Tangled Up in Blue – A Visit to Crater Lake

The four of us had been in the car for hours and Sue, the driver, was the first one to the view-point when we finally stopped. “My God!” I heard her say.  Stepping up beside her, I suddenly understood the meaning of the term “breath-taking.” I was so astounded by the beauty in front of me that I gasped and forgot to exhale.  I had never seen water that blue.  Nor have I since.  Crater Lake is a true natural marvel.

Photo by Stuart Seeger.

Deep and Cold

The incredible color is due to the depth and purity of the water.  At 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest in world.  All that water absorbs the colors of the spectrum and only allows blue to be reflected back.

The other two passengers in the car were Sue’s grade school-aged son and his best friend.  When two little boys spend hours in a car being told that they’re going to a lake, they expect to go swimming.  So we donned our suits and hiked down the trail to the waters edge.

Nobody swims in Crater Lake.  Perhaps you’re not supposed to.  Or perhaps most people just have more sense.

Once again, Sue was the first one in.  I followed. HOLY SHIT! It was not only the bluest water I had known- it was also some of the coldest.  Seeing our reaction to the temperature, the boys started to chicken out, but Sue would have none of that and soon goaded them into jumping in the water.  Their eyes grew as big as saucers when they hit the cold!  The water in Crater Lake is snow run-off, but it rarely  freezes because of the mild Pacific climate or perhaps because of geothermal heat below.  The lake sits in the caldera of a volcano.

From the air. Photo by George Grinsted.


Mount Mazama, part of the Cascade Range, was built up over a period of about 400,000 years.   At it’s height, it is believed to have reached 10 -12,000 feet.  Then, 7,700 years ago it erupted.  The massive eruption emptied out the central lava chamber, leaving a hollow space that eventually collapsed to become the lake we see today.

Visiting Crater Lake National Park

When to go: Summer.  Crater Lake is located at high elevation (about 7,000 feet) and entry roads are often closed by snow well into June.  The snow can return as early as September so it’s a relatively short window of opportunity!

Where to Stay: In addition to the Crater Lake Lodge (71 rooms), there are two camp grounds and 40 cabins available for rent.

What to Do: Of course, the first thing you will want to do is drive around the rim of the lake to take in the views.  But don’t stop there.  There are excellent hiking trails, invigorating swimming opportunities and plenty of chances to play in the snow.

Check out the park website for more information.

Published in Backpacking & Hiking, USA

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Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.


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