15 Facts You Didn’t Know About Crater Lake National Park

Last Updated on May 6, 2022

Crater Lake is a National Park located in Southern Oregon; the closest cities are Klamath Falls and Medford. Known for its vibrant blue color and purity, there are many areas to stop as you drive the 33-mile rim road. Crater Lake is a stunning example of nature’s beauty, and it is no wonder that it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Oregon. You are sure to gaze in wonder as the lake is surrounded by tall cliffs and features gorgeous deep blue waters that will take your breath away.

Crater Lake is definitely worth the trip, and you are easily able to make the drive as fast or slow as you want. If you only have a couple of hours to spare, we would still suggest a stop to take in some of the incredible views. If you have more time, take the entire day to explore the rim drive, or stay a few days to really experience all of Crater Lake National Park. From camping to lodges, there are plenty of options to make your Crater Lake adventure a great one.

The most popular months to visit Crater Lake are July, August, and September. The longer days mean that there is more time to explore the area and take in the stunning views. Our visit to Crater Lake was during the summer peak time and also fell right when the California wildfire haze was filling the air. Even though our visit was a little hazed over, the views and blue colors were still spectacular. Plus, it just gives us another reason to go back again one day.  The park is open year-round, though some roads close seasonally due to snowfall.

We had so much fun driving around and learning about Crater Lake National Park. Here are some fun facts that you may not know. We hope it wets your wanderlust to make a trip to Crater Lake National Park!

Crater Lake National Park

Water Collected In A Sleeping Volcano

Crater Lake is ancient. Created from a violent volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, that triggered the collapse of a tall peak of Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot tall volcano. The collapse exerted so much force that it spewed ash as far as Vancouver and Kansas.

Once the volcanic hole cooled off, it filled up with snowmelt and rainwater over 600 to 800 years, forming the lake. Today the lake is largely made up of snowmelt. Since the lake is made up of volcanic terrain, it limits the nutrients in the lake as well as prevents streams, keeping the water a pure and beautiful bold blue.

Makalak Legend

As you enjoy your exploration of Crater Lake, take time to remember and acknowledge its sacred history. Mount Mazama was an important symbol to the native Makalak people. As the Makalak legend explains, the collapse of the tall peak of Mount Mazama was caused by a battle between the spirit of the sky and the spirit of the mountain. Even though the cataclysmic explosion marked the end of the battle, many natives mourned the loss of the sacred volcano.

The Drive Around Rim Road Can Take All Day … If You Want It To.

The Crater Lake rim road is a stunning place to take a leisurely drive. The road winds its way around Crater Lake, providing stunning views of the water and the surrounding landscape. There are also several pull-offs along the way, where you can stop to enjoy the view or take a short hike.

With more than 30 scenic pullouts, there are plenty of breathtaking and jaw-dropping areas to get out and marvel at the gorgeous shades of blue. You will quickly see why the rim road is also one of the most scenic byways in America. You could drive rim road in a few hours if you do not make many scenic stops, or take your time and thoroughly enjoy each of the scenic viewpoints.

Pumice Castle Overlook

Rim Road Features Over 30 Viewpoints

You won’t be hard-pressed to find pretty views while driving around the rim road. Each stop highlights a different area of the park and gives a different perspective of the park. If you only want the best viewpoints, we suggest stopping at the following: The pullout north of Watchman’s Peak gives you the closest view of Wizard Island. A unique stop is at Pumice Castle Overlook, where the castle is the orange outcrop, at the side of Redcloud Cliff. Cloudcap Overlook has fabulous panoramic views with the highway at nearly 8,000 feet high. Vidae Falls is an easy-to-miss pullout but is also a pretty waterfall that drops 100 feet over many ledges.

Related – Multnomah Falls Visitor Guide

Crater Lake Is The Deepest & Cleanest Lake In The USA

Crater Lake National Park is one of the top attractions to see in Oregon. At 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the world.

Crater Lake’s water comes directly from snow or rain, with no inlets from other water sources. This makes it impossible for sediment or mineral deposits to be carried into the lake. Few water sources help the lake to maintain its bold blue color and make it one of the clearest and cleanest lakes in the world. The lake is so clear that you can see over 100 feet down.

You Can Swim In The Lake

At designated areas, you are allowed to swim. However, do keep in mind that the lake’s water comes only directly from snow or rain; making the water very cold.

Just because you can swim does not mean that you can take a boat out, though. Private boats, kayaks, and other flotation devices are not allowed on the lake. Only interpretive boat tours and research vessels are permitted on the lake, in an effort to preserve its beauty.

Cleetwood Cove is the only trail in Crater Lake that leads to the water and is also where the boat tours depart from.

Wizard Island

Wizard Island

Some 4,000 years ago, there was another eruption. This time, it formed volcanic structures within the lake; the largest is the intriguing Wizard Island. The cone is capped by a volcanic crater, named the “Witches Cauldron” by William Gladstone Steel in 1885. Steel also gave Wizard Island its name at the same time.

