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Crater Lake

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Crater Lake
Crater Lake winter pano2.jpg
Panoramic winter view of Crater Lake from Rim Village
Crater Lake is located in Oregon
Crater Lake
Crater Lake
Location in the United States
Crater Lake is located in the US
Crater Lake
Crater Lake
Crater Lake (the US)
Mazama bathymetry survey map.jpg
LocationKlamath County, Oregon
Coordinates42°57′N 122°06′W / 42.95°N 122.10°W / 42.95; -122.10Coordinates: 42°57′N 122°06′W / 42.95°N 122.10°W / 42.95; -122.10
Lake typecrater lake
Primary inflowsprecipitation and snowmelt only
Primary outflowsevaporation, subsurface seepage to Wood River
Catchment area23.3 sq mi (60 km2)
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length6 mi (9.7 km)
Max. width5 mi (8.0 km)
Surface area20.6 sq mi (53 km2)
Average depth1,148 ft (350 m)
Max. depth1,949 ft (594 m)
Water volume4.49 cu mi (18.7 km3)
Residence time157 years
Shore length121.8 mi (35.1 km)
Surface elevation6,178 ft (1,883 m)
IslandsWizard Island
Phantom Ship
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.
Panoramic view of Crater Lake – Spring 2016

Crater Lake (Klamath: giiwas[1]) is a crater lake in south-central Oregon in the western United States. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot (655 m)-deep caldera[2] that was formed around 7,700 (± 150) years ago[3] by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake; the evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate such that the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years. With a depth of 1,949 feet (594 m),[4] the lake is the deepest in the United States. In the world, it ranks ninth for maximum depth, and third for mean (average) depth.[5]

Crater Lake is also known for the "Old Man of the Lake", a full-sized tree which is now a log that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century.[6][7] The low temperature of the water has slowed the decomposition of the wood, hence its longevity.

Crater Lake features two small islands. Wizard Island, located near the western shore of the lake, is a cinder cone approximately 316 acres (128 ha) in size. Phantom Ship, a natural rock pillar, is located near the southern shore.

While having no indigenous fish population, the lake was stocked from 1888 to 1941 with a variety of fish. Since then, several species have formed self-sustaining populations.[8] Since 2002, one of the state's regular-issue license plate designs has featured Crater Lake.[9] The commemorative Oregon State Quarter, which was released by the United States Mint in 2005, features an image of Crater Lake on its reverse.[10]


Crater Lake is in Klamath County, approximately 60 miles (97 km) northwest of the county seat of Klamath Falls, and about 80 miles (130 km) northeast of the city of Medford.[11]

In June 1853, John Wesley Hillman became the first non-Native American explorer to report sighting the lake he named the "Deep Blue Lake." The lake was renamed at least three times, as Blue Lake, Lake Majesty, and finally Crater Lake.[12][13]

Dimensions and depth[edit]

Wizard Island in Crater Lake National Park

The lake is 5 by 6 miles (8.0 by 9.7 km) across, with a caldera rim ranging in elevation from 7,000 to 8,000 feet (2,100 to 2,400 m) and an average lake depth of 1,148 feet (350 m). The lake's maximum depth has been measured at 1,949 feet (594 m),[2][4][14][15] which fluctuates slightly as the weather changes.[2] On the basis of maximum depth, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, the second-deepest in North America (after Great Slave Lake in Canada), and the ninth-deepest lake in the world.[16] Crater Lake is often cited as the seventh-deepest lake in the world, but this ranking excludes Lake Vostok in Antarctica,[17][18] which is beneath about 13,000 feet (4,000 m) of ice, and the recent depth soundings of O'Higgins/San Martín Lake, which is along the border of Chile and Argentina.[19]

When considering the mean, or average depth of lakes, Crater Lake becomes the deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere and the third-deepest in the world. Crater Lake Institute Director and limnologist Owen Hoffman states "Crater Lake is the deepest, when compared on the basis of average depth among lakes whose basins are entirely above sea level. The average depths of Lakes Baikal and Tanganyika are deeper than Crater Lake; however, both have basins that extend below sea level."[18][20]


Geologic map of the lake floor

Mount Mazama, part of the Cascade Range volcanic arc, was built up mostly of andesite, dacite, and rhyodacite over a period of at least 400,000 years. The caldera was created in a massive volcanic eruption between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago that led to the subsidence of Mount Mazama. About 50 cubic kilometers (12 cu mi) of rhyodacite was erupted in this event. Since that time, all eruptions on Mazama have been confined to the caldera.[21][22]

