Crater Lake has many claims to fame—deepest lake in the country, second deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere, and seventh deepest in the entire world. But its greatest distinction is the extremely blue hue—some say it’s azure, others swear it’s navy or indigo. Scientists, though, know that Crater Lake is actually crystal clear. Like distilled water, it has no real color. The beautiful blue results from the way light is absorbed as it passes through water— blues are the last colors to reflect back to the surface. No matter how you explain it, or whether you call it cobalt or cerulean or stunning sapphire, everyone agrees that Crater Lake is the bluest blue they have ever seen!
Uniquely situated in the caldera of a dormant volcano, Crater Lake extends down to 1,932 feet at its deepest point. All 4.6 trillion gallons of blue come entirely from snowfall and rainfall, which averages about 792 inches per year (528 inches of which are snow). No streams or rivers run into it or drain out, so the level of Crater Lake rarely fluctuates. Its peaceful appearance contradicts its violent creation. The 6-mile wide caldera was formed some 7,700 years ago when 12,000-foot Mt. Mazama collapsed on itself following a cataclysmic eruption. After the volcanic explosion, the deep caldera formed and eventually filled with heavy snows. Once melted, all that snow became Crater Lake.
The Klamath and Modoc Indians, who had lived in present-day southern Oregon for thousands of years, provide a more vivid tale of Crater Lake’s creation. Their legend tells of two Chiefs pitted in a fiery battle- Llao of the Below World and Skell of the Above World. Their conflict began when Skell’s daughter did not return Llao’s professed love, and ended with the destruction of Llao and Mt. Mazama, which was Llao’s home. Llao’s bereaved followers shed many tears over the loss of their chief, and those tears became Crater Lake.
Check back next week for part 2 and learn about what you’ll see along Rim Drive, taking a boat tour to Wizard Island, and Crater Lake Lodge.
Rising 755 feet above the surface of the lake, Wizard Island is a small cinder cone created during Mt. Mazama’s eruption.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Crater Lake National Park Visitor Center phone: (541) 594-2211
For the latest road and weather information, call (541) 594-3000
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com