Oregon’s Jewel: Crater Lake

gii-was is the Klamath Tribe’s name for Crater Lake. It means “a sacred place.” This unique place was so sacred to the Klamaths that they managed to keep it hidden from white explorers until 1853.

Formed 7,700 years ago by the explosion of Mt. Mazama, the Klamaths have many stories about how it was created. One is the legend of the ancient Makalak from whom they are descended. Two chiefs, Llao and Skell came to battle over Llao’s love for Skell’s daughter. She refused Llao’s offer to live below the mountain with him and he became enraged. Llao climbed up from inside the mountain to the top and started hurling fire at Skell’s people in an effort to destroy them. To defend his people, Skell climbed atop Mt. Shasta. The two chiefs then proceeded to throw red hot rocks as big as hills at each other. They made the earth shake causing great landslides of fire. The people retreated in great fear to Klamath Lake.

Two holy men offered to jump into the fire on top of Llao’s mountain and Skell was awed by their bravery. Skell drove Llao back into the mountain. The next morning the mountain was gone. Just a great hole was left. The hole became gii-was, the modern day Crater Lake, when the skies wept great tears into the hole.

Mount Mazama is a Quaternary Volcano. When it erupted 7,700 years ago, it spewed tephra into Canada, California, Nevada and Wyoming. The mountain lost so much interior material that it could no longer support the peak. The peak collapsed into itself creating a caldera. Over time there were smaller eruptions which sealed the floor of the caldera creating a cylinder cone that is now called Wizard Island. It took between 700 and 1,500 years for rain and snow melt to fill the lake. The current balance of water coming in and evaporating out causes the water level to fluctuate less than 3 feet year to year.

The water-filled caldera is very young as geologic time goes. It is believed that natives actually saw the explosion and a sandal was found underneath the ash resulting from the eruption.

The buildings in the park are historic. Some were built by the Civilian Conversation Corps (the CCC) as were trails, campgrounds and they also did landscaping. Other buildings belonging to the National Parks Service are considered “rustic style” or “NPS rustic.” These uniformly built structures consist of large boulder masonry, steep roofs, stained timbers, dormer windows and rough-sawn or vertical board-and-batten siding. Made from natural materials, these buildings blend in with nature so as not to detract from the surrounding beauty.

There were 702,060 visitors to Crater Lake in 2016. The number rises every year. There is much beauty here but also lots to do. There are a campground and lodge. Reserve early as they are very popular. There are drives, view points and hiking trails. Historic Rim Village is the main tourist attraction and all of its’ buildings are in the “NPS rustic” style. The lodge is here as well as a day-use picnic area. Many of the historic buildings are utilized by the NPS as exhibition halls and program presentation facilities. There is a gift shop, pizza station (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and Comfort Station No. 68 (now an electrical transformer vault).

And there is the lake. The scenery here is breathtaking and serene. You will spend long periods just watching the lake and landscape. Umpqua River Haven is about a 3-hour drive from Crater Lake. If you can’t get a night’s stay at the Crater Lake Lodge, you can stay with us. Heading out early in the morning for a day trip is doable. And we would love to see you at www.umpquahaven.com

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