The 7 Wonders of Oregon | From Crater Lake to Rafting the Rogue River

Why Crater Lake is Awesome

(in the true sense of that word)

1. It’s deep water, Brother.
  • Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States (in terms of maximum depth).
  • Crater Lake is deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere (in terms of average depth).
  • Crater Lake is the seventh deepest lake in the world.
2. It’s clean, clear and under control.

Due primarily to the absence of any inlets or tributaries, the waters of Crater Lake are singularly clear of pollutants.

3. It’s water has memory (figuratively speaking)

As aforementioned, there are no rivers or streams flowing directly in or out of Crater Lake. As such, evaporation from the lake is compensated for only by rainfall and snow melt. As a result, it requires ~250 years for the total amount of water in the lake to be replaced. (“History and Culture”. National Park Service. Retrieved 2013-07-08.)

Hence, when you touch the waters of Crater Lake, you are, as it were, entwining your fingers in the tendrils of the past, touching waters your great-grandparents’ parents might have touched.

4. It is a sacred place.

The Klamath Indians, descendants of the Makalak People of–modern day–Southern Oregon and Northern California, may well have witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama, and with it, the birth of Crater Lake. Indeed, “archaeologists have found sandals and other artifacts buried under layers of ash, dust, and pumic” from the eruption of Mount Mazama ~7,700 years ago.”

(“Park History,” (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-01-03.)

Moreover, Klamath Indian legends, passed down orally through generations, provide an account of Mazama’s collapse:

The spirit of the mountain was called Chief of the Below World (Llao). The spirit of the sky was called Chief of the Above World (Skell). Sometimes Llao came up from his home inside the earth and stood on top of Mount Mazama, one of the highest mountains in the region. During one of these visits, he saw the Makalak chief’s beautiful daughter and fell in love with her. He promised her eternal life if she would return with him to his lodge below the mountain. When she refused, he became angry and declared that he would destroy her people with fire. In his rage, he rushed up through the opening of his mountain and stood on top of it and began to hurl fire down upon them.

The mighty Skell took pity on the people and stood atop Mount Shasta to defend them. From their mountaintops, the two chiefs waged a furious battle. They hurled red hot rocks as large as hills. They made the earth tremble and caused great landslides of fire. The people fled in terror to the waters of Klamath Lake.

Two holy men offered to sacrifice themselves by jumping into the pit of fire on top of Llao’s mountain. Skell was moved by their bravery and drove Llao back into Mount Mazama. When the sun rose next, the great mountain was gone. It had fallen in on Llao. All that remained was a large hole. Rain fell in torrents, filling the hole with water. This is now called Crater Lake.

(Ibid)
5.  Finally, it is inextricably tied to the history and life of our home waters, the Rogue River–and to all through which it flows.

Though not the literal source, Crater Lake is located very near the headwaters of the Rogue River, which itself boasts a rich geologic and human history that extends back and beyond its more recent notoriety as a destination for kayaking, rafting and fishing. (Stay tuned for more to come about the Rogue River on our blog.)