Crater Lake

July 2000

About 8000 years ago, a 12,000-foot peak called Mount Mazama exploded in a powerful volcananic eruption, spreading ash for 5000 square miles.  Geologists believe it was one of the largest eruptions of the past 10,000 years, 42 times greater than Mount St Helens in 1980.

Over time, rain and snowmelt filled the caldera, forming a 1943-foot-deep lake.  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and seventh in the world.  At the widest point, it is about six miles in diameter.  The rim of the caldera sits at about 7,000 feet, with the lake surface about 6,000 feet.  It is one of the wettest places in Oregon, receiving an average of 66 inches of precipitation, including 44 feet of snow, each year.

The local Klamath tribe considered Crater Lake a sacred site, and it was not discovered by white explorers until 1853, when three gold prospectors stumbled upon “the bluest lake we’ve ever seen”.  But the discovery was largely forgotten until some years later.

Starting in 1870, a man named Willian Gladstone Steel devoted his life (and considerable money) to preserving the lake for future generations.  In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill to create Crater Lake National Park.  In 1915, Crater Lake Lodge opened for visitors, and the Rim Drive was completed in 1918.

Over the Fourth of July weekend in 2000, I drove down to Crater Lake, high in the Cascade Range in southern Oregon.  I stayed overnight in a very small town called Chemult, which is about 30 or 40 miles away from the park.

On the first day, I arrived in the early afternoon, so had about a half day to get my first look at the lake.  The second day I was up early to beat the crowds, and then around noon had to head back home.  I shot a roll of film each day, but my second roll turned out better than the first, so that’s mostly what you see here.  The vignetting at the corners is the result of putting my polarizing filter in front of the UV filter on my lenses.

This was my first time to see Crater Lake in person, and I was completely blown away.  I have made subsequent trips, and it is still awe-inspiring each time.  I would encourage anyone to make a trip if at all possible, the photographs cannot do it justice.