Fascinating Crater Lake National Park Facts
California may have Yosemite, and Washington may have Mount Rainier, but in between them is one of the most underrated national parks in the U.S.: Oregon's Crater Lake.
Centered around a caldera holding a pristine lake and small islands, this gorgeous park is unlike anywhere else in the country. And yet, only about 704,512 people visit each year.
Want to learn more about this wondrous place? Here are 10 amazing Crater Lake facts that will blow your mind.
1. Crater Lake Is an Active Volcano
Most people know that Crater Lake was created by a volcanic eruption — it is a caldera after all. Happening about 7,700 years ago, the event changed the topography of the area, particularly that of Mount Mazama.
But what people don't know is that the volcano is still active. Hydrothermal activity has been recorded and doesn't seem likely to stop. Don't worry! The dormant volcano will probably not erupt within our lifetimes.
2. No One Knows Where the Lake Flows
This natural wonder baffles scientists because of its high water flow. It's estimated that about 2 million gallons flow out of the caldera every single hour. And yet, no one knows where all that water is going.
There are no outlets that bring water in and out of the crater. Instead, the lake is filled with rain and snow melting from the surrounding mountains. And while water levels would fluctuate with precipitation and evaporation, these phenomena are simply not enough to explain the heavy flow of the lake.
Maybe one day, science will explain it. Or maybe the stories are true and something supernatural is behind it all.
3. You Can See About 100 Feet Down
Since the crater is blocked off from other sources of water, its lake remains undisturbed by movement and sediments. This translates to impossibly clear water that boasts visibility of up to 100 feet!
In fact, the lake is considered one of the most transparent bodies of water in the world!
4. It's Oregon's Only National Park
We're not sure why Oregon only has one national park, especially when you consider that its West Coast neighbors, California and Washington, have nine and three, respectively.
But while we hope to see the number increase in the future, we certainly think Crater Lake deserves the recognition, given how unique it is. The park was established in 1902, in great part thanks to the efforts of William Gladstone Steel, a Kansas native who became obsessed with Crater Lake after reading about it in his childhood.
5. Crater Lake Is the Deepest Lake in the U.S.
Need more proof that Crater Lake is special? While it's nowhere near as expansive as the incredible Great Lakes, it is the deepest lake in the country. It's also the ninth deepest in the entire world.
The lake can measure up to 1,949 feet deep. That's about 20 feet less than the Ping An International Finance Centre in Shenzhen, China, the fifth tallest building in the world.
6. Living Organisms Manage to Thrive at the Bottom of Crater Lake
Because of its lack of inlets, the bottom of Crater Lake lacks nutrients. And yet, scientists have found moss and bacteria thriving in the depths. How and why they're there is another mystery that science has not been able to explain.
That said, there is biodiversity closer to the surface of the lake. Be on the lookout for the Mazama newt, a species that can only be found in this caldera.
7. It's One of the Snowiest Places in the U.S.
If you want to swim at Crater Lake, you'll have to visit from late June to September. During the rest of the year, the lake is usually covered in a blanket of snow. With around 43 feet of snow per year, the park is officially one of the places with the heaviest snowfall in the U.S.
But don't let this deter you from visiting outside of summer. The lake is absolutely gorgeous in the snow, and it gives you the opportunity to do a scenic cross-country ski trip.
There Is a Mysterious Floating Tree in the Lake
If you're at the right place in Crater Lake, you may get to see a tree stump floating around. And while it may not look like anything particularly unusual, this is yet another mystery of the caldera.
Known as the Old Man of the Lake, the tree stump measures about 34 feet and floats completely erect without being anchored by anything. Once again, scientists have not been able to explain how exactly this is possible.
It Is Sacred to the Indigenous Klamath People
Crater Lake has been important to the Klamath Indigenous group (once the Makalak people) for thousands of years. According to their cosmogony, the crater was formed after an epic battle between Gmo’Kam’c, the creator, and Llao, a spirit of the underworld.
The area is sacred to the Klamath and other groups of the area. Before colonization, it was used for physical and spiritual pilgrimages.
The Park Has a Desert
While we've given a lot of focus to the lake, there is more to the national park than the crater. You'll find green forests, yes, but also the Pumice Desert, which was created after the eruption.
Only the strongest vegetation manages to grow in this dry meadow, whose soil isn't ideal for plant life. And if you want more volcanic deserts, visit Pumice Castle, a dry rock formation that is one of the highlights of the park.