Blue Lake? Majestic Lake? Crater Lake!

Crater Lake is a ‘caldera’, or volcanic crater, located in southern Oregon. It is the remnants of Mount Mt. Mazama, a 12,000 ft mountain in the Cascade range that collapsed after a massive eruption more than 7,000 years ago. Since then the volcanic crater has filled in with water, creating a clear blue lake more than 2,000 feet deep (The third deepest lake in the world – by some accounts). The depth of the lake continues to grow due to the fact that no rivers flow from the lake, which is now 6 miles across and 5 miles wide.

Many Native American groups have known of the lake for centuries, and even have stories which recall the eruption and the old mountain which used to dominate the skyline. It has been a sacred site to them for generations and, but it is perhaps no surprise that early American pioneers, felt that they must be the first to come across the lake. It may be of even less surprise that no one should think that the lake may already have a name, and indeed early pioneers had a hard time deciding what to name their new lake. Understandably the ‘first’ discoverers, after being astounded by it’s size and deep blue color, decided it ought to be called Blue Lake. Since few people had ventured west, and even fewer had even stepped foot in the high Cascades (Crater Lake sits at over 6,000 ft!), their tale of the ‘Blue Lake’ was written off as untrue.

*Note: Crater Lake, Icebergs, Glaciers, and other large masses of water appear extra blue because the Blue wavelengths of light are unobstructed by water molecules and are reflected back to the observers eye, as opposed to being absorbed.

Later a group of men set off to confirm these accounts, they too saw the lake and it’s mystical deep blue hue. Thus it was dubbed Deep Blue Lake. Later still, a military squadron arrived to further account for the lake’s whereabouts. The leader told the men, “The first to make it to the water’s edge can name this lake!” Being that the rim around the lake has almost vertical slopes, many neglected to even try, but of course one soldier made it. Upon being asked what the name should be, the out of breath soldier did not know what to say. The leader suggested, that the name should be as majestic as the lake itself, and followed by saying, “Soldier, what do you think of calling this lake, Majestic Lake?” The soldier, reportedly being a decent, respectable man, accepted the leader’s name.

Finally, with acceptance of the Lake’s existence, a journalist from Oregon referred to the lake as Crater Lake in regards to the relatively small crater on Wizard Island, a volcanic cone island which sits in the southwest corner of the lake. And, perhaps due to readership, the name stuck.


Natalie and I traveled to Crater Lake from Ashland, Oregon with my Grandfather, Alan Ives, Sr. It was a delightful visit – the first time I have visited with him on his ‘home coast.’ We set off early in the morning driving up the ‘wild and scenic’ Rogue River, stopping to observe the basalt flows and the gorges which have been carved by the river through old stands of evergreen.

Arriving at Crater Lake on Labor Day, the parking lot at the visitors center was packed, and we set off on the 33-mile long Rim Road which takes you on a meandering ride along and around the rim of Crater Lake, at one point reaching elevations near 8,000 ft. We hiked among old growth forest, and explored a ‘hidden’ waterfall, taking in the warm sun and cool breeze of the high elevation.  The geology was raw and exciting – twisted, ancient trees sat in bed of red pumice stone, practically untouched for thousands of years. The diversity in scenery, climate, and people continues to impress me in Oregon, and the state is thusly growing as a favorite on our travels.

One Response to “Blue Lake? Majestic Lake? Crater Lake!”
  1. Johanna says:

    Hey Chris- glad to see y’all are having an amazing journey (back east?). I’m about to have a good solo road trip- to just south of Crater Lake! Where I’m moving!

    Cheers, and suerte on the rest of your travels.

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