Crater Lake National Park
High in the Cascades lies the crown jewel of Oregon, Crater Lake, the country’s deepest at 1,943 feet. It glimmers like a polished sapphire in a setting created by a volcano that blew its top and collapsed thousands of years ago. Crater Lake’s extraordinary hues are produced by the depth and clarity of the water and its ability to absorb all the colors of the spectrum except the shortest wavelengths, blue and violet, which are scattered skyward.
Kodak used to send their apologies along with customers’ photographs of Crater Lake—they thought they had goofed on the processing, so unbelievable is the blue of the water.
In addition to a 33-mile rim drive around the crater, the park, established in 1902, also features campsites, dozens of hiking trails, and boat tours on the lake itself. Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle or $5 per bicycle.
If you’re seeing Crater Lake for the first time, drive into the park from the north for the most dramatic perspective. After crossing through a pumice desert you climb up to higher elevations overlooking the lake.
In contrast to this subdued approach, the blueness and size of the lake can hit you with a suddenness that stops all thought. On a clear day, you can peer south across Crater Lake and discern the snowy eminence of Mount Shasta over 100 miles away in California.
Getting to Crater Lake National Park
The only year-round access to Crater Lake is from the south via Route 62. To reach Crater Lake from Grants Pass, head for Gold Hill and take Route 234 until it meets Route 62. As you head up Route 62 you might spot roadside snow poles in anticipation of the onset of winter. This highway makes a horseshoe bend through the Cascades, starting at Medford and ending 20 miles north of Klamath Falls.
The northern route via Route 138 (Roseburg to U.S. 97, south of Beaver Marsh) is usually closed by snow mid-October–July. The tremendous snowfall also closes 33-mile-long Rim Drive, although portions are opened when conditions permit. Rim Drive is generally opened to motorists around the same time as the northern entrance to the park.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel