DESCRIPTION OF THE PARK
A. GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION OF PARK
Crater Lake Natonal Park, consisting of 182,700 acres, lies in south central Oregon within the Cascade mountain range. The park boundaries are contiguous with the Winema, Umpqua, and Rogue River national forests and with Sun Mountain State Forest. The park lies within the Oregon counties of Klamath, Jackson, and Douglas. The lake occupies about one-eighth of the entire park area, lying in its center at an elevation of 6,176 feet.
B. PURPOSE OF PARK
The purpose of the park is stated in its establishing act signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on May 22, 1902. The park was to be an area "dedicated and set apart forever as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit of the people of the United States." The act required that measures be taken for "the preservation of the natural objects . . . the protection of the timber . . . the preservation of all kinds of game and fish" and the use of "scientists, excursionists, and pleasure seekers." Crater Lake was the sixth national park to be established in the United States and became known as one of the "jewels of the National Park System."
C. SIGNIFICANCE OF PARK
Crater Lake is unique among American lakes. The "crater" is a caldera which was formed more than 6,000 years ago when the top of the 12,000-foot volcano Mount Mazama collapsed. Roughly circular in shape, about six miles across at its widest point, and covering an area of some twenty square miles, the lake is surrounded by nearly twenty-six miles of colorful lava cliffs rising from 500 to 2,000 feet above the surface of the water. From this rimmed summit the land slopes downward in all directions. Over the centuries the caldera has collected water from rain and snow. Evaporation and seepage are now in near balance with precipitation, providing a fairly constant water level. The lake is an incomparable example of a deep, pure, and stable caldera lake.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, the second deepest in the Western Hemisphere, and the seventh deepest in the world, dropping downward to 1,932 feet just southeast of Merriam Cone. The beauty and scenic grandeur of the lake and caldera constitute the prime feature and attraction of the park and one of the prime scenic fascinations in the United States. It has been designated a national hydrological landmark and is being studied by an increasing number of scientists under the park research program.
D. PRIMARY RESOURCES OF PARK
While the lake and rim slopes are the primary resources of the park, there are a number of other significant natural resources within the park boundaries. In or near Crater Lake are reminders of the cataclysmic activity that once engulfed the area. These include the lava formations on Mazama's sloping sides, extinct volcanic cones, and glacial valleys. Some of the more notable geological features of the park area are:
In addition to the geological features of the park there are several ecological communities of importance within its boundaries. These include Boundary Springs near the northwest corner, Sphagnum Bog and Thousand Springs along the western boundary, and some specific areas within the caldera walls of which Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship are the most outstanding.
Three forest types are dominant within the park. These are the ponderosa pine at lower elevations, lodgepole pine extending from 5,500 to 6,500 feet, and mountain hemlock which is characteristic of the higher elevations. Also present in the park are Douglas fir; western white, whitebark, and sugar pines; and some incense cedar, aspen, and Englemann spruce.
Some 570 species of flowering plants and ferns thrive in the park. These range from lichen at Palisade Point to the wildflowers of Castle Crest and Munson Meadows to the stunted vegetation of the Pumice Desert and Wizard Island.
The variety of mammals found in the park is typical of the forested areas throughout the southern sections of the Cascade range. The most commonly observed large mammals are black-tailed deer, elk, black bear, porcupine, and yellow-bellied marmot. Seldom seen are the red fox, coyote, pine marten, bobcat, pronghorns, and even more rarely, the cougar.
More than 120 kinds of birds have been seen in the park, including raptors such as golden eagles, American bald eagles, falcons, ospreys, and horned owls; waterfowl; and smaller singers such as the western tanager and the hermit thrush.
Although Crater Lake is known primarily as a "natural park area," it does have significant cultural resources. The Superintendent's Residence has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and the Munson Valley Historic District has been proposed for addition to the National Register of Historic Places. Crater Lake Lodge is an example of early park architecture designed to provide accommodations for overnight guests.
The thirty-three miles of Rim Drive provide park visitors with opportunities for quality scenic vistas. In addition to numerous scenic views of Crater Lake within the caldera, there is a peripheral display of Cascade peaks including Mounts Shasta, McLoughlin, Bailey, and Thielson, Union and Diamond peaks, and Three Sisters, which highlight prominently the forest and alpine surroundings of the park and national forest lands.
Crater Lake National Park is known for its long winters and heavy snowfalls. The average seasonal accumulation of snow is 544 inches. The winter of 1932-33 provided 878 inches of snow, the highest recorded total to date. Snow on the ground of 14-foot depth is common by late winter. The greatest recorded snow depth in the park was 252 inches on April 3, 1983. 
Last Updated: 13-Aug-2010