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On my way to the Burning Man festival in Nevada I drove south along the Okanogan Valley of British Columbia and then through the Columbia River Valley of Washington State. When I entered into Oregon I paused to look at my Rand McNally road atlas to see if there were any "sights" that may interest me along the way. I noticed that just off the Highway to the west was "Crater Lake National Park." I'd heard about Crater Lake before but didn't really know much about it so I decided to make the slight detour over to check it out. Good call. What an absolutely pristine and stunningly beautiful site it is. From the reading material and videos in the visitor centre I discovered many interesting facts. The lake was formed some 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and sent ash and pumice cascading through the surrounding landscape of Oregon. The eruption was witnessed by the local first nations people of the area and they have many tribal stories about it that have survived the ages. After the eruption subsided the centre of the mountain cone collapsed leaving a crater type of volcanic depression called a "caldera" which then over time filled with water from rain and melted snowfall. The sides of the caldera are solid rock and they keep the water in the lake at a constant level. No water feeds out of or into the lake from any other sources. The clarity of it is regularly measured with a "secchi disc" which is a crude but effective way of determining the clarity of water in a lake. It is a black and white checkered plate that is slowly lowered into the water on a rope from a boat. When the disc is no longer visible from the surface the depth is noted from the rope markings. Crater lake has consistently claimed the title of "clearest lake in the world" for many years. There is a road that hugs the rim of the crater that takes about three hours to drive and there are plenty of rest stops along the way to eat, drink and capture images and in the summer it is regularly packed with visitors and finding a place to park at some of the more popular stops can be a challenge. There are also numerous hiking trails ranging from a few minutes to multi day hikes that criss cross the park area. The lake is also directly on the path of the much traveled "Pacific Crest Trail" and I noticed and spoke with many hikers making that multi month arduous trek. There are trout of different species in the lake and there's no limit to the number you may catch and no licence is required to catch them from shore. A commercial tour operation takes visitors on a sightseeing trip across the lake and around "Wizard Island". Crater Lake is a stunningly beautiful part of the landscape of Oregon and I heartily recommend to any traveller in the area to make the effort to visit this gorgeous national park. You will not be disappointed.
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