Great Lodges of the National Parks
Pacific Northwest: Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Among its marvels are amazing true stories and bits of trivia that may surprise you. Explore some of these unusual facts here.
The Old Man
First documented in 1896, the Old Man is a peculiar floating log that travels around the lake in a vertical position. The Old Man is 30 feet long, with about 4 feet standing out of the water. During submarine explorations in 1988, scientists tethered the Old Man to avoid collisions. Inexplicably, the weather suddenly turned rough. When the log was freed, the weather settled.
Seismic activity provides regular reminders that Mt. Mazama is not a dead volcano. On September 20, 1993, Park residents and visitors were alarmed by quakes registering near 6.0 on the Richter scale; there were 2,500 aftershocks in the next 3 months. Since 1945, a dozen major quakes have hit the region. Geologists estimate that a nearby fault zone could generate quakes with a 7.25 magnitude.
The "Burp" of 1945
On several occasions in the autumn of 1945, dense formations of blue-gray smoke or fog were observed rising sharply from the lake surface, and then mushrooming up and outward. The formations always appeared above one of the lake's deepest areas. By the time the USGS arrived in 1946, the strange phenomenon had ended, so there is still no scientific explanation for the events.
Crater Lake National Park contains a variety of habitats, from peat bog to pumice desert. As a result, the Park shelters 700 plant species, including 17 plants that are rare or endangered. There are also more than 200 species of birds and wildlife, including 3 threatened species, the wolverine, Northern spotted owl, and bald eagle.
A True Blue Lake
The fresh water in Crater Lake is entirely due to rain and snow. Because the water didn't arrive via streams, there is very little debris or silt to cloud the lake. The intense blue color is a result of the water's purity interacting with the color spectrum of sunlight. Purity also provides great clarity; scientific measurements record visibility to 120 feet below the surface.
Got good brakes?
By 1917, Park rules for autos were well established. Cars in motion had to be 50 yards apart, except when passing (only allowed on level or slight grades). Drivers had to satisfy the Rangers that "all parts of the machine, particularly the brakes and tires, are in first-class working order and capable of making the trip." The speed limit was 10 mph, reduced to 8 mph when passing animal teams.
A Winter Freeze
Crater Lake rarely freezes over, because the vast body of water acts as a heat reservoir. But in 1949, the entire lake surface froze for more than 2 months. Two Park Rangers walked out to investigate, but encountered thin ice at the lake's center. Deciding that they shouldn't risk a return crossing, they were forced to clamber directly up the rim wall through 150 inches of snow.
There are two known species of fish in the lake, rainbow trout (up to 27 inches long) and kokanee salmon. These nonnative species are the result of stocking between 1888 and 1942. Fishing is legal but challenging, and organic bait is prohibited. At least one Park Ranger, with tongue firmly in cheek, claims that his angling activities are merely to aid in the removal of the nonnative species.