Lava eruptions later created a central platform, Wizard Island, Merriam Cone, and other, smaller volcanic features, including a rhyodacite dome that was eventually created atop the central platform. Sediments and landslide debris also covered the caldera floor.[23]

Eventually, the caldera cooled, allowing rain and snow to accumulate and form a lake. Landslides from the caldera rim thereafter formed debris fans and turbidite sediments on the lake bed. Fumaroles and hot springs remained common and active during this period. Also after some time, the slopes of the lake's caldera rim more or less stabilized, streams restored a radial drainage pattern on the mountain, and dense forests began to revegetate the barren landscape. It is estimated that about 720 years was required to fill the lake to its present depth of 594 metres (1,949 ft). Much of this occurred during a period when the prevailing climate was less moist than at present.[24]

Some hydrothermal activity remains along the lake floor, suggesting that at some time in the future, Mazama may erupt once again.[25]


Crater Lake features a subalpine climate, with the rare dry-summer type (Köppen classification Dsc) owing to its high elevation and – like all of Oregon – the strong summer influence of the North Pacific High. In the summer, the weather is mild and dry, but in the winter is cold and the powerful influence of the Aleutian Low allows for enormous snowfalls averaging 505 inches (12.83 m) per year and maximum snow cover averaging 139 inches or 3.53 meters. This snow does not usually melt until mid-July, and allows for substantial glaciers on adjacent mountains. In the winter of 1949/1950 as much as 885.1 inches (22.48 m) of snow fell, while the less complete snow cover records show cover as high as 192 inches or 4.88 meters occurred during another particularly unsettled winter in 1981/1982.[26] The heaviest daily snowfall was 37.0 inches (94.0 cm), which occurred as recently as February 28, 1971; 20 in (51 cm) or more in one storm has occurred in both June and September. Hard frost is possible even into the summer, and the average window for freezing temperatures is August 19 through July 7, while for measurable (≥0.1 inches or 0.25 centimeters) snowfall, October 1 through June 15.

Climate data for Crater Lake
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 64
Average high °F (°C) 33.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 25.8
Average low °F (°C) 17.7
Record low °F (°C) −21
Average precipitation inches (mm) 10.20
Average snowfall inches (cm) 96.2
Source: Western Regional Climate Center[27]

Water quality[edit]

Panorama of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Due to several unique factors, mainly that the lake has no inlets or tributaries, the waters of Crater Lake are some of the purest in the world because of the absence of pollutants. Clarity readings from a Secchi disk have consistently been in the high-30 meter to mid-20 meter (80 to 115-foot) range, which is very clear for any natural body of water. In 1997, scientists recorded a record clarity of 53.3 m (175 ft).

The lake has relatively high levels of dissolved salts, total alkalinity, and conductivity. The average pH has generally ranged between 7 and 8.[28]

Sacred significance[edit]

