Tag Archive | Crater Lake

A Boat Tour of Crater Lake

There are only five boats permitted on Crater Lake – three tour boats and two research vessels.  And I got to spend two hours on one!

The second full day of our Southern Oregon long weekend was dedicated to a trip to Crater Lake, and the boat tour!  We left first thing in the morning (but not too early, because it was our vacation) for the two hour drive to the lake from our vacation home in Grants Pass, Oregon.

We stopped to check out the upper Rogue River for a few minutes, walking along the river and snapping some photos.  But we couldn’t stay long because we needed to make it up to the lake in time for our tour!

We got to the Cleetwood Cove Trail parking area, and then had to find parking along the road because the parking lot was full!  We checked in at the kiosk (you are required to check in and pick up your tickets before you hike down) and then started down the 1.1 mile trail to the lake.  The trail isn’t too steep, because there are a lot of switchbacks, but there are sections that have lots of loose gravel.  A couple of times my feet slipped on the loose gravel, even though I was wearing my Chaco sandals that have a good sole.

But soon enough, we were down at the bottom, where we checked in again (checking in was quite a theme on this tour…).  We had about 20 minutes to relax at the bottom, eat some snacks, and dip my feet in the water before the boat tour started.  And boy was that water cold!  We got all settled in on the boat and set off for our two hour tour (go to the bathroom before you get on the boat people – there’s no peeing in the lake!).

Our ranger started us off by telling us about the history of Crater Lake, beginning with the Native American oral history that I told you about in my last post.  Then he talked about William Gladstone Steel, and how his efforts are one of the main reasons Crater Lake is a National Park.  After the history talk, the Ranger discussed the geology about how Crater Lake was formed, and the formations that exist on the edges of the caldera and within the lake itself.

The Devil’s Backbone is a dike that was created by lava as it pushed up and filled cracks.  The “backbone” emerged as the softer rock around it is eroded away.  Devil’s Backbone ranges in width from 23 feet to about 50 feet and is the only backbone that goes all the way from the water’s edge to the top of the caldera.

Devil’s Backbone – This shows how much it sticks up!

Devil’s Backbone – This shows how much it sticks up!

Wizard Island is a cinder cone that began to form while the caldera was filling with water.  The top 763 feet of the 2500 foot cinder cone are visible above the surface of the lake.  Aerial photos show where volcanic activity is apparent at the top of the cone.  Depending on which tour you choose, you can get dropped off on Wizard Island and spend some time hiking there.

Wizard Island – the cinder cone shows well on the left, but you can’t see the crater at the top from the boat.

Wizard Island – the cinder cone shows well on the left, but you can’t see the crater at the top from the boat.

The Phantom Ship is an island created by the remains of lava flow.  It is about 500 feet long with a maximum width of 200 feet; the dramatic spires that give The Phantom Ship its name tower about 170 feet above the surface of the lake.  Despite not having much soil, trees make their home there, along with other shrubs.  The Phantom Ship is probably Crater Lake’s most famous landmark.

Mergansers! Swimming around the Phantom Ship

Mergansers! Swimming around the Phantom Ship

The Phantom Ship – Sorry about the people standing in the pic; I was told pushing them in the water was frowned upon.

The Phantom Ship – Sorry about the people standing in the pic; I was told pushing them in the water was frowned upon.

The Pumice Castle is an outcropping of fragmental pumice along the wall of the caldera.  It is striking because of its bright orange color; it sharply contrasts with the gray of the rock around it.  It is another example of how erosion has revealed geologic features at Crater Lake.

The Pumice Castle – Jon loved this because it is orange.

The Pumice Castle – Jon loved this because it is orange.

The Old Man is a Mountain Hemlock trunk that has been floating upright in the lake for more than 100 years.  It is pushed to different areas of the lake by the wind and lake currents, but I don’t think they know why the Old Man bobs along in his upright position.

The Old Man of Crater Lake – a Mountain Hemlock that has been bobbing along upright for over 100 years.

The Old Man of Crater Lake – a Mountain Hemlock that has been bobbing along upright for over 100 years.


The tour also explained the water’s clarity, which I discussed in my previous post, and the flora and fauna of the lake.  The Ranger told us that other than ground squirrels, wildlife was not frequently seen near the surface of the lake, because the loose scree made it difficult to travel down the edges of the caldera.  Simply put, the animals aren’t that crazy.