You can take a boat tour of the lake. The tour includes a stop at the island to get a closer look at the 800-year-old trees growing on the island. The boat tour is the only way to get over to Wizard Island, as you are not allowed personal boats or flotation devices in the lake, to help keep invasive species away.

Wildlife At Crater Lake

There is plenty of wildlife to explore at Crater Lake. You may find amphibians, bears, coyotes, elk, porcupines, various birds, and insects. You will also find endangered bull trout and the Mazama newt, which you can only find in Crater Lake.

On our visit to Crater Lake, we were absolutely surrounded by California tortoise-shell butterflies at one of the viewpoints (I wish I could remember which one). Swarms of butterflies are said to happen every five or six years. It is absolutely incredible having so many butterflies around you as you watch in awe. There is a great video account of what it is like to be surrounded by butterflies here.

Fish Are Not Native To Crater Lake

Fish were introduced to the lake between 1888 and 1941. Out of the six species that were stocked, only two survived: Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon. Since they are not native to the lake, fishing is actually encouraged.

Crater Lake National Park

The Volcano Is Still Very Much Active

While the volcano is currently quiet, scientists believe that it could erupt again at any time. Monitoring equipment has been set up around the crater lake volcano to help scientists keep track of any changes. In addition, signs have been posted warning visitors of the dangers posed by the volcano. Although an eruption is unlikely to occur during a person’s lifetime, it is still important to be aware of the potential hazards.

There are fissures on the seafloor (like geysers, or hot springs, on the ocean floor) where geothermally heated water discharges. These discharges heat up pockets of the bottom of the lake to 68 degrees, while the other water at the bottom remains 38 degrees. This shows that after half a million years, the volcano is still active.

A Hemlock Has Been Floating Upright For Over A Century

The Old Man of the Lake is a 30-foot-tall tree stump that has been floating in Oregon’s Crater Lake for over a century. The tree is believed to be a Douglas fir that was toppled by a landslide around 1888. Since then, the Old Man has become an iconic fixture of the lake and a popular destination for tourists. Every day, the Old Man bobs up and down in the water, slowly rotating as the wind blows.

This unsolved mystery is one of the park’s most famous phenomena.

Crater Lake National Park

You Can Only Find The Mazama Newt At Crater Lake

The Mazama newt is a colorful little creature that can only be found near Crater Lake in Oregon. Its scientific name is Notophthalmus virdis mazama, and it’s a subspecies of the red-spotted newt. The Mazama newt is olive green with orange spots and a black stripe running down its back. It’s about three inches long and has a lifespan of six to eight years. The Mazama newt spends most of its time in the water, but it can also be found on land near the water’s edge. It’s an important part of the ecosystem at Crater Lake because it helps to control the population of insects. The Mazama newt is an omnivore, so it also eats algae and other small aquatic creatures. If you’re ever lucky enough to spot one of these little guys, be sure to give it a wide berth!

Usually found to be hiding under rocks or logs, around the edge of the lake, the Mazama Newt are rare. Only found in Crater Lake, scientists are continually working to protect this subspecies of rough-skinned newt.

Crater Lake Is One Of The Snowiest Places In The USA

Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in the USA. Every year, the park receives an average of 533 inches of snow, and the deepest recorded snowfall was in 1949, when the park received nine feet of snow. The snow is so deep that the roads around the lake are only accessible by snowmobile from mid-December to mid-April. During the winter, Crater Lake is a popular destination for ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. There is still plenty of fun to have in the snow. And in the summer, the melting snow creates spectacular waterfalls. Whether you’re looking for a winter wonderland or a summer paradise, Crater Lake is sure to offer something for everyone.

The last time Crater Lake National Park was completely frozen was in 1949, though it did come close to freezing in 1985.

Nobody Knows Where The Water Goes

Since there are no outlets that lead water in or out of Crater Lake, the changing water levels leave quite the puzzle to solve. While scientists know that steady seepage helps maintain water balance, it has not been discovered where that water actually goes.

In fact, it is thought that the last time the lake overflowed was more than 7,700 years ago. So where does all that water go?

The most likely explanation is that the water is being released through underground lava tubes into the Pacific Ocean. However, this theory has yet to be definitively proven. In recent years, scientists have installed special monitoring devices in the lake in an effort to learn more about its hidden depths. Perhaps one day we will finally solve the mystery of where all that water goes. Until then, Crater Lake will continue to amaze and mystify us.

Madison and Sadie having some goofy time when enjoying the views.

A Childhood Dream Lead Crater Lake To Becoming A National Park

In 1870, William Gladstone Steel read about Crater Lake in a newspaper. Steel was determined to visit one day and finally did in 1885. After visiting, Steel committed to having Crater Lake recognized National Park. On May 22, 1902, Steel’s dream became reality.


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Have you visited Crater Lake? What did you think about it?