Crater Lake, Oregon, was the fifth National Park, established May 22nd, 1902 after 17 years of lobbying by a man named William Steel. The lake was formed thousands of years ago after the eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama in the Cascade Range. The lake is the deepest in the US (about 1,940 feet) and boasts water that is so blue it almost seems unreal.
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ILNP Park Review
In a Word “Incredible”
“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep.” -Psalms 36:6
Our Visit My wife and I took our son to visit relatives in Eugene, Oregon during May and traveled to Crater Lake on our way down to Redwoods National Park for a few days. In all, we only spent about two hours in the Park. We would have spent a lot more time, but online research indicated only a couple miles of the rim drive was open. This area gets 44 feet of snow annually, so most of the Park is closed until the snow finally melts in late June. As it turns out, two hours wasn’t much time, but it was a magical two hours!
Our Weather Perfect! Clear blue skies, 60 degree temperatures and no wind. Crater Lake enjoys many “perfect” days in the summer months, but weather the rest of the year is sketchy.
Overall Impression Nothing, not even pictures, can prepare you for the breathtaking moment when you peer over the crater rim and into the lake for the first time. The crater is huge, the cliffs that surround it are gorgeously formed, and the water is simply spectacular. While Crater Lake is not a very diverse Park (the lake is really it), the lake is a solid centerpiece and warrants days of exploration. Just one quick view is worth hours of out-of-the-way driving and the entrance fee.
Favorite Spot standing at Discovery Point overlooking Wizard Island
Minimum Time Required 1-2 hours. This is enough time to visit one or two of the overlooks around the rim and soak in the majesty of the lake.
A Longer Visit Unless you’re an avid snowshoer and snow-caver, a longer visit is only practical in summer (July – September) because 90% of the Park’s roads are closed the remainder of the year. With a full day, you can drive the entire rim and even take a boat to Wizard Island, the large cinder cone in the middle of the lake. Each viewpoint offers something new. The 1-2 miles of open rim road from October-June still offers great views, but you’ll miss things like the distinctive “Phantom Ship” island viewable from the southeastern side of the lake.
Suggestions Do a lot of research online before you go. First, check to see what roads are open in the Park. The northern entrance is the most convenient for many visitors, but it’s only open in summer. Next, check the Oregon Department of Transportation’s “Tripcheck” website for any road closures or travel restrictions (some areas require chains late into the Spring). Finally, check the weather and pick a day with plenty of sun and little wind. This is the only way to really see the “blue” in the lake and get good photos. One really nice thing about photographing the lake off-season (October-June) is the snow adds a lot of interest and beauty to the cliffs surrounding the lake compared to the more solid gray cliffs seen in summer.
Make Crater Lake the focal point for a longer day’s venture through southeastern Oregon. A good way to do this is to take different routes in-and-out of the Park. We chose two legs of Oregon’s “Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway” named for two beautiful rivers in the area. We traveled along I-5 to Roseburg, OR, and took Highway 138 along the turquoise Umpqua river, a popular kayaking destination. Because the north entrance was closed, we circled the west side of the Park along highway 230 and entered the Park on highway 62. After seeing the lake, we traveled to Medford, OR via highway 230 along the Rogue River. This area of the US is phenomenally green, and the combinations of rivers, mountains, trees and pastures is unforgettable.
If you’re visiting when the snow is still thick, be careful! The snow covers walls designed to protect you from the cliffs, so its easy to get too close to the edge. Don’t get so busy looking through your camera that you slide hundreds of feet on the ice–that would really put a dent in your experience or worse.
Nearby Towns Roseburg, Medford (Oregon)
Other Nearby Attractions Umpqua River, Rogue River recreation areas
Official NPS Website Crater Lake NP
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