Friday, July 10, 2009

Crater Lake

You might think that the number one tourist attraction in Oregon would be Crater Lake and it should be, but it is not. (Actually, #1 is Spirit Mountain Casino.) I can understand why it is at least second or third and not first. It has nothing to do with majesty or beauty (CL has all that) has to do with accessibility. It is 75 miles from Medford and about 130 miles from Roseberg (both on I-5)...and it gets worse from there, but I have to say it is well worth the trip. About half a million make the trek to visit the national park in a year.

Until we moved here, I thought that CL was caused by a meteor strike, but like so many other old wives tales that is not how it began. Indulge me for a moment: 7,700 years ago a 12,000 foot Mt. Mazama existed there. It erupted...not through the top, but in several smaller vent holes that in effect encircled the mountain. Finally, it exploded and collapsed into a huge pool of magma creating an incredible crater. The eruption is thought to be the largest in North America. It took several thousand years, but snow and rain filled the crater to form a lake, about 5 miles in diameter and up to 1,900 feet deep. It reached equilibrium between evaporation and run off and new rain and snow.

The crater is approximately 3,500 feet deep filled with 1,200 to 1,900 feet of water. It is so deep that the reflected sunlight gives it an iridescent, deep blue the likes of which are not seen in many other places on earth. It is truly unique.

The rim is about 8,000 feet elevation, so the last 30 miles up to the lake you are climbing. It gets about 44 feet of snow a year (much like Gaylord :-) ) and when we went looking for a table to eat our picnic lunch, we had to make sure there was no snow around us. It was cold up there.

Interesting enough, there are fish in the lake having been stocked between 1888 and 1940. There are two species left (trout and salmon) and they allow unrestricted fishing there, but you cannot clean your fish around the lake. Today, they are trying to keep the lake as pure as possible (bacteria and plants only naturally introduced) to be sure it lasts for another 7,700 years.

You have to see it to believe it.

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