By: Patrick Gensel
Before August of this year, I had not known much about Crater Lake National Park. Actually, It was barely on my radar at all, that was until a suggestion from Outdoor Informer’s Jason Renda turned me on to the idea. I had just come off a two day stay on Washington’s coveted Mount Rainier and needed some down time after a successful summit bid. With Mount Shasta in Northern California on my month-long cross country warpath, A visit to Crater lake made perfect sense.
Crater Lake National Park is situated in beautiful central Oregon.The park was established on May 22nd, 1902 and stands as the sixth oldest national park in the US, and the only national park in the state of Oregon. The approach from Portland was about five hours and took me along scenic Oregon highway 58. This eighty-five mile stretch of highway traversed the lush forest and mountain environs I came to expect in the Pacific Northwest, and as I passed a Pacific Crest Trail sign, I couldn’t help but dream of playing in that forest indefinitely.
Like much of the American West’s geology, Crater Lake was born of tumultuous change. Some 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama, a then active stratovolcano erupted and collapsed on itself. The remaining caldera filled up with rain water and snow melt over the centuries following the collapse, creating what now is the deepest lake in the United States. Depths in Crater lake range from a few feet near wizard island to as much as 1,949 feet.
When I entered the park, I was by no means aware of the grandeur that awaited me. As I made my way into the heart of the park I stopped a few times for photos before even getting a first glimpse of the lake. Sights such as the Pumice desert and the many volcanic features in every direction captivated my attention. When I made it to the first lake view point I was spellbound by the size and beauty of the lake. I had never seen such blue water in my life, and the vastness of the lake only paled in comparison to Mount Rainier which I had experienced a day earlier.
I stood on the crater rim and gazed nearly five miles across to the other side in amazement. Back east, where I come from, things just aren’t this engulfing. Nearly a thousand feet below me, and Bluer than any glacial lake I have ever encountered, the water rippled gently. It took me nearly an hour to convince myself to move on to the next viewpoint. I just couldn’t imagine the next one topping this view, an experience I felt several times as I stopped at the many overlooks along the rim.
A few jaw dropping viewpoints later I had arrived at Rim Village. Being the National Park nerd that I am, my first order of business was to seek out the parks visitor center to get my National Park passport stamped. With my nerd-needs fulfilled, I wandered around the village for a bit, constantly gazing into the crater that was never far from my view. I stopped along the crater rim to get another good look at the azure blue lake before heading south to California. I caught a glimpse of a speed boat crossing the lake. From where I stood, it looked as if it were a tiny toy crossing the vastness of the neighborhood swimming pool. I starred a bit longer as it disappeared out of view. I turned away and started towards my car. All I could think about on my drive that evening was the way that lake had made me feel. I’m not quite sure what it was, but it was something beautiful. If you every find yourself in Central Oregon, do yourself a favor and spend a few hours here, it will be worth every second.
Check out this short clip from Crater Lake: