Crater Lake was formed from the collapse of Mount Mazama, a volcano in southern Oregon that once stood about 11,000 feet tall. A series of destructive eruptions around 5000 BC caused the mountain's peak to collapse into its lava chamber, resulting in a caldera nearly six miles wide. Over time, snowmelt and rain collected in the crater to form the lake, which at 1,949 feet deep, is presently the deepest in the USA, 2nd in North America, and 9th in the world. Based on a comparison of average depths, however, Crater Lake at 1148 feet, is the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and third deepest in the world.
The first known white man to reach the lake was prospector John Hillman, who found the lake in 1853. Largely through the efforts of naturalist William Gladstone Steel, the United States declared Crater Lake a national park in 1902.
Crater Lake's location high in the Cascade mountains (about 6,000 feet above sea level) means that snow is often visible year-round. The lake is often enveloped in heavy snow during the fall, winter, and spring, forcing the closure of roads and trails. In fact, the lake averages 533 inches of snow a year. Consequently, the best time to visit Crater Lake is in the summer months, when all facilities, roads, and trails are open.
The 33-mile Rim Drive encircles Crater Lake, giving varied perspectives of the lake, rim, and surrounding terrain. Open only during the summer from late June to mid-October, there are many overlooks with interpretive signs. The only access to the lake itself is by steep trail to Cleetwood Cove, where boat tours of the lake are offered. Numerous picnic areas are along the Rim Drive, as is hiking access from Rim Village to Garfield Peak. Rim Drive also accesses Lightning Springs (west side), Cleetwood Cove (north side), Mount Scott (east side), Sun Notch Viewpoint and Crater Peak (south side). Both Kerr Notch and Sun Notch Viewpoints are particularly spectacular viewpoints, with views down to Phantom Rock and across the lake to Wizard Island.
There are many trails open to horses. But, if you're not a cowboy then hiking the trails is also a great experience. While on the trails keep an eye open for the many deer grazing in the hills.
The Pinnacles can be reached in the summer from the Rim Drive on a paved, 6-mile road. These eerie spires of eroded ash rise from the edges of Sand and Wheeler Creeks in pinnacle-fashion. On the way you'll pass Lost Creek Campground. Once upon a time, the road continued east of the turn-out, to the former East Entrance of the park. A path now replaces the old road and follows the rim of Sand Creek (and more views of pinnacles) to where the entrance arch still stands. A different route back to the Rim Drive, is to take the Grayback Road, a one-way, westbound only, gravel road.
Steel Information Center, Phone: +1 541 594-2211, extension 402. Daily year round, except for Christmas day. April - early November, 9AM-5PM. Early November - early April, 10AM-4PM. A park ranger is on duty to assist you with information, weather forecasts, backcountry camping permits, ski route advisories, and safety tips. A 20 minute film The Crater Lake Story describes the formation of Crater Lake through a story passed down by Native Americans of this area and is shown throughout the day in the auditorium.
Rim Village Visitor Center, located on the south rim of the caldera, approximately 200 yards west of the Crater Lake Lodge. Open early June through late September. General park information, backcountry camping permits, and educational sales items are available here.
Sinnott Memorial Overlook and Crater Lake Lodge. Both of these facilities have interpretive displays and exhibits which are open to the public in the summer.
If you want to explore the lake a little closer you should experience a boat tour. Only for those who are willing to hike about 15 minutes down into the crater. Access is by 1.1 mile Cleetwood Trail which descends 700 feet to the lake surface. Guided tours explore Wizard Island. The price can be expensive at $25 per person but it's well worth it
Fishing Season May 20 through Oct 31; however, it is legal to fish the lake year round. All waters in the park are open to fishing and no license is required. Fishing is allowed in the park from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. All waters are restricted to use of artificial lures and flies only. No organic bait of any kind can be used in Crater Lake National Park. This includes live or dead fish, power bait, and fish eggs or roe. The lake contains Kokanee Salmon and rainbow trout. No private boats or flotation devices are allowed. Fish must be packed out, they can not be cleaned at the lake. Streams contain Eastern, Rainbow, German Brown and Bull Trout. The streams, however, are largely inaccessible due to the steep canyons surrounding them.
Scuba Diving, Permits (no charge) are only issued from the Canfield Building (Ranger Station) in the Park Headquarters complex. A ranger will confirm your diving ability and give you specific information about diving in the lake. The lake level is at 6,173 feet in elevation, so high altitude dive tables should be used in planning your dive. Access is by Cleetwood Trail is 1.1 miles in length and descends 700 feet to the lake surface. You must be able to carry all your equipment up and down the trail. Wheeled vehicles are prohibited. Restrooms are available at the top and bottom of the Cleetwood Trail but there are no food or drinking water facilities.
Scuba Diving has been suspended as of July 2012 until the park service can develop a plan to prevent invasive species contamination.
Day Hiking. There are over 90 miles of trails, with marked routes from 15 minutes to more than two hours. Hiking or climbing inside the caldera is prohibited. Conditions within the caldera are extremely dangerous. The Cleetwood Trail is the only safe and legal access to the lake’s shore.
Dogs and other pets are not allowed on park trails.
Smoking is not allowed on any trail.
Bicycling is permitted only on paved roads and the Grayback Drive.
Feeding wild animals, including birds, is prohibited. Feeding animals is dangerous for you, bad for them, and harmful for the ecosystem.
Stay on trails to protect vegetation and fragile hillsides. Shortcutting trails, particularly on switchbacks, can damage slopes, making them more susceptible to erosion and visual damage.
Be prepared, Equip yourself with water, food, warm clothing, rain gear, and anything else appropriate to the trail you take. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Leave all rocks, plants and artifacts undisturbed for the enjoyment of future hikers.
Do not drink water from park streams or from the lake without properly treating it.
Bicycling is welcome on the paved roads only, NOT trails. That includes the 33 mile Rim Drive. Bicycling is difficult because of the steep hills and high altitudes and also because the Drive may not have shoulders and has blind curves. It is only for riders experienced with traffic. Recommended only in July, August and September.
Ski or snowshoe on ungroomed trails by permit only.
Hunting is not permitted in Crater Lake National Park.
The Historic Prospect Hotel, 391 Mill Creek Drive, Prospect, Toll free: 1-800-944-6490 or Phone: +1 541 560-3664, fax: +1 541 560-3825, . Built in the late 1800's and offers a cozy and comfortable night's stay. Be aware that there is high demand and you should plan your travels well in advance. They also have great breakfast
Park service facilities:
Crater Lake Lodge, Phone: +1 541 830-8700, Open From 05/24/2006 To 10/16/2006. 71 rooms. Normally open mid-May through mid-October. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Mazama Village Motor Inn, Phone: +1 541 830-8700, Open From 06/02/2006 To 10/02/2006. Has 40 units and is located in the Mazama Village complex. Reservations are recommended.
Lost Creek Campground Open mid July to early October (weather permitting). Has 16 tent sites.
Mazama Campground, Open mid June to early October (weather permitting). Has 200 sites, Reservations are not taken, however sites are usually available. Running water, flush toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings are provided.
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