Kat, Bugger, and I embarked upon a two-night excursion to Crater Lake National Park, and it made such a powerful impression on the humans I just had to write this while it’s fresh. I came expecting to see the world’s bluest water – if the weather cooperated – and it did. We enjoyed near full sun and no smoke, and although only about four miles of the 32 mile drive around the crater were open due to snow, we viewed the essence of the Park, which is the blue water, the white snow, the clouds reflected on the lake, and that evergreen framing.
Up until around 5700 B.C. Crater Lake was a 12,000’ volcanic peak now known as Mount Mazama. Just 7,700 years ago Mazama began erupting again, but not from its peak. Fissures opened at the weakest points in the mountain about a mile below the peak. There the trillions of tons of molten rock came closest to the mountain’s surface, and in a freakishly rare event a series of fissures opened in the shape of a ring a bit over halfway to the top. Over several days or perhaps three weeks multiple fissures released nearly all the caldera’s lava, hot dense matter that had been supporting the top of the mountain. Left without a foundation the peak collapsed into the empty caldera, probably within just a few hours. The heat and sulfuric gases released killed all life within a 30 mile radius in the moments following the collapse. Native Americans of the Klamath tribe lived there then and now, and their oral history passed down from each generation to the next, still speaks of the creation of “The Blue Lake”.
There are no rivers or permanent streams draining into Crater Lake. It has been filled entirely by the annual 40 to 50 feet of snowfall and the light summer rains. There are no fish in it or much organic matter of any kind. It is the world’s clearest lake, and one of the largest holding 4.6 trillion gallons of pure fresh water, and among the deepest, up to 1943’. Its level varies only slightly, kept in balance by evaporation, seepage, and precipitation. Kat says it should be one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, but Paricutin, 200 miles west of Mexico City, is the one volcano on that list (it has given science the chance to view a big cinder cone volcano’s entire life cycle in just 75 years). Grand Canyon is the USA’s only ranked Natural Wonder.
We overheard the first impression of a very young bystander moments after our own first view. He said “This looks just like a picture, same as the Grand Canyon. Wow!”
As The Kat puts it: “Crater Lake is worth a trip from anywhere!”