Witness to Eruption

Witness to Eruption

Native American stories tell of the formation of Crater Lake as being the result of two powerful, ancient spirits: Llao, the spirit of the mountain known as the chief of Below World, and Skell, the spirit of the sky known as the chief of the Above World. Stories indicate that sometimes Llao came up from his home in the earth and stood on top of Mount Mazama, one of the highest mountains in the region. During one of these visits to the top of Mazama, Llao saw the Makalak chief's beautiful daughter down below and fell in love with her. He put forth the promise of eternal life if she would return with him to his lodge beneath the mountain. When she refused, he became furious and declared that he would destroy her and all of her people with fire. With all of his rage, he rushed up through the opening of his mountain and stood on top of it, hurling fire down upon her and her people. According to their beliefs, the mighty Skell took pity on them and stood on top of Mount Shasta to defend them against Llao. From their mountaintops, the two chiefs waged a furious battle, hurling red-hot rocks as large as hills. They made the earth tremble and caused great landslides of fire. The people fled in terror to the waters of Klamath Lake. Two holy men offered to sacrifice themselves by jumping into the pit of fire on top of Llao's mountain. Skell was moved by the bravery of the two men and eventually drove Llao back into the depths of Mount Mazama. By the time the sun rose the next morning, the people were shocked to see that the great mountain was gone. Skell had made the mountain fall in on Llao, and all that remained was a large hole. Rain fell in torrents, and today…Crater Lake exists.

The Native American connection to this area was easily discovered and tracked back before Mount Mazama's cataclysmic eruption. Archeologists found sandals and other ancient artifacts buried deep below layers of ash from the massive eruption of Mount Mazama. Many stories about the creation of Crater Lake still exist and frequently surface today, as they have been passed from generation to generation. However, with far too many stories to recall and include here, the above is derived from one of the most popular versions which originated within Klamath and Modoc Native American tribes. For many, many years, Native Americans considered Crater Lake to be sacred. It is believed that Crater Lake went undiscovered for so long by early area settlers because Native American guides would intentionally guide them far away from the water. Reportedly, some believed that anyone who gazed upon the lake's water would die immediately. Even after the discovery of Crater Lake, a local tribe refused to acknowledge its existence when being directly questioned about it. Today, some Native Americans still choose not to view Crater Lake, and believe that its beauty and mystery form a religious context.

Crater Lake is known for being one of the world's most unique, pristine and beautiful landscapes. Unlike anywhere else on Earth, with its deep, pure water, serene surrounding cliffs and violent volcanic past, Crater Lake has inspired visitors and scientists alike for more than 100 years. Join us now in learning more about Crater Lake and the unique ecosystem existing in its depths. How do the discoveries below the surface alter our understanding of life here and elsewhere in our universe?

Erupting History of Crater Lake Mystery

Coming into existence roughly 400,000 years ago, Mount Mazama is part of the Cascade Range, a major mountain range located in western North America. The Cascade Range extends from southern British Columbia in Canada through Washington and Oregon, and into Northern California in the United States. Geologic research indicates that volcanic activity in that particular area is fed by subduction off the coast of Oregon. This is because the Juan de Fuca Plate slips below the North American Plate. The Cascade Range is topped by a series of volcanoes that were created as a direct result of heat and compression generated by plate movement, known as plate tectonics. The Cascade Range consists of large volcanoes, known as High Cascades, as well as various other smaller volcanoes. Mount Mazama came into existence much the same way as other mountains of the High Cascades did, as overlapping shield volcanoes, which are large volcanoes built almost entirely of lava flows. Mazama's overlapping cones were formed over time due to alternating layers of lava flow that eventually reached around 12,000 ft. in height.

Seven thousand seven hundred (7,700) years ago, Mazama erupted violently, losing 2,500 to 3,500 feet in height. The eruption is estimated to have been 100 times greater in volume than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Believed to be the most explosive eruption coming from the Cascade Range in the past one million years, Mazama expelled so much hot magma that the eruption actually caused the top of the mountain to collapse, creating what is known today as Crater Lake. Crater Lake lies inside Mazama's caldera (volcanic basin) that formed when the 12,000-foot-high volcano collapsed as a result of its massive eruption.

