Crater Lake

by Wendy VanHatten

Want to visit America’s deepest lake? If so, head to Oregon…to Crater Lake.

With a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and one of the most beautiful. The water’s intense blue color is an indication of its great depth and purity. Surrounded by cliffs, the lake is fed entirely by rain and snow. Scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.

Crater Lake rests in the belly of a dormant volcano; asleep but not extinct. That’s an important distinction.

The volcano once stood 12,000 feet tall, but it collapsed after a major eruption 7,700 years ago. Later eruptions formed Wizard Island, a cinder cone that rises from the water. The park has an abundance of fascinating volcanic features, including a second rocky island, the Phantom Ship.

Crater Lake is also one of the snowiest inhabited places in the USA. Each winter, deep snow forces the closure of the park’s Rim Drive and North Entrance to cars. Rim Drive becomes a trail for skiing and snowshoeing. The North Entrance road becomes a snowmobile trail. These roads close for the season with the first big October snowstorm, or on November 1, whichever comes first.

Crater Lake itself occupies less than 10% of the park. Beyond the lake, old-growth forests blanket the landscape. Established in 1902, the park protects 15 species of conifers, from towering Ponderosa Pines to ancient Whitebark Pines. These trees shelter a wide array of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, elk, and spotted owls.

We visited in September of this year. Fires forced the closure of the roads along the west, but we had the opportunity to drive along the east side. Wizard Island and the deep blue water views were still spectacular and the way I remembered from my visits when I was a teenager.

This has to be one of America’s best places to visit.