Crater Lake National Park
Early settlers and explorers did not hear about Crater Lake from the native inhabitants because this place was sacred to most Native Americans of Oregon and northern California.
Makalaks (now Klamath Indians) held the belief that this place was so holy that looking upon it would lead to death.
There are no stories relating to the crystal blue lake that formed after the eruption, indicating that these people became silent on the issue of Mount Mazama.
In the 1850s, hostilities between settlers and Native Americans developed in the area. In response, the U.S. Army established Fort Klamath seven miles southeast of the present park boundary in 1863.
This led to the construction of a wagon road from Prospect in the Rogue River Valley to the newly established Fort Klamath. On August 1, 1865, the lake was “rediscovered” by two hunters attached to the road crews. Several soldiers and civilians journeyed to see the lake.
In 1872, a young man from Kansas, named William Gladstone Steel, and his family moved to Portland, Oregon; but it was not until 1885 that they would see Crater Lake. He was so moved that he decided that it should be a public park.
In 1886, Steel assisted with the mapping of the lake, which had been undertaken by Clarence Dutton for the U. S. Geological Survey. During the original survey, soundings of the lake were conducted using pipe and piano wire.
The maximum depth determined by the survey was 1,996 feet (608 meters).
Steel’s proposals to create a national park met with much argument from sheep herders and mining interests. A fledgling U.S. conservation movement, begun in the late 1800s, greatly aiding Steel’s efforts by prompting awareness of preserving natural areas.
In 1893, the lake received some protection as part of the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. For Steel, this was not good enough. He continued to work; and on May 22, 1902, Crater Lake finally became a national park.
Crater Lake lies inside a caldera, or volcanic basin, created about 7,700 years when the 12,000-foot (3,660-meter) high Mount Mazama collapsed following a major eruption.
The lake averages more than 5 miles (8 km) in diameter, and is surrounded by steep rock walls that rise up to 2,000 feet (600 meters) above the lake’s surface.
The lake itself is 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep at its deepest point, the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh deepest in the world.
It is fed almost entirely by snowfall, which averages 533 inches (1,354 cm) per year.
See map of the park.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)