My son and I were heading south to Gold Rush country, just east of Sacramento for the wedding of a dear friend. To break up our drive down and to show Laddy one of the wonders of Oregon, I decided to route us through Southern Oregon so we cold spend a day at Crater Lake National Park.
I wasn’t really sure which campground would work well for us, and decided to stick with our State Park system. I made a reservation for us at Joseph Stewart State Park, which lies along the banks of Lost Creek Lake, just off Hwy 62. It is about a 45 minute drive to Crater Lake, but is was easy to get there. There are lots of National Forest campgrounds along the way too. They are worth looking into and I noticed there was a campground at the entrance of the park called Mazama Village (get more info here). Getting into Crater Lake National Park park requires the usual National Park fee.
Our first stop was the Steel Visitor’s Center, which is 4 miles from the entrance. On the drive up we saw Black-tailed deer bounding across the road, so keep your eyes out! The visitor’s center has a really nice little shop, a movie that plays every half hour about Crater Lake, and we were able to get information on what was available. We also picked up the Jr. Ranger packet for Laddy. As we were there in early June, there was still snow, so the east rim road was still closed, as were many of the hiking trails. The boat tours don’t start up until late June usually, so we missed that too. We started the Jr. Ranger packet in the visitors center and after a bit decided to get back in the car and travel the last 3 miles to the rim of the lake. We parked in the lots there near the Crater Lake Lodge and got out for a look around.
The history of the place is as amazing as the views. Roughly 7700 years ago, Mt Mazama, which would have been Oregon’s tallest mountain at 12,000 ft tall, had a massive eruption. The cone of the mountain fell down into the middle creating a caldera. After years of rain and snow the crater started to fill up. There was a cinder cone in the lake that erupted during the filling of the lake, which created what is Wizard Island. The only way water gets into the lake is through snow melt and rain fall. The only way it gets out is through ground seepage and evaporation. This makes the water some of the purest around.
Standing on the rim of the lake, you are roughly 2000 feet above the water. The water looks bluer than any other water I have seen. This has to do with the depth of the lake and the way light is filtered through water. The reds disappear closer to the surface and the blue is the last to go further down, giving this intense sapphire blue color. The water is nearly 2000 feet deep, so this is the perfect situation for beautiful blue water!
While we were enjoying our picnic lunch on the patio of the Crater Lake Lodge, we got to see lots of wildlife from the rocking chairs we were sitting in
A Bald Eagle flew over the lake with his white head and tail contrasting against the stark blue. A Clark’s Nutcracker also decided to keep us company, hoping for scraps, but was not able to talk us into them (please don’t feed the wildlife).
Consequently, this has become my new favorite lunch spot in the world. Around 12:00, they started serving cocktails on the patio. While I didn’t partake, had a lovely conversation with one of the nicest waiters I have come across. He just added to the wonderful ambiance of the place. The patio also made a great place to work on a few sections of the Jr. Ranger packet!
We had a quick walk through the first floor of the Crater Lake Lodge also. Rooms are available to stay in there and they have a restaurant as well. The lodge was built in 1915 and was closed about 10 years ago for a complete renovation. The lobby areas are gorgeous and you will see a recurring chipmunk theme!
After our wander around the the lodge area, we headed back to our car and decided to do a portion of the West Rim drive. We got out from time to time to have a look. This gave us the chance to bump into to some very active ground squirrels and chipmunks. Their scurrying across the sides of the cliff, and things constantly breaking lose shows how dangerous it is to go on the other side of the barrier, but they were very entertaining. Even the Clark’s Nutcrackers were getting in on the action, squawking and fluttering all over! A little further up we saw someone hiking to the fire lookout with his skis.
It was starting to get late in the day, so we headed back to the Steel Visitor Center and Laddy turned in his work to earn his Jr. Ranger badge.
This is a fantastic day (or more) out for families. I overheard a lot of people complaining of cold, especially this early in the season. Remember you are standing at roughly 8000 feet when you are on the rim, and that can make things a bit chilly. Make sure you bring layers to wear to make your visit more comfortable. Also bring good hiking shoes; when the trails are open there is some fantastic hiking! I hadn’t been there since high school, so it felt new again for me and to see it through the eyes of the Lad was so great! Get out there!