Crater Lake is located at southwestern off Highway 62 in Oregon. It is Oregon?s only national park. It is the deepest lake in the United States and is the seventh deepest in the world. Crater Lake has an average diameter of 5.3 miles in length and is approximately 1,932 feet deep.
Crater Lake is a result of a volcanic explosion that happened about 7,000 years ago. A long time ago, the pacific oceanic plate was gradually moving under the pacific continental plate in the process of plate tectonics. The pressure shaped the land to move upward and create a line of mountains that are currently located on the Cascade Range. These lavas piled and cooled on top of each other resulting in mountains like Mazama and Hood. Mount Mazama was built by successive flows of both andesite and dacite lavas. Mount Mazama was a stratovolcano, which was about 12,000 feet high after series of ash, cinders, and pumice explosions built it upward. During it?s final eruption the magma chamber was emptying and the underlying support for the mountain was lost and the walls of the volcano began to collapse. In just a matter of days the top of the mountain was destroyed and left a caldera. A caldera is a word used by geologists to describe large basin-shaped volcanic depressions. The destruction Mount Mazama was what marked the beginning of the formation of Crater Lake. The caldera was about 3,000 feet deep and over time, snow and rain fell into it and would eventually be filled. The lake would stop filling and the water gradually cleared to form one of the world’s purest and deepest lakes. The water in Crater Lake is very clean and clear because it contains few dissolved minerals and particles, and no streams run into or out of the lake. Precipitation entering the lake was offset by evaporation and seepage. The current variation of the lake?s surface level is only about three feet every year.
As seen in person and in pictures, Crater Lake appears to have a very blue appearance. Crater Lake’s depth and extreme clarity allow sunlight to penetrate many tens of feet into the water. Sunlight is made up of all colors, and as it passes through the water red light is the first to be absorbed. Orange, yellow and green are absorbed next, leaving only blue light to be scattered back to the surface. The color of the lake changes as the sun and clouds shift, and the appearance of the lake’s surface is also altered by wind and wave patterns.
One of the most popular features of the lake are it?s 3 islands and the probably the most popular one is Wizard Island because it is the only one of the 3 that is above water. Wizard Island is called Wizard Island because of its resemblance to a sorcerer’s pointed hat and because it is a cinder cone that resulted from blocky lava flows that came from its base. A cinder cone forms like a giant anthill from the fallback of hot lava fragments hurled from its crater. Since Wizard Island grew inside the caldera, after its collapse we know it is less than 7,700 years old. The oldest trees on the island are about 800 years old, so the Wizard’s age is somewhere between 800 and 7,700 years old. The elevation of Wizard Island is about 6940 feet and the island?s height above water is about 764 feet. An underwater map of Crater Lake shows a steep increase in the slope of Wizard Island at a depth of about 250 feet, which probably meant that the volcanic island formed when the surface of Crater Lake was that much lower.
There are a lot of activities that go on in the winter and summer at Crater Lake. Winter backcountry ski camping, snowshoe camping, and snowmobiling are popular in the winter. In most of the rest of the seasons people go backpacking, hiking, bicycling, and fishing. However, private boats are not allowed in the lake as well as other activities such as rock climbing and hunting. I personally have been to Crater Lake once, about ten years ago, and the hike getting to and from the lake was horrible but touring the lake and seeing the great views make it worthwhile.
Today there are many species of plant and wildlife living in Crater Lake Park. Crater lake?s water contained no fish until humans introduced them in 1888 to 1941. Today, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon are swimming in Crater Lake. Wildflowers bloom late and disappear early here, thriving in wet, open areas. Birds and other animals that are often seen are ravens, jays, nutcrackers, deer, ground squirrels and chipmunks. Other animals that of seen, but not as often are seen are elk, black bears, foxes, porcupines, pine martens, chickaree squirrels and pikas. On a side not, during my last and only visit to the lake I was told more than once to never to feed the animals because they would become dependant on human would and then when we would leave they would stave to death. The only animals I saw were brown squirrels and bluebirds. The park’s black bears are not aggressive and are almost never seen. According to park forest services the bears do visit the Mazama Campground most nights in search of food and cooler chests that have been left out by careless campers.
Mount Mazama or Crater Lake is still said to be volcanic because of the production of the 3 islands from the bottom of the lake. If the volcano were to erupt again it would seem impossible to predict when and would probably wouldn?t be in this century or millennium. The young age of this volcano shows many people to believe that we are yet to see a lot of activity at Crater Lake.
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