Into The Deep Blue – Crater Lake, OR

Welcome to the deep blue! Ellen soaks in the panorama at Watchman Tower
A rare shot of moi, thanks to Ellen
Oh, come ye to the deep….

If you’re a geek like me you’ll remember the iconic IBM machine Deep Blue that beat the world champion of chess in 1997. It was a deep moment (geekwise) and for some reason that very image popped into my mind the first time I viewed Crater Lake. What I was seeing was almost inconceivable -> an all-encompassing panorama of the most unnatural rich shade of blue. It almost seemed staged, man-made and yet it’s 100% mother earth and inevitably a deeply moving moment. How do you wrap your head around something like that? And even more how do you write about it?

Crater Lake is unique and sometimes spots like these are the hardest blog posts to write, for the very reason that they’ve been written about millions of times over. Nothing I can tell you has not already been said, and everything I tell you will be moot until you come here for yourself. Alex, Ellen and the two of us spent an afternoon soaking in the atmosphere and my impressions came in waves, reflecting, echoing and multiplying off the oh-so-glassy surface and rocky sides of the lake. My thoughts built to a crescendo so perhaps that’s the best way to describe them. In any case, here goes my feeble attempt to capture the gloriousness of it all:

Crater Lake is Oh-So Deep

It’s quite a unique kinda place

The lake, or rather caldera that is Crater Lake reaches down 1,932 feet (589 m). It is the deepest lake in the US and the 6th deepest in the world. The water is so clear that you can almost imagine reaching the bottom and yet it goes on beyond what you can possibly imagine. There are folks who scuba dive here, which must surely be a fabulously surreal experience (= the natural version of a sensory deprivation immersion chamber?).

Crater Lake is Oh-So-Blue

Late afternoon is oh-so-blue

You can’t help but wonder at the blueness of it all. Deep as the ocean, bright as the sky, varied as a summer day. The intense richness of the color is direct thanks to the depth and clarity of the waters. Of all the colors of the rainbow violet and blue are the shortest wavelengths, and being so very deep Crater Lake absorbs the rest and reflects back a rich blend of the two. The blueness moves with the time of day ranging from a light fluffiness to a deep baritone, reflecting the sky in almost perfect symmetry. At the shallow edges of the lake the color shifts to aqua and even shades of orange. Quite the panorama.

Crater Lake is Oh-So-Steep

Last portion of the lovely hike to Watchman Tower
You can’t go wrong with ANY of the hikes on the rim

This unearthly depression with unthinkably steep sides is actually a massive caldera the remanent of an enormous volcanic explosion 7,700 years ago. Mount Mazama grew, blew and collapsed creating the base for this enduring lake. The rim drive that circles the crater (33 miles) stops at multiple scenic views and affords over 90 miles of hikes up steep and panoramic paths (For a short, easy hike do the stunning 1.6 mile roundtrip to Watchman Tower, for a longer and steeper one indulge in the 3.4 mile Garfield Peak). The steepness and vastness of the view will draw you into another world.

Crater Lake is Oh-So Crazy

You can lounge and sip at the Rim Village Lodge with a view

This little slice of nature’s story sits at ~6,200 feet of elevation and enjoys all the craziness of mother nature’s whims. In winter it lies dormant in deep snow (~533 inches per year!), vast and seemingly dead, although rarely freezing due to its depth (the last recorded freeze was 1949). The park is hard to access during this time, but is free with rangers offering free winter snowshoe hikes too. In summer it resists the sun for many, many months finally coming out of hibernation for a short few late summer days for full access. Summertime the whole lake opens up and offers boat rides to the central island too (we just missed the season for these).

Crater Lake is Oh-So Incredible

All the facts about this spot make it interesting, but cannot possibly describe the scene. Whether you’re stopping at a viewpoint, or hiking a trail or perhaps even sipping a long drink at the lodge the lake absorbs you completely. Deep blue drawing you in and keeping you captive in a game of mother nature’s chess. No, I couldn’t possibly describe what it’s like. It’s a moment, it’s a thought, it’s a spot unlike any other….and you’ll just have to come here to soak it in yourself!

P.S. Sadly no dogs are allowed on the trails at Crater Lake. You can bring pooch on roads, parking lots and picnic areas but not on your hike. Polly stayed home for our outing.

