Crater Lake -- the most beautiful in the world?
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Crater Lake National Park is located in South Central Oregon. Some might say it's in the middle of nowhere but I found the drive along the Rogue River to the park to be beautiful. The park is fairly isolated -- about midway between Medford and Bend -- with only a small Rim Village (including the beautiful historic Crater Lake Lodge) and a few tiny towns to provide services
Part of what makes a visit here special is that there are no distant views of the lake to prepare you for what you'll see. You literally need to be at the top of the collapsed rim to see Crater Lake. My first view of it gave me goosebumps, it was so stunning. Set against the steep (up to 2000') cliffs of the remnant volcanic caldera (Mt. Mazama was the name of the volcanic cone that blew its top many thousands of years ago, much like Mt. St. Helens did recently). In this gigantic bowl sits this lovely body of bluest clear water, often still and as reflective of clouds and mountains as a mirror. Occasional ripples stir the surface but it is usually a calm scene.
Once seen the image of Crater Lake will be burned into your visual memory forever. The lake is more than five miles across and at its deepest is almost 2000' deep, averaging over 1000' in depth. This makes it the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest lakes in the world
The altitude of the rim is over a mile above sea-level at around 7000', so its winters are long and cold and there's lots of snow (almost 50 feet a year). Snow can be on the ground from October until late June or early July. Only a few hearty souls enter this Arctic landscape in the winter, which offers opportunities for snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. The snow melt is what keeps the lake at its current fairly constant level supplemented by some rain during the summer; this being offset by evaporation and seepage into the ground. While summer days are usually warm and dry, it can snow at any time so always be prepared for bad weather whenever you travel to the mountains. And be sure to use your sunblock as the atmosphere at the rim is thin and you're likely to get sunburn very quickly.
A 33 mile road surrounds the rim of the Crater and it certainly is worth exploring. It offers view points and changing perspective of the lake -- best appreciated in how the islands appear different from each perspective -- as well as beautiful views of surrounding meadows and distant peaks in the Cascade range
Camping facilities are available and hiking is popular. An large assortment of trails are available. The Cleetwood trail will take you down to the lakeside and a boat dock (daily boat tours to Wizard Island are available); it is the only trail that provides lake access but is strenuous, with an 11% grade. Fishing is available (the lake has been stocked with trout and salmon) and certified divers also may use the lake (whose clear but cold waters afford excellent underwater views with visibility of almost 200 feet).
If you would like to see high resolution views of the following photos, please go to this link. For full screen enlargements, click on the right sided icon of the slideshow playing at the bottom of the page.