William Gladstone Steel began stocking the lake with fish as early as 1888 and the stocking continued until 1941.  Two species were able to acclimate to the lake and begin reproducing naturally; Kokanee Salmon and Rainbow Trout.  Both of these species are abundant in the lake today.

You can fish to your heart’s content during the season, but there are no organic baits or lures allowed.  And fishing in the Park’s many creeks is prohibited.  The endangered Bull Trout makes its home in those waters, and they are trying to help it make a comeback.

After our two hour tour on the lake, the boat finally motored back to Cleetwood Cove and we were back on dry land.  We still had to make the 1.1 mile hike back up to the rim of the caldera, but it went more quickly than I expected.  Of course, Jon couldn’t wait for us slowskies (me and Jon’s parents), so he powered up to the top and waited for us there.

This is a view of the Phantom Ship from the Cleetwood Cove Trail – not as much detail, but no people in the photo either!

This is a view of the Phantom Ship from the Cleetwood Cove Trail – not as much detail, but no people in the photo either!

We drove over to the concession area, got a snack, and spent some time perusing the gift shop before heading towards home.  A great day – I had a fabulous time on the boat tour and would highly recommend it!

Would you want to take the Crater Lake Boat Tour?

Crater Lake History

Did you know what the deepest lake in the United States is?  Crater Lake!  It is also the ninth deepest lake in the world, and contains some of the world’s clearest waters.  And we were lucky enough to visit again in August!

Crater Lake National Park was the fifth National Park to be named, on May 22, 1902, by Congress and Theodore Roosevelt.  Although it was one of the earliest parks, that was thanks to the perseverance of William Gladstone Steel, who had been lobbying Congress to create the park since 1870!

Steel first learned about Crater Lake in1870 and was immediately enthralled, but it took another 15 years before he had the chance to visit.  He participated in many of the scientific experiments in the 1880s that established Crater Lake as the deepest in the U.S., and documented its exceptional clarity.  Steel also was integral to the building on Crater Lake Lodge, which was completed in 1915, and the Rim Drive, which is a 33 mile drive around the entire rim of the lake, which was completed in 1918.

Of course, the Native Americans in the area, belonging to the Klamath tribe, have known about Crater Lake for thousands of years.  In fact, their oral tradition includes stories of the eruption that blew the top off of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago, and created Crater Lake in the caldera that was formed.  According to their tradition, two Chiefs, Llao, of the Below World, and Skell, of the Above World fought each other in a battle.

Crater Lake from the Cleetwood Cove Trail

Crater Lake from the Cleetwood Cove Trail

Llao had visited the top of Mount Mazama, and on one visit, had seen Loha, the daughter of a Klamath Chief.  When she rejected him because he was ugly (aren’t these stories always about unrequited love?) Llao rained fire onto the Klamath people.  They appealed to Skell for help, and that’s when the trouble really got going.

After a fierce battle, Skell defeated Llao and drove him back into the underworld, and covered the hole with the top of Mount Mazama, and then to ensure he wouldn’t get out again, covered it with a dark pit of water that still exists today.

Gold prospectors “discovered” the lake while out searching for gold in 1853.  However, they didn’t find any gold there, so the find wasn’t all that momentous.  But eventually, Crater Lake attracted enough attention that the media wrote about it, and William Gladstone Steel began his quest to get Crater Lake designated as a National Park.

I have written about Crater Lake before; it is the one place (at least so far) where I have felt so overcome by a sense of peace and tranquility even when surrounded by people.  It just has that effect on me.  There are many peaceful places, but peace within a crowd of people is scarce.  Surprisingly, Crater Lake isn’t a hugely visited park; annual attendance in 2012 was 447,251.  I have such a hard time understanding why more people don’t want to go!

Part of this low attendance is because of the fact that snow covers the area for a full eight months of the year; the park is open all year but has limited accessibility outside of the June to early October summer window.  Only about 100,000 people visit outside of the summer season.  You have to be pretty determined to visit in the winter; the record year for snow came in 1950, with 903 inches of snow!

