The absolute sereneness of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon belies its explosive beginnings. Formed after the eruption of Mount Mazama over 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake is the deepest in the United States at a depth of 1,943 feet. While searching for a gold mine, a young man named John Wesley Hillman and a small group of other miners discovered this glistening body of water in June of 1853.
Designated a national park in 1902, through the efforts of a man named William Gladstone Steel, this is truly a natural wonder. Rich with Native American history and legend, the park is a haven for both outdoor enthusiasts and scenic lovers from all around the world. While the park is open year-round, access to the area immediately surrounding the lake is limited to the summer months due to excessive yearly snowfall. Over half a million visitors still find their way here annually. Some of the highlights of the park include:
1. Crater Lake
A five-mile-wide body of water situated inside a caldera. Water is supplied to the lake by the more than 500 inches of melting snow received annually in the area. Direct access to the lake is only available by hiking to Cleetwood Cove. The path leading to the cove is quite challenging. Visitors may only swim or fish in the lake; snorkeling and scuba diving are not permitted. A boat dock exists for those wishing to take a two-hour cruise of the lake.
2. Wizard Island
Approximately one-square-mile of cinder cone formation rises 763 feet above the surface of Crater Lake. Numerous lava flow channels are hidden by trees that have grown on the island. Visitors can only reach the island by the boat cruises arranged by park personnel.
3. Llao Rock
A dacite-type volcanic rock formed by a massive flow of lava, is the highest faced rock surrounding the north rim of the lake. Native American legend called Llao the “Chief of the below world”.
4. Phantom Ship
This roughly 500-foot long island is made up of tall spire-like andesite formations that run down its center. Separated from the caldera rim by a narrow channel, the island provides a visual of a ship adrift in the water.
5. Boundary Springs
This is a series of springs forming the source of the Rogue River. Surrounded by lush forest, this tranquil area near the north entrance of Crater Lake National Park can be reached by following the marked Boundary Springs Trail.
Formed by holes in the volcanic rock through which gases vent, these lofty needle-shaped formations protrude from the floor of Sand Creek Canyon.
7. Devil’s Backbone
A wall of volcanic rock stretching 1,000 feet from the rim of the caldera to the edge of Crater Lake. It is the only such formation in the park to do so.
8. Watchman Dike and Flow
With Devil’s Backbone nearby, this is the formation of igneous rock along with a 400-foot or more thick flow of fine-grained andesite.
9. Vidae Falls
This magnificent 100-foot long cascade of water over rock steps is situated just east of the national park’s headquarters. Visitors are greeted with an array of wildflower borders in spring and summer. Winter visitors may access the falls using cross-country skis or snowshoes.
10. Mount Scott
Providing unparalleled views, this is the highest point in the park. Major erosion of the lava rock makes for a nearly smooth surface. Abundant wildflowers grace the sloping path to the top.