Crater Lake, Oregon on the map. National Park Crater Lake (Oregon state) on the map of US

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Crater Lake, Oregon on the map. National Park Crater Lake  (Oregon state) on the map of US

Above, far right: This view of Crater Lake shows the Phantom Ship, an unusual rock formation.

Below: An aerial view of Crater Lake. For most of the year, this incredibly blue lake is rimmed by a circle of snow.

 

Crater Lake, Oregon

Established: 1902   Acreage: 160,290

 

Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the US (1932 feet), is located inside Mount Mazama, a once active volcano. Erroneously named when a camping party, led by Jim Sutton, put a boat onto the lake and explored Wizard Island, the lake is not in a crater, but rather sits in a caldera formed by the volcano's collapse.

 

For half a million years Mount Mazama produced huge eruptions, interrupting long periods of inactivity. Ash, cinder and pumice exploded upward, building the mountain to a height of about 12,000 feet. Satellite cones on Mazama's flanks created today's Mount Scott, Hillman Peak and The Watchman. Glaciers periodically covered Mount Mazama's flanks and carved out the U-shaped valleys, such as Munson Valley and Kerr Notch. About 6800 years ago the climactic eruptions occurred. The Mazama magma chamber emptied and the volcano collapsed, leaving a huge, bowl-shaped caldera in its place. The mountain vanished. It lies scattered over eight states and three Canadian provinces. In the park's Pumice Desert, ash lies 50 feet deep. The explosions were 42' times greater than of Mount St Helen's in 1980.

 

At first the caldera's floor was too hot to hold water. Renewed volcanism sealed the caldera and built the Wizard Island and Merriam cones, volcanoes in a volcano. After volcanic activity stopped, water began to collect. No stream runs into or out of the lake, so it is considered a closed ecological system.

 

Originally, Crater Lake contained no fish. Six species were introduced, and of these three remain today: rainbow and brown trout and kokanee salmon. Today, the lake is no longer stocked so that its natural system can be preserved.

 

Nestled amid rolling mountains, volcanic peaks and evergreen forests, this incredibly blue lake is a breathtaking sight. For much of the year, a thick blanket of snow encircles the lake, creating a winter wonderland. At higher elevations, the snowpack prevents fires and insulates the roots of the mountain hemlocks, which grow to enormous sizes in spite of the short growing season. Also found are shasta red fir and whitebark pine. At the lower levels, ponderosa pine prosper, as do shrubs and wildflowers.

 

A number of birds and animals inhabit the park. Ravens, jays, nutcrackers, deer, ground squirrels and chipmunks are frequently seen. Present, but seldom seen, are elk, black bear, foxes, porcupines, pine martens, chickaree squirrels and pikas. Hawks, owls, juncos, chickadees and nuthatches make their home in the backcountry. All of these creatures are intertwined in complex relationships with the plant life and natural forces of the land.

Right: In the midst of the lake, lies Wizard Island—a volcanic cone formed after Mount Mazama collapsed and created the caldera that holds the lake and the island.

Below: Artist Jaime Quitero's rendering of Crater Lake on a clear, summer afternoon. The four block diagrams show the stages of volcanism leading to Mount Mazamas collapse:

1) Magma spews forth from the earth's interior a half million years ago as the cone-building stage begins.

2) Vents and cones develop on the mass, weakening it.

3) About 4850 BC, the mountain loses internal support and collapses when the mass blew out of the cone.

4) The explosion created the caldera which Crater Lake now occupies.

Crater Lake, Oregon on the map. National Park Crater Lake  (Oregon state) on the map of US