7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama, one of several volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest, erupted violently and with enough destructive force that the 12,000 foot tall mountain collapsed in on itself. What was once a huge, hollow mountain chamber filled with magma and hot gases suddenly became an open air caldera.
Over the next several centuries, that caldera filled with rain and snowmelt. A lot of snowmelt. This region gets upwards of 40 feet of snow every year!!
It didn’t take long before ancient Mount Mazama became modern day Crater Lake.
But what makes this lake so special is that rain and snowmelt are its only sources of water.
Unlike most bodies of water, there are no rivers or streams flowing into Crater Lake, which means there’s no inflow of sediment, organic material, or other pollutants. The water in Crater Lake is 100% crud-free.
It is also deep – the deepest body of fresh water in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world.
What happens when you collect trillions of gallons of ultra clean water in a very deep bowl? This:
The water is so deep, and so clear, that other colors of the light spectrum are completely absorbed, leaving only blue wavelengths visible to the human eye.
Crater Lake is just over 6 miles across at its widest point, 1943 feet deep, and contains 4.9 trillion gallons of water.
It took about 250 years to fill to its present depth, but since then, it has only changed by about 16 feet. Seepage and evaporation balance against abundant fresh precipitation to keep its level relatively constant over time.
In addition to the lake’s shocking clarity and color, we couldn’t help but notice how placid it was. In many places, the remains of the mountain were perfectly reflected by the lake’s mirror surface.
As we traveled around the park’s 33 mile rim road, we also took note of the two small land masses that interrupt the surface of the water.
On the southern side, a 150 foot rock outcropping emerges from the water. From the ‘Phantom Ship Lookout,’ the jagged rocks look like a…well, they look like a phantom ship:
The other, much larger, land mass is Wizard Island, an arrow shaped volcanic cinder cone that rises some 750 feet out of the water:
In normal times, visitors can take a boat tour out to the island and hike up to its top. Sadly, the boats weren’t running this year, but if we ever get another chance to visit this stunning place, we won’t miss that tour.
There are several hikes, waterfalls, and other natural phenomena that are also probably worth checking out. We drove down from Bend for the day, only allowing us time to explore the viewpoints off the rim road, but one could easily fill a couple days here if they wanted to. On the other hand, staring at the lake from its jaw dropping viewpoints was enough to leave us pretty satisfied.
In my last post, I mentioned our friends, Heather and Dave, who headed us off from our intended visit to Eugene. While changing our route was, obviously, the right call, we still wanted to meet up with them. So, in October, after the fires had calmed down, we drove west from Bend, they drove east from Eugene, and we met for an afternoon of socially distanced conversation at Waldo Lake, a pristine body of water in Willamette National Forest.
While Waldo Lake isn’t as famous as that other lake down south, it’s no slouch.
The water is remarkably clear
And the reflections on a calm afternoon were as pretty as they were soothing:
Adjacent to the lake is a National Forest campground that, along with most of the rest of the campgrounds in these mountains, had been closed for weeks because of the fires. It was a little eerie to see all the reservation slips on the empty sites in the deserted campground…
…but it was wonderful to have this gorgeous lake almost entirely to ourselves.
We took full advantage, setting up camp chairs on the beach and enjoying several hours of excellent conversation with good friends we hadn’t met yet (I’d been chatting with Heather over email and text forever, but we’d never actually met).
It was great, and just what the doctor ordered after we’d spent so much time alone this year. We talked for hours – about life, family, travel, current events, and whatever else came to mind. Heather and Dave are easy to talk to and the time just flew by. In fact, we were there long enough for Thor to display several of his Barbie-style personalities. Among them, “Cool, calm, collected Thor” who just wants love and affection:
and “Psychopath Thor” who will kneecap you for no reason:
Fortunately, no one got hurt as a result of our dog’s overexuberant zoomies.
Anyway, before long, the sun was setting, the temperature was dropping, and it was time to start our respective journeys home. We headed our separate ways with hopes to meet up again whenever the universe stops being a complete pain in the ass.
Six weeks in Bend, Oregon.
Where we stayed:
Deschutes County Fairgrounds, Redmond, Oregon
Crown Villa RV Resort, Bend, Oregon (Review coming next post)