Another great view from the rim

And yet another….
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Lee and Shelia says

    Thanks… In all our visits to Oregon over the years we have NOT visited Crater Lake…. + one for the Bucket List…

  2. says

    This is the second blog post I’ve read about Crater Lake this morning. Must be some sort of sign! We’re hoping to visit this year, but it will most likely be near the end of October by the time we make it there so who knows if the campgrounds will still be open. Enjoyed your gorgeous pictures though so even if we don’t make it at least I got some nice views! By the way, we’re about to make our way down the Oregon coast and have been closely studying your campground reviews of the area. Thanks in advance for all the tips :)

    • says

      Amanda, have a great time on the coast. Hope you’re starting up in Astoria. There is so much to see and soak in. Be sure before going to Crater Lake to check availability because weather dictates early closure and late openings sometimes. I want to look your blog up to follow your travels along the coast.

    • libertatemamo says

      The forest service campground (Diamond Lake NFS) is open until Oct 31st (weather permitting), so I think you’ll still be OK. There is a private park just next-door which “may” stay open later.
      ENJOY your trip down the coast! You’ll probably start running into some rain in Oct, but it’s still a lovely drive!

  3. says

    Just absolutely stunning….I’m so excited to one day get to the NW! I don’t think any person could tell a destination story one too many times…yours was lovely!

  4. says

    Oh yes, as stunning and as beautiful as the last time we saw it. We celebrated our wedding anniversary there with Steve biking around the rim for I chickened out at the last minute. Your photography and your description aptly describes the same feelings of awe when we first saw it.

    • libertatemamo says

      I’m impressed Steve biked the rim!! That is a small road with almost zero shoulder and lots of big drop-offs. I would have chickened out too!

  5. says

    You did a great job Nina both the prose and the pictures show this to be an amazing unique place. It’s been on my list for a while now. 2012 was suppose to be the summer of New England and 2013 the Pacific NW. Not sure what will happen now but fingers are crossed that we’ll get there. Thanks for building up the anticipation.

  6. says

    I just wonder what national park regulator decided dogs were not allowed. I think they should just allow any pets and if the owners do not pick up after them they get fined 250 dollars! Great Revenue Source!

    • libertatemamo says

      I know…I’m always bummed that we can’t bring our doggie to the park trails especially since many of the NP’s seem to have very “loose” rules regarding other animals and vehicles (donkey rides in Grand Canyon, ATVs in Moab etc.). Anyway it’s the very reason we never actually stay inside the parks…always prefer to stay outside at a nearby paw-friendly National Forest.

  7. says

    Rich and I went to Crater Lake in 1999, I believe. We went early so the road was closed halfway around, and it wasn’t early spring. You’re right, there’s a short window of opportunity. The sight of it took our breaths away, too. Love your pictures. The story of its creation was fascinating. Our dream was to return to each place we really loved in each season of the year–I don’t think Crater Lake would have cooperated. :) Thanks for the memories.

    • libertatemamo says

      You know I’d love to come back in spring too so I could catch some of the lake with snow. Makes for some great pics!

  8. says

    “No, I couldn’t possibly describe what it’s like.”
    Nina, yours is one of the best descriptions I have read. You captured the essence of this beautiful place with both your words and your photos. Although I personally had nothing to do with making this lake (haha), as an Oregonian, I have a certain amount of “hometown” pride and it always makes me happy to see others appreciate the beauty that is Crater Lake.

  9. says

    Nina, you have a lovely and colorful and intriguing way of describing things. You’ve certainly sparked our interest to return to Crater Lake; you’ve undoubtedly convinced a lot of folks to make their first visit; and for those who will never get there, you’ve given them a little slice of God’s beauty to reflect on!

  10. Kay Leamon says

    We have enjoyed Crater Lake several times, just can’t get enough of it. Also helps that we have a brother in nearby Chiloquin. We ate at the Crater Lake lodge and had the best meal ever at a NP lodge. Their Fish & Chips were incredible.
    We have enjoyed staying at Collier State Park (Hwy 97) while in the area.
    Thanks for your blog, it is my go to blog to check out what you are doing and where you are. Love your campground reviews.

    • libertatemamo says

      Oooo…sounds like we need to maybe eat at the Lodge. It IS a lovely setting there and I’m happy to hear the food matches the view. Thanks for the tip on Collier….we’ve got it on our list.

  11. Rowanova says

    Wow! A second great post on an incredible place. Thanks. I’ve been to Crater Lake once, years ago, and it was a far to brief visit. Another one of those must see again places. And as always, I love the high mountains best of all.


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