Crater Lake National Park

Overwhelmingly yet sublimely beautiful. Moody.

At times brilliantly blue, ominously somber; at other times buried in a mass of brooding clouds.

The lake is magical, enchanting - a remnant of fiery times, a reflector of its adjacent forested slopes, a product of Nature's grand design.

Provided by the National Park Service

Few places on earth command overwhelming awe from observers, but Crater Lake, in south central Oregon, certainly does. Even in a region of volcanic wonders, Crater Lake can only be described in superlatives. Stories of the deep blue lake can never prepare visitors for their first breathtaking look from the brink of this 6 mile wide caldera which was created by the eruption and collapse of Mt. Mazama almost 7,000 years ago. Even seasoned travelers gasp at the twenty-mile circle of cliffs, tinted in subtle shades and fringed with hemlock, fir, and pine: all this in a lake of indescribable blue.

Crater Lake National Park is host to a diverse array of activities. While enjoying the natural scenic wonders, park visitors may hike in old growth forests, participate in a variety of interpretive activites, camp out or stay in an historic hotel, or even cross- country ski during the eight month long winters which are experienced here in the high Cascades.

Preserving this environment for the continued use and enjoyment of the public is also a major goal of the National Park Service. Resource managers are invloved in studies on lake ecology, forest ecosystems, geologic processes, even the role of fire in maintaining healthy relationships between the forests and the land. Their work yields valuable data on the natural systems which have created and maintained that which we fondly call Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake National Park has been recommended as a wilderness preserve, a place where we may forget ourselves for a time and enjoy a surge of healthy outdoor exploration. Here, we may rediscover ourselves and learn that material things do not necessarily constitute our richest possessions. This blue gem of the Cascades certainly moves us deeply when we imagine the awesome power which created this wonderful place.

Visitors to the park enjoy multiple opportunities to explore the caldera and enjoy all the spectacular view points on the 33 mile long rim drive. A peaceful guided boat tour, hiking trails and interpretive programs are offered in the summer and Ranger lead snowshoe walks and many trails for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Crater Lake is widely known for its intense blue color and spectacular views. During summer, visitors may navigate the Rim Drive around the lake, enjoy boat tours on the lake surface, stay in the historic Crater Lake Lodge, camp at Mazama Village, or hike some of the park's various trails including Mt. Scott at 8,929 ft. Diverse interpretive programs enhance visitors' knowledge and appreciation of this national park, 90% of which is managed as wilderness. The winter brings some of the heaviest snowfall in the country, averaging 533 inches per year. Although park facilities mostly close for this snowy season, visitors may view the lake during fair weather, enjoy cross-country skiing, and participate in weekend snowshoe hikes.

Park History

Local Native Americans witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama and kept the event alive in their legends. One ancient legend of the Klamath people closely parallels the geologic story which emerges from today's scientific research. The legend tells of two Chiefs, Llao of the Below World and Skell of the Above World, pitted in a battle which ended up in the destruction of Llao's home, Mt. Mazama. The battle was witnessed in the eruption of Mt. Mazama and the creation of Crater Lake.

The Klamaths revered the lake and the surrounding area, keeping it undiscovered by white explorers until 1853. That year, on June 12, three gold prospectors, John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaac Skeeters, came upon a long, sloping mountain. Upon reaching its highest point, a huge, awe-inspiring lake was visible. "This is the bluest lake we've ever seen," they reported, and named it Deep Blue Lake. But gold was more on the minds of settlers at the time and the discovery was soon forgotten.

Captain Clarence Dutton was the next man to make a discovery at Crater Lake. Dutton commanded a U.S. Geological Survey party which carried the Cleetwood, a half-ton survey boat, up the steep slopes of the mountain then lowered it to the lake. From the stern of the Cleetwood, a piece of pipe on the end of a spool of piano wire sounded the depth of the lake at 168 differnt points. Dutton's soundings of 1,996 feet were amazingly close to the sonar readings made in 1959 that established the lake's deepest point at 1,932 feet.

William Gladstone Steel devoted his life and fortune to the establishment and management of Crater Lake National Park. His preoccupation with the lake began in 1870. In his efforts to bring recognition to the park, he participated in lake surveys that provided scientific support. He named many of the lake's landmarks, including Wizard Island, Llao Rock, and Skell Head. Steel's dream was realized on May 22, 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill giving Crater Lake national park status. And because of Steel's involvement, Crater Lake Lodge was opened in 1915 and the Rim Drive was completed in 1918.


From Roseburg - Route 138 east to the park's north entrance.
From Bend - Route 97 south to route 138 west to the park's north entrance.
From Medford - Route 62 north and east to the park's west entrance.
From Klamath Falls - Route 97 north to route 62 north and west to the park's south entrance.

*The park's north entrance is typically closed for the winter season from mid-October to mid-June.

Bend, OR - 119 miles
Klamath Falls - 57 miles
Los Angeles - 785 miles
Medford - 77 miles
Portland - 250 miles
San Francisco - 450 miles
Seattle - 422 miles

Visitor Services

Steel Visitor Center

Open All Year Open From November to April 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open From May to October 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rim Village Visitor Center Open From June through September 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Natural History Association

The Crater Lake Natural History Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing educational and scientific activities within Crater Lake National Park and Oregon Caves National Monument. Books, maps, and postcards are available for sale at all park visitor centers. For information, write to P.O. Box 157, Crater Lake, OR 97604, or call (541) 594-3110.

Crater Lake National Park Trust

The Crater Lake National Park Trust is a charitable nonprofit organization that helps to protect, promote, and enhance Crater Lake National Park, its unique water purity, and its value for human inspiration and knowledge.

For more information write P.O. Box 62, Crater Lake, OR 97604-0062

Friends of Crater Lake

The Friends of Crater Lake is a non-profit organization that cooperates with the National Park Service in the stewardship of Crater Lake National Park’s natural and cultural resources.

For information, write to P.O. Box 88
Crater Lake, OR 97604

Did You Know?

Because Crater Lake is filled almost entirely by snowfall, it is one of the clearest lakes anywhere in the world. Scientists using a reflector called a Secchi disk commonly record clarity readings of 120 feet. On June 25, 1997 scientists recorded a record clarity reading of 142 feet.

A small volcanic island, Wizard Island, rises 764 feet above the surface of the lake on its west side. A small crater, 300 feet across and 90 feet deep, rests on the summit.

Crater Lake was named for this beautiful, symmetrical crater by James Sutton, editor of the Oregon Sentinel in Jacksonville, in 1869.

Scientists have identified 157 species of phytoplankton and 12 species of zooplankton in the lake. The density and diversity of these minute life forms is restricted by low concentrations of nitrogen in the lake. Large colonies of moss circle the lake at depths of up to 400 feet. At the bottom of the lake, communities of bacteria grow around at least two areas of hydrothermal activity. Two species of fish, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, also thrive in the lake, the result of stocking between 1888 and 1942.