Crater Lake National Park (Oregon): FAQs For The First Time Visitor

Crater Lake in Oregon is one of the deepest and clearest lakes on Earth. 

Find the answers to all your questions here to make the most of your Crater Lake National Park visit. 

Where Is Crater Lake National Park?

Crater Lake National Park is in southern Oregon, about 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. 

Crater Lake is found at 42.95 N 122.10 W in a crater formed over the volcano Mount Mazama .  

Is Crater Lake A Caldera?

Crater Lake is a caldera, formed when a lava dome collapsed on Mount Mazama approximately 7,700 years ago. 

The lake only partially fills the caldera and is fed only by rain and snow with no river or streams flowing in or out of the lake. 

Is Crater Lake A Volcano?

Crater Lake is formed in a volcano, more precisely in a caldera formed after a violent eruption of Mount Mazama. 

Mount Mazama was active for many years with 5 confirmed eruptions, the most recent and violent recorded being roughly 7,700 years ago. 

The final eruption resulted in the collapse of the mountain creating a caldera, which is now Crater Lake. 

Is Crater Lake An Active Volcano?

It is likely that there will be future eruptions in Crater Lake, geologists believe that they are most likely to occur in the western half of the caldera that forms that lake. 

Crater Lake is a shield or compound volcano meaning that there are many areas of volcanic activity that become active independently. 

There is evidence of andicidic lava flows to the west of Mount Mazama showing evidence of magma being forced to the surface in more recent history. 

The USGS has made some predictions and observations that are very interesting and specific. 

Is Crater Lake Worth Seeing?

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, it is also considered one of the cleanest lakes on Earth. The stunning view is worth the drive.  

About 7 hours from Seattle, this makes a great stop on a cross country road trip. It is also the only National Park in Oregon. 

The park has a good variety of lodging options that make it a very peaceful place to spend the night. Cabins, lodges, RV hookups, tent camping and backcountry camping with a permit are all possible inside the park. 

Plan to spend a day or two enjoying this park. 

Can You Swim In Crater Lake?

Swimming is permitted in some areas of the park, but the water is very cold. The Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only place where visitors are permitted to get down to the water and swim. 

The trail is only open in the summer months, and even in the warmest weather the water surface temperature only reaches high 50s to low 60s. 

You can find the real time water temperatures at Crater Lake on the linked page run by The University of Utah. 

Does Crater Lake Have Fish?

Crater Lake contains Rainbow Trout and Kanokee Salmon that were artificially introduced to the lake in the late 30s into the 40s. 

Fishing is encouraged and does not require a permit. Fishing is possible off the Cleetwood Cove Trail or with the purchase of a boat ticket to Wizard Island. 

There are no size or weight limits for fishing at Crater Lake. 

Only artificial bait is allowed to decrease the chance of introducing any invasive species tot he lake. 

Does Crater Lake Freeze?

Crater Lake has only frozen over twice in recorded history. The lake is so incredibly deep that it holds heat and does not freeze easily. 

Crater Lake is located in one of the snowiest areas in the United States, and there are many snow-related activities available in the park, but the lake does not freeze over. 

Does Crater Lake Allow Dogs?

Dogs are allowed in many areas of the park. They are permitted on all paved roadways and 50 feet from a paved roadway, the parking lots and in Mazama and Lost Creek Campgrounds. 

Pet owners may have one leashed pet per person on the following trails:

  • Lady of the Woods
  • Godfrey Glen
  • Annie Spur Trail
  • Grayback Drive
  • Pacific Crest Trail

Pets are allowed only when the trails are free of significant snow. 

Dogs must be on leashes and they should not be left in cars. 

Is It Free To Visit Crater Lake?

Crater Lake requires paid admission. Admission is set per vehicle and annual passes are available for frequent visitors. 

Crater Lake does have fee-free days. The free days are listed on the National Park Service website. These dates are the same for all parks that charge for admission. 

Is Crater Lake Toxic?

Crater lake is very clean and is not toxic like some other lakes formed in areas of volcanic activity. 

Crater Lake is a geologically young lake with no streams or springs feeding the lake making it one of the cleanest lakes in the world. 

The water in Crater Lake is very cold and the rocks that line the caldera are not dissolving in the cold water. 

The clean water of the lake supports fish and algae and swimming is allowed in the lake.  

Can You Kayak Crater Lake

Why Does Crater Lake Have An Island In It?

Wizard Island is a cinder cone that was formed by volcanic activity that occurred after the major eruption that formed the lake. 

Crater Island has 2 islands inside the lake; Wizard Lake and Phantom Ship. 

Phantom Ship is a natural rock formation that is much smaller and can resemble a ship in foggy conditions. 

Why Is It Called Wizard Island?