And the tranquility I felt when gazing at the lake?  I think that’s in part due to the sapphire blue color of the lake itself.  The stunning blue is caused by its depth, and the fact that the water is so clear.

Crater Lake from the Boat Tour

Crater Lake from the Boat Tour

A secchi disk (an 8″ black and white disk that is dropped to measure clarity) was still visible at 139 feet below the surface of the lake!  The water is so clear because there are no rivers or streams pouring sediment into the lake.  The only water coming in is rain and snow melt.  And the porous volcanic soil allows the snow melt to run down into the lake without taking much sediment with it.

I was so excited that we got to visit again, and this time, we were going to take the boat tour around the lake!

Have you been to Crater Lake?  Did you do the boat tour?

Wine, Water and Caves

What do caves, deep blue lakes and wineries have in common?  We visited each of them on our August long weekend getaway.

Jon and I rented a house with his parents for a long weekend down in Southern Oregon.  Our home away from home was a large house right on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon, complete with a pool, game room and hot tub.  The home itself was dated, but the location and the amenities made up for that.

We had a wonderful long weekend visiting the Oregon Caves National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, wineries and the historic town of Jacksonville.

I can’t wait to share the details with you in my upcoming posts!

Crater Lake Beauty and Some Sneezing Too

Once we got to Medford, we had a restful first night and woke up just before 8.  Jon had big plans to take a run in the morning, but he abandoned that idea when it came time to get up early.  To be honest, I’m pretty glad that he decided to relax – he doesn’t do enough of it.  We got up, had some breakfast, and headed out to Crater Lake.  Most of our family and friends have been to Crater Lake, but they have neglected to take me or Jon with them, so it was a first visit for both of us.

After a couple of hours of driving up into the National Forest, along the Rogue River, we made it there.  We did stop along the way at a Rogue River Viewpoint and hiked a little way up the path.  The signs explained that the river is a frigid 44 degrees at this elevation.  Not really water I would be excited to jump into, to be honest.  But the river is beautiful.  After 15 minutes watching the river, we continued the last little way to Crater Lake.

The Rogue River

The Rogue River

WOW – we were not disappointed.  When standing on the rim of the crater, you look down more than 1000 feet to the lake.  The tour boats below look like little bugs on the water.  And everything they say about the pristine cobalt blue color is absolutely true.  The water is the most amazing blue.  The depth of the lake and the clarity of the water make it so all the other colors in the spectrum are lost in the depth of the lake, and only the blue and purple hues are reflected back.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

We looked at the lake from all angles.  We sat on the wall looking down and enjoying the serenity.  Even though there are dozens of people around you, it still feels very peaceful.  We also visited the lodge which was built back in 1915.  It is still operating today, after extensive renovations in the 1990’s.  One day we would like to stay there for a night, but it was booked for the entire summer long before we decided to take this trip.

The unfortunate part of the trip to Crater Lake was that Jon was violently allergic to something that day.  He started sneezing early in the day, and his sneezing kept up even after he took multiple doses of allergy/cold medication.  I felt really bad for him, because I know how drowsy I get when I take those meds.  He was a trooper, and didn’t complain at all, but I could tell it was really getting to him.

On our way back to town, we stopped at our first winery of the trip.  It was an impulse stop, a winery called Agate Ridge that we had never heard of before.  The tasting room manager, Sharryl, served us, and she was welcoming and friendly.  We tasted through 7 wines, starting with a Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, a white blend called Weeknight White, Primitivo, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wines were excellent, with the exception of the Viognier, which I didn’t like.  The Cabernet Sauvignon pleased Jon without being overly oaked, so I could enjoy it too.

Agate Ridge Vineyard Tasting Room

Sharryl recommended that we visit a tasting room in Central Point, Oregon that houses Daisy Creek Vineyard and Madrone Mountain Vineyard.  We were served by Don Mixon, the owner and winemaker for Madrone Mountain.  Daisy Creek wines were hit or miss, with some being outstanding, and others being ho-hum.  I really liked their Rose, and bought a bottle.  The reds were decent, but nothing to write home about.

