Crater Lake National Park is located unexpectedly in the midst of a mountainous terrain. As you approach the lake, a road that rises gradually through twists and turns up the side of a mountain clothed in forests of Shasta red fir, hemlock, and pine.
Suddenly the road comes over a rise and plunges downward into a great basin, and there is the lake. At first you can hardly believe that you are seeing 25 square miles of water so blue that it looks like India Ink, circled by steep slopes, mountains, and great cliffs, which form a vast natural amphitheater.
One of the lake's loveliest inlets, Steel Bay, was named in honor of William Gladstone Steel. He became intrigued by the lake from a newspaper article he read while he was still a schoolboy.
As an adult, Steel worked tirelessly to make Crater Lake a national park. He lobbied for 17 years and appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt. Finally, in 1902, the nation's sixth national park was created, with the lake as its centerpiece.
Crater Lake National Park is well known for its deep snows (some years, they are more than 50 feet). Those same prodigious drifts nourish the wildflower displays that linger long into September, and, some years, even into early October. These include monkeyflower, spreading phlox, paintbrush, aster, lupine, and penstemon, among many others.
The forests provide a sanctuary for such native fauna as deer, elk, coyotes, black bears, bobcats, and assorted bird life (from common jays to bald and golden eagles). It is hard to believe, among all the harmony and gentle birdsong that surround Crater Lake today, that at one time it was the scene of one of nature's most violent events: a volcanic eruption.
Crater Lake National Park Photo Opportunities
Many of the park's features add to the spectacle of its remarkable lake. Keep your camera handy for photographs of these highlights:
- The Phantom Ship: The Phantom Ship is an island made of lava, with 160-foot-high ridges and peaks. Seen at dusk, the silhouette evokes an eerie image of an ancient ship marooned in the middle of the water.
- Hillman Peak: Hillman Peak is a 70,000-year-old volcanic cone, named for a prospector.
- Wizard Island: Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone that rises 764 feet above the lake's surface. Its name refers to the pointed hat worn by sorcerers, which it resembles, but there is also no doubt that there is plenty of magic in this stunningly beautiful place.
- The Pinnacles: The Pinnacles were sculpted by volcanic gases and erosion. First, hot gases spewing out of tall vents solidified the rock; then erosion cut away the softer rock, leaving only the hardened spires. Off of Rim Drive, The Pinnacles can be reached via a six-mile road.
The enormous lake visitors marvel at today is the result of great upheaval in the Earth's crust, caused by a volcano about 7,000 years ago. To learn about the enormous cave-in that created Crater Lake, go to the next page.