The Deepest Lake in the U.S.

After experiencing so many gorgeous bodies of water during my travels thus far, I decided that Crater Lake National Park was a must see. Everyone I’d met who had been there, put the park in their top 5 of all time. So, off I went to explore it!

At its deepest point, Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep and resides at an elevation of 6,173 ft above sea level.  The 6-mile expanse of the lake (at its widest point), reveals water so pure that other colors of the spectrum are absorbed, leaving blue wavelengths scattered and visible to the human eye. –NPS website 

The science behind it is absolutely fascinating (at least to me it is!), but you have to see it to believe it.  Similar to Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park in WA, the water is so blue, it looks fake.  Thank goodness I couldn’t really see the lake until I had parked my bike and walked across the parking lot, because the sight of it stopped me dead in my tracks.

The stunning color of Crater Lake “is a product of its great depth, the purity and clarity of its water, and the way solar radiation interacts with water.   Water molecules absorb the longer wavelengths of light better (reds, oranges, yellows, and greens). This energy slowly heats the lake throughout the summer. Shorter wavelengths (blues) are more easily scattered than absorbed. In the deep lake, some of the scattered blue light is redirected back up to the surface where we can see it. Around the edges where the water is less deep, some of the unabsorbed green sunlight is reflected back up. The color of the lake can vary from day to day depending on wind, cloud cover, and the angle of the sun.”  Most of the annual input comes directly from precipitation (533 inches of snow yearly!), and, since no other bodies of water feed into the lake, there’s no dissolved minerals or dust being fed into it, and what does find its way into the lake is filtered out through seepage, making the lake water ultra pure. –NPS website

I started my 33-mile, clockwise ride of Rim Drive from Rim Village, which provided an awe-inspiring first glimpse of the lake from Sinnot Memorial Overlook and a short little walk along Discovery Point trail.  The brochure says to allow 2-3 hours to travel around the lake, but I took three times that long to follow the sweeping curves of the caldera wall before completing my circumnavigation of the lake.  Simply unbelievable!

View from Sinnot Lookout
Crater Lake was formed when 12,000 foot Mount Mazama erupted, 7700 years ago.  Pumice and ash erupted skyward, then vents encircling the subsiding peak caused the mountain top to collapse, forming a deep caldera where the snow-capped volcano once stood.  Centuries of rain and snowfall filled the deep basin, creating Crater Lake.  The island you see in this photo, Wizard Island, erupted after the lake began to fill- a volcano within a volcano.
Western Pasque flowers at Watchman Overlook.
Stopped for a break at Cloudcap Overlook, the highest point of the Rim Drive (7960 ft), and the windiest!
This jagged little island, known as Phantom Ship, is the oldest rock in the Crater Lake basin- over 400,000 years old.  –NPS website
Vidae Falls, only a small flow when I visited, but a raging powerhouse in the spring and early summer.

As you can tell from the photos, none of which were light or color enhanced in any way, Crater Lake lives up to all the hype.  My Rim Drive ended at the Visitor Center that showed a movie titled, Into the Deep, about the history and creation of Crater Lake as well as the Park’s continuing monitoring and research efforts to better understand the biological, physical, geochemical, and climatological processes that affect the lake.  Because 4.9 trillion gallons of some of the purest water on earth is certainly worth protecting 🙂

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