Llao Rock

The Klamath tribe of Native Americans, whose oral history describes their ancestors witnessing the collapse of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake, regard the lake as an "abode to the Great Spirit".[29] Klamath oral history tells of a battle between the sky god Skell and the god of the underworld Llao (a prominent feature at Crater Lake is Llao Rock). Mount Mazama was destroyed in the battle, creating Crater Lake, called giiwas in the Klamath language.[1] The Klamath people used Crater Lake in vision quests, which often involved climbing the caldera walls and other dangerous tasks. Those who were successful in such quests were often regarded as having more spiritual powers. The tribe still holds Crater Lake in high regard as a spiritual site.[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Klamath Tribes Language Project". The Klamath Tribes. 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Facts about Crater Lake". Oregon Explorer. Oregon State University. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  3. ^ "Crater Lake". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  4. ^ a b Bacon, CR; Gardner, JV; Mayer, LA; Buktnenica, MW; et al. (June 2002). "Morphology, volcanism, and mass wasting in Crater Lake, Oregon" (PDF). GSA Bulletin. 114 (6): 675–692. Bibcode:2002GSAB..114..675B. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(2002)114<0675:mvamwi>;2.
  5. ^ See further details in the prose and citations of #Dimensions and depth.
  6. ^ Kartchnerand, W.E.; Doerr, J.E., Jr. (September 1938). "Wind Currents In Crater Lake As Revealed By The Old Man Of The Lake". Nature Notes from Crater Lake National Park. XI (3). Archived from the original on 2008-06-11.
  7. ^ "On the Trail The Old man of Crater Lake" (Video). CBS News. October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Fish of Crater Lake". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2010-02-21.
  9. ^ Goetze, Janet (August 26, 2002). "Crater Lake plates aglow with color". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. p. B4.
  10. ^ "The Oregon Quarter: The United States Mint". U.S. Department of the Treasury. Archived from the original on 2009-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  11. ^ "Crater Lake National Park: Directions". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
  12. ^ Tilden, Freeman (1968). The National Parks. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  13. ^ Runkel, H.J. (1953). "Crater Lake Discovery Centennial". Nature Notes from Crater Lake National Park. XIX. Archived from the original on 2008-12-04.
  14. ^ Andalkar, Amar (2003-12-18). "Crater Lake (Mount Mazama)". Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  15. ^ Gibbons, Helen (September 2000). "CMG Maps Bottom of Crater Lake, Oregon". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  16. ^ Noah Tesch. "9 of the World's Deepest Lakes". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 8 April 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017. #9 Crater Lake (1,943 feet [592 meters]), #8 Great Slave Lake (2,015 feet [614 meters])
  17. ^ Evans, C.T. (2007). "Lake Baikal". Northern Virginia Community College. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  18. ^ a b Juillerat, Lee (2007-11-29). "Into the Deep: Crater Lake's ranking as one of the world's deepest lakes varies by how list is determined". Herald and News. Klamath Falls, Oregon. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  19. ^ Jaros, Garret (2010-03-16). "A snowshoe view: Take a ranger-guided winter trek around snowy Crater Lake" (Oregon Life section). The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. p. D1. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  20. ^ Repanshek, Kurt; Hoffman, Owen (2007-11-14). "Crater Lake, On Average, Is Deepest Lake in North America" (see story comments as well). National Parks Traveler. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  21. ^ Topinka, Lyn (2008-04-18). "Mount Mazama Volcano and Crater Lake Caldera, Oregon". Cascades Volcano Observatory. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  22. ^ Jewell and McRae, p. 571
  23. ^ Bacon, Charles R; James V. Gardner; Larry A. Mayer; Mark W. Buktenica; Peter Dartnell; David W. Ramsey; Joel E. Robinson (2002). "Morphology, volcanism, and mass wasting in Crater Lake, Oregon". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 114 (6): 675–692. Bibcode:2002GSAB..114..675B. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(2002)114<0675:MVAMWI>2.0.CO;2.
  24. ^ Nathenson, Manuel; Charles R. Bacon; David W. Ramsey (2007). "Subaqueous geology and a filling model for Crater Lake, Oregon". Hydrobiologia. 574: 13–27. doi:10.1007/s10750-006-0343-5.
  25. ^ "Geologic History of Crater Lake". Oregon Explorer. Oregon State University. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  26. ^ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Climate at a Glance: Oregon Climate Division 5 (High Plateau) October to June Precipitation
  27. ^ "CRATER LAKE NPS HQ, OREGON (351946)". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  28. ^ "Facts and Figures about Crater Lake" (PDF). U.S. National Park Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-03. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
  29. ^ Diller, J.S. (1898). Crater Lake, Oregon
  30. ^ "Park History" (PDF). National Park Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-03. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
  31. ^ "Crater Lake as Sacred Site". Sacred Destinations. Archived from the original on 2009-06-02.


  • Fire Mountains of the West: The Cascade and Mono Lake Volcanoes, Stephen L. Harris, (Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula; 1988) ISBN 0-87842-220-X
  • Geology of National Parks: Fifth Edition, Ann G. Harris, Esther Tuttle, Sherwood D. Tuttle, (Iowa, Kendall/Hunt Publishing; 1997) ISBN 0-7872-5353-7
  • Bacon, Charles R.; Lanphere, Marvin A. (2006). "Eruptive history and geochronology of Mount Mazama and the Crater Lake region, Oregon". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 118 (11–12): 1331–1359. Bibcode:2006GSAB..118.1331B. doi:10.1130/B25906.1.
  • Oregon, Moon Handbooks, Judy Jewell, W. C. McRae, (Avalon Travel, Berkeley; 2012, 9th edition) ISBN 978-1-59880-885-8

External links[edit]