"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Unbelievably Blue Crater Lake

Crater Lake is iconic, like the Grand Canyon. When you see the Grand Canyon, sometimes all you can say is, "Wow, it's really big." What everyone says about Crater Lake is, "Wow, it's really blue." Yes, it is, and in this post with these uncolor-enhanced photos, I'll try my best to rouse that reaction in you too. 

A couple of years ago we visited Crater Lake in April, when it was still snow-bound. We viewed it from Rim Village, the only viewpoint that was open. It was really blue then too.

This time we wanted to get up close and personal, so we took the "Volcano Boat Tour" around the lake, leaving from the base of Cleetwood Cove Trail, the only way down to the surface of the lake. 

Although Cleetwood Cove Trail is smooth and maintained, with benches interspersed for rest, it is described as moderately strenuous, equivalent to about 70 flights of stairs. I imagine they tell you this not to scare you off, but to be free of liability if you don't make it to the boat on time. I also imagine is prevents some crises on the way back up. 

We heeded the advice offered, and gave ourselves plenty of time to get down to the lake along the very pleasant and scenic trail. As we approached the bottom we spied the three tour boats: the Klamath, the Umpqua and the Rogue, named for the rivers that originate near Crater Lake. 

The boat dock with a couple of service buildings, including a well utilized set of composting toilets, are the only structures built along the shores of the lake, except for those on Wizard Island. More about that in a moment. 

So, can you believe this is fresh inland water? Doesn't it look like Hawaii or the Mediteranean? This is some of the clearest water in the world, and it all comes from precipitation, primarily snow melt. 

We loaded up our boats and shoved off. We were fortunate to have a knowledgable and pleasant Park Ranger as our guide. As we circumvented the lake, she kept us informed of the history, geology and other scientific data about the lake. Here we are passing Lao Rock - that's the large one. 

As we skimmed across the cobalt water, we approached Wizard Island, a smaller volcano within a volcano. 

This end of Wizard Island is a more recent lava flow.  Here you'll see Lao Rock in the background, topped by some lingering morning clouds. 

A little further around the island, the winter shelters for the boats came into view. Although the lake doesn't freeze over in the winter, there are severe storms and high winds that have damaged the boats many times over the years. This history of the boats on the lake is pretty interesting. No boats other than the tour boats and a few research vessels are allowed on the lake.  There are several permanent buildings devoted to research on Wizard Island as well. 

You can see the Crater Lake Lodge in the upper left hand corner above the cliffs. 

Further on we came to the most turquoise section of the lake, and a waterfall. 

One of the nicest things about these Ranger tours is that you understand what you are seeing so much better. Here she explained that this green section of the cliffs used to be up at the top but the whole thing slipped down in a landslide, leaving the bare rocky earth behind it.

We circled around the only other island on the lake, called the Phantom Ship.

It's called Phantom because it often blends in with the surrounding rock, making it disappear. But this day it looked black compared to the other rock.  You can probably figure out why it's called a ship. 

The next shot is just one more untouched illustration of the incredible color of this water!

The standard tour is about 1.5 hours long. There are other options that will drop you off on Wizard Island for a few hours and pick you up later in the day.  Back at the dock, there were more people waiting for the next boat, and some folks fishing.  Although this little building looks just like an outhouse, (heaven forbid!) it houses the water quality research equipment.

Yes, the hike up was strenuous, but completely manageable. There are plenty of benches and shady spots places to rest. We stopped to eat our picnic lunch at the halfway point and took lots more pictures.   It was really hard to leave the beautiful water. 

This is really the last Oregon post. We're in remote parts of north eastern California now and will check in again soon, if and when our internet connection allows.

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