About the Site
Crater Lake National Park  


Park History

The Lake

The Boat

Wizard Island

The Phantom Ship

North Rim

East Rim

South Rim

West Rim

Llao Rock

Sun Notch

Mt. Scott

Park Mountains

Mt. Thielsen

Peripheral Views

Pumice Desert

The Pinnacles

Godfrey Glen

Crater Lake Lodge

Visitor Facilities


Rim Drive



Birds & Animals

Evening & Sunset


Crater Lake National Park, the only national park in Oregon, contains one of the most remarkable natural features in the world. This feature, and the dominant element of the park, is the massive lake contained in the caldera formed by the collapse of the ancient volcano known as Mt. Mazama. The deep blue color of the lake, its depth, and setting in the caldera provide a unique and memorable sight for visitors to the park. Beecher (1957) has called Crater Lake one of the world's 3 greatest scenic features (along with the Grand Canyon and Victoria Falls).

One of the park's most outstanding features is its 33 mile "Rim Drive" which provides spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding cliffs and mountains as it completely circles the lake. The road, which is open for only a few months in the later summer because of the enormous amount of snow which accumulates on the rim during the winter, provides access to the lake for virtually every visitor.

The park provides a number of other features in addition to the lake, many related to the vulcanism which has been the dominant force in shaping this area. There are a number of volcanic mountains along the rim of the crater, elsewhere in the park, and in the surrounding area. A barren desert composed of volcanic pumice, features composed of solidified lava, and strange volcanic formations can also be seen in various parts of Crater Lake National Park.

In addition to volcanic features, the park also features streams and creeks, waterfalls, dense forests of red fir, mountain hemlock, and whitebark pine. Much of the park area is wilderness and there are 140 miles of trails within the park boundaries.

Crater Lake National Park also provides a number of useful visitor facilities, including information and visitor centers, restaurants, fuel stops, stores, and lodging. The visitor amenities include Crater Lake Lodge, one of the most spectacular and memorable of all the lodges in America's national parks.

Crater Lake National Park currently encompasses 183,227 acres of the park. It is located in the southwest part of the state of Oregon along the spine of the Cascade Mountain Range about 120 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The closest national parks are Redwood National Park on the coast of northern California and Lassen Volcanic National Park to the south, also located in the Cascade Range and also a testament to volcanic upheaval.

Interest in the park has grown since its creation. In the first few years of the park, visitors numbered about one to two thousand per year, growing to 5000 per year or so by the end of the park's first decade. Currently the park will host 500,000 visitors per year.

Unquestionably, Crater Lake is one of the most spectacular physical features on the earth. It has created a unforgettable experience for the many people who have made their way there, the park itself has served as model for saving spectacular precious and geographical features all over the planet.

Park History

Human History Human beings seem to have inhabited the general area of the park for as long as 12,000 years. It is believed, deriving from archaeological evidence gathered in the 1930's, that some humans may have witnessed the cataclysmic volcanic eruption which formed Crater Lake. This must have been one of the most amazing sights ever seen by human beings at an place or any time.

It is believed that some Indians held the lake to be sacred and were forbidden to gaze on its waters or to speak of it. In any case, while the native peoples may have visited the area from time to time, the severe nature of winter weather in the park and along the rim of the caldera, precluded year round habitation. Some evidence of visits by native peoples has been found, such as rock cairns, perhaps associated with "spirit quests." In the lands to the east of the lake, Klamath-Modoc speaking peoples lived, On the west side, Takelma speakers predominated. Klamath Indians lived in the Klamath Basin to the south of the lake, Takelma and Upper Umpqua peoples lived in the interior valleys of southwestern Oregon, Mollala along the slopes of the Cascade Mountains.

For a variety of reasons, the lake was generally unknown to people of European descent for a long while, although legendary explorer John C. Fremont in the years 1843-1846 led reconnaissance parties within sight of the lake's rim and apparently heard tales of a "great sunken hole." Traders and trappers, although they visited the mountains and valleys of central Oregon and the Klamath Basin, all managed to miss the great lake in the crater.

For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.

Gold was discovered in the area, at Daisy Creek, in 1852. The attraction of this strike led directly to the first white men to view the lake. These were members of a group of prospectors including John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaac Skeeters, on June 12, 1853. They were understandably impressed by the sight and christened it "Deep Blue Lake." They saw the lake from a location near where Rim Village currently exists, now called "Discovery Point." However, this sighting was largely forgotten in the years that followed and had little discernable effect.

A group led by Chauncey Nye again saw the lake in 1862 and called in "Blue Lake." An account of this visit appeared in the Jacksonville Oregon Sentinel , and became the first published account of the lake to appear. In 1865 John M. Corbell and F. M. Smith saw the lake while hunting. The same year soldiers from Ft. Klamath, members of the Oregon Voluntary Infantry, commanded by Franklin Sprague, spotted the lake again and brought others to see it as well. A Sgt. Stearns and L. B. Sprague became the first non-Indian men known to have reached shore of the lake, which they deemed "Lake Majesty." This episode did become better known and spurred further visitation and the area soon became a popular local tourist destination. In 1869, Jim Sutton, the editor of the Jacksonville paper, referred to the lake as "Crater Lake", the name which eventually became permanent. Interestingly, Crater Lake did not appear on any map until 1875.

Interest in the lake increased among members of the public at large as well as the government and scientist. In 1883, members of the U.S. Geological Survey, J. S. Diller, and Everett Hayden, visited the future park area and paddled to Wizard Island. In 1886 soundings of the depth of the lake were undertaken by Clarence Dutton of the USGS.

But the name which is inextricably linked to the establishment of Crater Lake as a national park is William Gladstone Steel. As a 17 year old in Kansas, in the year 1870, Steel supposedly read reports of the lake in a newspaper which had been used to wrap his lunch, and he vowed to see the lake someday. Although the story is possibly apocryphal, Steel did finally realized his dream to visit the lake 1885 when he traveled to the park and met up with Clarence Dutton and Professor Joseph Le Conte. He immediately decided that the lake should be preserved in a national park, and began efforts to see that would be accomplished. Steel was also responsible for the naming of a number of features of the lake and caldera, such as Llao Rock (which he named on his first visit) and Wizard Island.

Steel dedicated most of his adult life to pursuit of national park status for Crater Lake. He persisted in his efforts, although some along the way regarded him as a crackpot or a pest. He wrote articles for magazines and newspapers, gathered petitions, organized lobbying efforts, met with members of congress and state officials, and engaged in a number of other promotional activities.

Steel's efforts were aided by noted geologist Clarence Dutton, who wrote glowingly of the lake in Science Magazine. An article in 1897 in National Geographic Magazine, written by Joseph S. Diller, also brought attention to the lake. Opposition to the idea of a national park came from a variety of sources, including lumbermen, sheep ranchers, mining interests, and land speculators. Steel in 1894 also founded The Mazama Club, a group of mountaineers who gave their name to the mountain which collapsed to form Crater Lake, and whose periodical Mazama in 1897 began to promote national park status for Crater Lake. During the period of Steel's promotional efforts for Crater Lake, the first national park in the Pacific northwest, Mt. Rainier, was created in 1899.

In 1885 Steel presented President Grover Cleveland a petition for creation of the park. In 1886, 10 townships surrounding the lake were set aside from development. This land included not only Crater Lake but also Mt. Scott, Timber Crater, Diamond Lake, and Mt. Thielsen. Grazing of sheep was phased out in 1896.

Failed bills to establish a park were introduced in Congress in 1895 and 1899. After 17 years of lobbying, writing articles, letters, petitions, and a book, Steel appealed to personal friends of President Theodore Roosevelt, and decades of effort finally bore fruit. A bill to establish the park was introduced in 1901 and passed in 1902, with the help of gifford Pinchot and Roosevelt. President Roosevelt signed the bill which resulted in the official creation of the park on May 22, 1902. Crater Lake thus became America's 6th national park, following Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, General Grant (now Kings Canyon), and Mt. Rainier.

The park's first superintendent was William F. Arant, a Klamath Falls rancher. He held the position for 11 years. In early years, there was little money to run the park or provide facilities for visitors. The yearly park budget in 1902 was $2000 (this grew to $4 million by 2002).

Steel continued to work on behalf of the park, seeking funds and improvements, after its creation. In 1913 he was named the park's second superintendent, and after that, beginning in 1916, became the park's commissioner. In 1915 he helped establish The Crater Lake Lodge Company, the park's major concessionaire.

In 1932, 973 acres were added to the park, creating an area which is sometimes called the "southern panhandle." At this time as well, as with many other parks in the national park system, during the period from the 1930's into the 1940's saw the arrival of Civilian Conservation Corps members who worked on various projects in the park.

In 1980, Crater Lake National Park was enlarged by 36 square miles, to a total area of 286 square miles. Added areas included the Sand Creek drainage, Bear Butte, Sphagnum bog, Crater Springs, Spruce Lake, and Thousand Springs, the largest complex of springs in the park.

In 1957, Crater Lake became the first national park to introduce campgrounds operated for fees by concessionaire.

The park was closed from 1942 to 1945 because of restrictions on travel imposed during World War II. An unfortunate chapter for the park was written in 1975 when guests became sick because of a contaminated water supply.

The park continues to be heavily visited and the visitor facilities continue to be improved on a yearly basis. A major renovation of Crater Lake Lodge was undertaken in the early 1990's. Most recently, new visitor facilities have been built in Rim Village, and landscaping along the rim of the caldera in this area has been accomplished.

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