Madrone Mountain Vineyard focuses on Dessert wines.  They had a Riesling and two Cab based Port-style reds out that day.  Apparently when they were first starting out, they had Joe Dobbes from Dobbes Family Estate make the wines for them (the reds we tasted were still from the Joe Dobbes winemaking days, so I’ll be curious to visit again and see how the owner has done).  Since they have learned more about the art of wine production, they have taken over the winemaking.  The wines were very good (the other couples in the tasting room raved about the Riesling).  What surprised me most is that Jon liked the Port-style reds so much.  He couldn’t get enough, so we came home with a bottle of each, the Mundo Novo and the 2004 Vintage (Don explained that he hadn’t yet come up with the cool name yet in 2004).

We ended our day with a visit to RoxyAnn Winery, a large winery located just outside of Medford.  We went on our way back to our hotel.  On our Friday evening visit, the winery was packed!  They were hosting a small farmer’s market, and there was an upcoming concert on the back lawn.  There were so many people there, it felt very impersonal.  Our server was very good, keeping track of where we were even though she was serving about 15 other people, but it was elbow to elbow, and so loud and busy you couldn’t ask any questions.  Again, we thought the wines we decent, but not out of this world.  The exception was the Claret, a red blend that is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Combine the crazy atmosphere with Jon’s horrible allergy attack, and we didn’t spend much time there.

We got some dinner and headed back to the hotel, to enjoy some wine and have a nice relaxing swim in the pool.  A great end to a fantastic day.

Down South – Del Rio Vineyards Pinot Noir

For our first vacation in many moons, Jon and I headed down to southern Oregon to visit Crater Lake and the Rogue River Valley.  Our first day was a long, long drive.  It was made even longer by Jon’s periodic outbursts about the traffic.  UGH.

So, by the time we got down to Medford and checked into the Medford Red Lion, I was completely pooped and ready for a glass of wine.  We went to Safeway and decided to try out a local Pinot Noir, the Del Rio Vineyards 2009 vintage.  The nose is very mild, and doesn’t have much of what I think is the typical Pinot Noir pickle smell.  The taste is very light, with a soft light mouthfeel as well.  I find the taste to be like ripe blackberry, with a hint of Bing cherry.  There was none of the tartness that Pinot Noirs usually have.  Jon says it is more of a French style Pinot.  When we do more tasting in this region, I’ll find out if this is a regional distinction, or just this particular wine.

We both really enjoyed this wine, will certainly get it again.  Jon says, and I quote, “it was delicious… I slurped my tongue on it.”  He said this in a robot voice, by the way.  I’m not sure what that means, but what’s new?

Get Ready to Getaway

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on vacation. Jon and I took a Memorial Day wine trip down to the Willamette Valley, and I went to Portland to see my family for a weekend in early July, but that’s been it. I’ve been completely aching to go on vacation, and it has been so difficult to stay home.

Jon is finishing up summer classes next week, and his courses have been tough, to put it mildly. Thursday night he got two and a half hours of sleep, because he had to finish up a project before heading to work at 7:30 Friday morning. He needs a break as badly as I do.

We are taking a long weekend off in a couple of weeks to head to Medford, Oregon and the Rogue River Valley. It is a long drive for us, but we are really looking forward to the trip. We are planning to take some time doing a few different activities. One day, we will head up to Crater Lake, one day we will do some wine touring, and one day we will head over to the coast for some time near the Pacific Ocean. Jon has driven through this area of Oregon several times on his way back and forth to California, but has never stopped.   I haven’t been in the area (unless my parents took me as a child and I don’t remember). The weather is forecast to be in the 80s and 90s, which will be hotter than I have experienced all year at home. I’m thrilled about the idea of swimming in a pool, and not wearing my jacket in July (to give you an idea of how cold it is around here – on Friday morning at work I was wearing a fleece jacket over a light sweater).

I have heard good things about the wineries down in the Rogue River Valley, and I’ve heard that Crater Lake is amazing. I’ve been to the Oregon Coast and thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I have never been that far down the Coast. I’m excited for the photo opportunities too – I need to start a new photograph collection since I sadly lost a lot of my photos when my hard drive crashed last week. As much as my husband makes fun of me for posting so many photos on Facebook, I’m glad I do. They are ones that I still have a copy of now.

So the next couple of weeks will be devoted to finding info on restaurants and side activities. Shopping, wine bars, music, parks that we can enjoy in our much deserved down time. If you know the area and have any ideas, please let me know.