worth considering including the one to Discovery Point and also to the top of Garfield Peak. These hikes afford visitors a view of Wizard Island, The Watchman, Hillman Peak, Mt. Thielsen and Cleetwood Cove, more than six miles across the lake. Another short walk leads to Sinnott Memorial, with a small museum and ranger presentations during the summer months. This overview gives a spectacular view 900 feet down to the lake’s surface.
The 33 mile Rim Drive encircles Crater Lake with each turn of the road giving a different perspective of the lake, rim and surrounding terrain. This drive is only open during the summer but affords numerous overlooks, many with interpretive signage. The only access to the lake itself is via a steep trail to Cleetwood Cove where boat tours are offered by Crater Lake Lodge Company. These 1 hour 45 minute ranger narrated tours are available from late June through mid September. Tickets are sold in the parking lot at the Cleetwood Cove trailhead.
Numerous picnic areas can be found along the rim drive with several providing spectacular views. Kerr Notch and Sun Notch have views down to phantom rock and across the lake to Wizard Island. Continuing on the scenic drive, the north junction will lead you out of the park and onto Hwy. 138. This route makes a quick descent down to Hwy. 97 at Diamond Lake junction which is about half way between Bend and Klamath Falls. Keep in mind this entrance or exit to the park is usually only open from June through October.