When it’s going to be 109 degrees in the Rogue Valley, Oregon, and the air conditioning is not working at home, one’s mind turns to ways to stay cool while waiting for the fix-it company to work us into their schedule. We’d walked the mall, gone to several movies, and lingered over restaurant meals. How else can we escape the hottest part of the day? How about a trip up into the mountains, maybe to Crater Lake?Crater lake side walk photo 7

Crater Lake National Park is the 5th oldest National Park in the United States and the only one in Oregon.  It is a two-hour drive from where we live. As close as it is, we have only been there a couple of times. So this seemed like a good opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with this national treasure in our own back yard. We packed a picnic and were on our way.

Our Senior Pass gets us into all national parks free of charge; if you don’t have one and are 62 or older, it’s worth the $10 investment to get one.

Crater lake 6The drive to the park goes alongside the Rogue River and through scenic forests. The Rogue River Gorge Viewpoint is about halfway on the trip, well worth a stop and one of our favorite spots in the area. Once through the park entrance gate, it’s another seven miles up to the lake itself.

There are lots of hiking trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds in the park, as well as the Rim Drive around the lake. Our goal for the day was the Rim Village. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of vehicles crowding the large parking areas there. Finding a parking spot required patience, but it was gratifying to know that the park is appreciated. We saw vehicles from as far away as Maine, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida. We’d forgotten that it’s the 100th anniversary of the national park system this year, which may be why more people are getting out and visiting these gems.Crater lake - wizard island 4

The color of the lake’s water surprises me every time I see it. It’s such a gorgeous deep vivid blue that defies description and my attempts to photograph it adequately. A sidewalk along the steep drop to the water’s edge provides an easy and pleasant stroll and views of Wizard Island, cliffs reflected in the water, and distant mountains. The Sinnott Memorial Overlook gets one closer to the water without requiring climbing gear or mountain goat genes. The seating area on the lake side of Crater Lake Lodge was very popular, offering shade, restaurant service, and that fabulous view. We promised ourselves to return to the Lodge for dinner some evening before it closes for the season on October 20.

We took lots of photos of endless blue – but the magnitude of the wonder is impossible to capture by camera.   So, we chatted with a young man visiting from England, enjoyed our picnic, and just sat and enjoyed the view until it was time to return to the oven valley.

I’m glad we thought about revisiting this national treasure. Make an opportunity soon to visit National Parks you have in your area — or visit Oregon!  It is well beyond beautiful.

Here is a bit of history of this national treasure – Crater Lake was formed when Native Americans witnessed Mount Mazama (actually a large volcano) violently erupt approximately 7,700 years ago. The resulting caldera now contains the 1,949 feet deep crystal blue Crater Lake. It is the deepest lake in the USA and perhaps the most pristine on earth.

Over the next several hundred years cinder cones formed on the caldera floor. The highest of these cones is Wizard Island. It is about 2,700 feet above the deepest point in the lake.  Another smaller island named Phantom Ship is visible also.

Crater Lake is also known for the “Old Man of the Lake“, which is a 30 foot tree stump that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century. The low temperature (ranging about 32 – 66 degrees Fahrenheit) of the water has slowed the decomposition of the wood, hence the longevity of the bobbing tree.

The lake has no rivers flowing to or from it.  It is fed by rain and snowfall.  While it has no indigenous fish population, the lake was stocked from 1888 to 1941 with a variety of fish. Several species have formed self-sustaining populations.  

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