Crater Lake takes it origin in a massive eruption of 12,000 foot Mount Mazama some 7700 years ago. Part of the cascade range of volcanoes that includes more recent erupted Mount St. Helens, Mazama was sacred to Native Americans called Klamaths.
The remnants of the huge peak fell inward and formed a massive caldera which over the course of time filled from snow melt and rain. Native American legend is more romantic with Chief of the Below World and Chief of the Above World vying for the love of, you guessed it, a beautiful woman. This usually leads to some kind of calamity, right? More amazing is that they managed to keep white settlers from discovering the massive lake until 1853. Thankfully, the pioneers were more intent on finding gold than natural beauty and it bought the Klamath people a few more years before the area was disputed. Exploitation of the area was short however as it became a National Park in 1902, the 6th one in US history.
Crater Lake is undoubtedly deep, averaging 1500 feet which is the deepest average in the Western Hemisphere. It's top depth of nearly 2000 feet makes it the deepest in the United States and depending on who is doing the ranking, as high as the seventh deepest in the world. But what really sets it apart is its clarity.
The lake is filled solely with precipitation, much of that from the large amounts of snow that fall in the area. Not one small stream runs into Crater Lake and this purity of water is what makes it so incredibly clear. Measured tests have recorded it at just under 140 feet. Of course, clarity in itself does not make a lake beautiful. The transparency of the water allows UV light from the sun to penetrate deeper into the lake than perhaps any other body of water in the world. This coupled with the lack of any inflowing water source aside from precipitation makes for water nearly devoid of particles to absorb any of the UV rays. This in turn leads to rays being reflected back up which results in one of the most stunning blue hues in nature. Toss in a ring of snow-capped peaks and some evergreens and you have a recipe for alpine splendor.
National parks in their attempt to be as natural as possible allow wild fires to burn if they were started by natural means. Lightening strikes start a lot of naturally occurring wildfires in National Parks.
As lightening constitutes a natural means for starting a fire in nature they allow these fires to burn as long as they don’t endanger human life. Managed as "wildland fires" these fires are allowed to burn to return fire dependant ecosystems to their natural form.
These fires actually benefit the ecosystem in these areas and lead to healthier forests and habitats for the animals living in the park.
According to the Klamath Legend, Crater Lake was created during a War between Llao (chief spirit of Crater Lake) and Skell (Spirit of the Klamath marshes to the South). It is with these names that the features Llao Rock and Skell Channel/Head were named.
The Legend reads that Long ago two spirits lived in the area. Llao “LAH-oh” and Skell’s followers took on the forms of animals like deer, fox and dove and often played together, but eventually began to fight. War broke out and eventually Skell was killed by Llao near the base of the mountain.
Llao’s followers brought Skell’s heart up to Llao rock to celebrate but Skells followers stole the heart and returned it to the body of their leader, returning him to life. After that many more battles were waged. In the last battle Llao was killed by Skell who ordered that Llao be cut into pieces and thrown into the lake to be devoured by crawfish and other monsters.
The water creatures were loyal to Llao so Skell tricked them by throwing his partitioned body into the lake one at a time announcing “this is Skells arms” and so on. However when Skell threw Llao’s head into the lake the creatures realized that it was their master and would not touch it. It is that head that still sits in the lake. Known today as Wizard Island.
One custom there is to stop by the side of the street and slid, fight with snowballs, anything you want.
Bring some toboggan !