Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M: Mt. Mazama (Crater Lake)


Today's mountain is, or rather was, Mt. Mazama. Mazama was one of the Cascade volcanoes, maybe 100 miles as the crow flies north and a bit west of yesterday's mountain. What makes Mazama special, though, is what happened to it about 7700 years ago. A huge eruption blew the top off the mountain, emptied out all the lava, and the summit area collapsed, leaving a large caldera. According to the US Geological Survey, Crater Lake is 5 miles across--and a mile deep. Of course, it wasn't Crater Lake at first. It was just a big caldera, with vents adding new lava and cinders from time to time, building up the inner cone now known as Wizard Island.

Rain and snow filled the caldera over time, so that today water rises to within 500' of the lowest point of the rim. There are no streams in or out of the caldera; snowmelt, rain and evaporation have reached more or less equilibrium. I'm not sure why it is not salt like other no-outlet lakes (think Mono Lake, another "M" word!); possibly because the water source (precipitation) is free of minerals, and the lava rock of the caldera is also?

The Lake has a maximum depth of approximately 1949' (it fluctuates a bit with precipitation and the seasons), and an average depth of 1148'. The first figure makes it the second-deepest lake in North America; the second makes it 3rd deepest in the world, and the only one of those three to lie entirely above sea level.

Tour Mt. Mazama by driving or hiking along the rim, and by hiking down to the water's edge and taking a boat ride. The Rim Drive include many places to stop and walk to the edge to get the best views of the lake.

Looking across Crater Lake to Wizard Island
 The boat ride requires that you walk down the trail to the water--a descent of 700' in a mile, on a steep though well-built trail. No personal boats are allowed on the lake; to visit at water level, you must take the boat ride. I highly recommend it!
Our boys,  9 and 10 at the time, were pretty excited about the boat ride.
Being on the water at the bottom of the caldera (or at least, at the top of the water in the bottom of the caldera) gives a unique perspective on the lake.
The water is incredibly blue, due to being both very pure and very deep.

The day we rode the weather demonstrated what it can do. After we hiked on Wizard Island, we found ourselves riding back to the dock through very rough water (they in fact canceled the rests of the tours for the day. This is always a possibility, as the boats are small and the lake large). The wind blew spray on us, soaking about the 1st 3 rows of passengers (including us, of course). But you can see that these people are still happy to be there!
Passengers try to dodge the spray as the boat crosses the lake into the wind.
Just as a bonus, in looking through my photos, I found what appears to be a portrait of Gorg the Troll.


  1. Amazing space. And you looked like you enjoyed the boat ride, wet or not!

    Gorg seems to hide out lots of places. I must look out for him in any mountain photos I have!

    1. Yes, he does. Though it might be his relations. I can't tell trolls apart very well. They so seldom let you get a good look.

    2. Oh, and yeah, I enjoyed the boat ride. I had a good rain jacket on.

  2. Lovely! I want to go there one day!!!!

    1. It's worth a visit, though not very close to anything. I wouldn't rate it up there with Yosemite and Zion, but it's a cool place.


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