Wizard Island was named by William Gladstone Steele in 1885 because of the volcanic crater at the top of the island that has been named the Witches Cauldron. 

What Types Of Rocks Are Found In Crater Lake?

Crater Lake is created mostly by Andesite which is a rock that forms when medium viscosity lava cools. The caldera is made of Rhyodacite, a silica rich lava type that has cooled in contact with air.  

The dome that formed after the violent eruption of Mount Mazama was predominantly Rhyodacite and that forms the basin of the lake. 

Collectors also often look for sunstone and fossils, but because the lake is volcanic and relatively young, there are not many interesting stones in this area of Oregon. 

Crater Lake is inside a National Park so collecting or removing any natural material must not be removed. 

Is Crater Lake An Alpine Lake?

Crater Lake is at an elevation of 6,178 feet and alpine lakes are generally 10,000 feet or greater elevation. 

By this definition Crater Lake is not an Alpine Lake.  

How Deep Is Crater Lake?

Crater Lake is 1,949 feet deep. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. 

The average depth of the lake is 1,148 feet making it the third deepest lake in the world by average depth. 

How Big Is Crater Lake?

Crater Lake has a surface area of 20.6 square miles and contains about 4 and a half cubic miles of water. 

Crater Lake is six miles long and five miles wide. 

The lake is the deepest lake in the United States with a maximum depth of 1,949 feet and an average depth of 1,148 feet. 

Fun Facts About Crater Lake 

Crater Lake is fairly young, so much of the history of this place has been recorded. These facts are less well known, but well documented. 

Crater Lake is A Spiritual Place

Crater Lake is considered to be sacred by many of the original inhabitants of Southern Oregon. 

The Kalamath Indians believed that looking at the lake would lead to death and some still hold this belief. 

Be sure to soak in the spiritual power of the lake on your visit. 

Record-Breaking Snowfall

Crater Lake receives between 40 and 50 inches of snow each year. That makes Crater Lake the snowiest place in the United States. 

Snow is on the ground between November to May (and often into June) and the park celebrates the snow with snow shoe tours, skiing, and snowboarding. 

These activities are available in many areas in the park. Snow does cause some significant road closures and the park recommends that you check current alerts or the rim webcam before visiting to be sure you can access the park. 

Sledding Is Allowed in the Park

With all the snow Crater Lake is a great place for joyful sledding. Find a gentle slope free of trees, the meadow south of the Crater Lake Lodge is a popular place. 

There are no designated sledding areas in the park, but it is permitted in all areas outside the caldera. Sledding is not permitted on roadways. 

National Parks are often family vacations and sledding is a great activity for families to enjoy together. 

Crater Lake’s Legend Is a Fiery Battle

One legend about the origin of the lake says that Llao, the Chief of the Below World lived in Mount Mazama. One day he came out of the mountain and fell in love with the Makalak chief’s daughter. 

The girl refused to go to the underworld with Llao and the chief began hurling fire at the people, another deity Skell defended the people and a furious rain of fire covered the sky. 

The people ran to the Klamath Lake for safety from the fire and landslides. 

Llao is eventually driven back into the mountain and when the sun rises the mountain has vanished and torrents of rain fell, creating the lake. 

What Is The History Of Crater Lake?

Crater Lake was formed roughly 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted violently. The eruption created a volcanic dome that collapsed. 

When the dome collapsed it formed a caldera, or depression in the top of the mountain. 

Over a period of about 500 years the caldera filled with water and the main volcanic activity ended. 

Oregon formed the Crater Lake National Park in 1902, making it the fifth National Park to be formed. It was designed to preserve the purity and beauty of the lake. 

The lake is believed to be of significant spiritual power to native people in the area. Some legends say that even looking at the lake can result in death. 

The lake has inspired awe for all of recorded history. 

Crater Lake Animal Life

Crater Lake is home to some wildlife. Most notably the Mazama Newt that is only found in Crater Lake. 

The golden mantled ground squirrel is the most commonly sighted animal in the park and is present in all areas of Crater Lake National Park. 

Canada Jays are commonly sighted as well as Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons who both nest in the cliffs formed by the caldera. 

Crater Lake is home to rainbow trout, kanokee salmon, Mazama newt, Pacific Tree Frog and the Cascades frog. 

Black Bears are generally active in autumn, deer are the most commonly seen large mammals in the park. 

Crater Lake Elevation

Crater Lake is located 6,178 feet above sea level. 

Why Is Crater Lake So Clean?

Crater Lake is very clean because it is geologically young, is not fed by any streams or springs and the cool water temperature keeps the compounds in the surrounding rocks from dissolving into the water. 

The lake is fed by snow and rain and the level is maintained by evaporation, this makes the lake a very closed system.  

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Crater Lake National Park