Majestic Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park (National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior), reports that at nearly 2,000 feet deep, approximately 1,943 feet at its deepest point, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, second deepest in North America and the ninth deepest in the world. However, if one were to compare Crater Lake's average depth of 1,148 feet to the average depth of other deep lakes, Crater Lake then becomes the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and the third deepest in the world.

Averaging more than five miles in diameter, Crater Lake is surrounded by steep rock walls that rise 2,000 feet above the surface of the lake. Crater Lake averages around 528 inches of snow per year and exists almost entirely because of pure snowfall, which provides the lake with water. Crater Lake has no inlets or outlets, so evaporation or seepage prevents the lake from becoming any deeper. Lake levels do fluctuate slightly from year to year, which is common with all lakes around the world. Crater Lake's highest recorded level was measured in 1975 when the lake's surface reached a height of 6,179.34 feet above sea level. The lowest level was recorded in 1942 when it was at 6,136.20 feet. Showcasing just how deep Crater Lake actually is, scientists from Crater Lake National Park created a picture of the Eiffel Tower (985 feet), Washington Monument (555 feet) and the Statue of Liberty (305 feet) stacked on top of one other in the deepest point of the lake. If that really could be done, there still would be more than 100 feet of water covering Liberty's torch. Now that's deep!

Crater Lake's temperatures vary between 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) at the surface. More than 260 feet beneath the surface, the water remains 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) year round. The surface of Crater Lake rarely freezes during the winter months because of the large amount of heat stored within the lake during summertime, windy surface conditions and relatively mild air temperatures. The Crater Lake National Park Service recalls the most significant complete freezing event in recent history occurred between January and April 1949.

It certainly is not easy for those visiting to have the pleasure of casting their eyes on Crater Lake's majestic beauty. In order to do so, one must hike up the slopes of Mt. Mazama, first dodging the remnants of its angry volcanic past scattered about, then climbing steep, forested slopes…. all before reaching the rough-edged rim of its ancient caldera hundreds of feet above its water's surface. Yet, year after year visitors from around the world continue to take the challenging journey up Mazama in order to see Crater Lake's beauty. Not surprisingly, after reaching the rim, reactions remain the same generation after generation. Below are some early passages that clearly describe the breathtaking beauty of Crater Lake.

"As the visitor reaches the brink of the cliff," geologist Clarence Dutton promised in his 1886 essay on Crater Lake published in Science, "he suddenly sees below him an expanse of ultramarine blue of a richness and intensity which he has probably never seen before, and will not likely see again. Lake Tahoe may rival its color, but cannot surpass it…It is difficult to compare this scene with any other in the world, for there is none that sufficiently resembles it."
Author Zane Grey wrote in 1919, "I expected something remarkable, but was not prepared for a scene of such wonder and beauty…Nowhere else had I ever seen such a shade of blue…How exquisite, rare, unreal!"

Early Exploration

It was springtime 1853 when 11 miners from California stopped by Isaac Skeeters' mercantile store in Jacksonville, Oregon, located about 90 miles southwest of Crater Lake. The miners were in need of supplies for a journey they were about to embark on. Loudly bragging back and forth, the miners were confident that they knew where and how to find the legendary Lost Cabin Gold Mine. A young man named John Wesley Hillman, who had recently returned home from a successful trip to the California gold fields, was financing the trip. Overhearing the men talk about lost gold mines, Skeeters quickly gathered up 10 fellow Oregonians and set out, basing the success of the journey on the miners' confidence he had overheard in his mercantile.
On June 12, 1853, Hillman, along with two other members of his party, Henry Klippel and Isaac Skeeters, came upon a large body of water sitting in a huge depression while looking for the lost gold mine. Hillman exclaimed that it was the most beautiful body of water that he had ever laid eyes upon, and Skeeters suggested that the body of water be named Deep Blue Lake. After returning to Jacksonville, the men reported their discovery of the lake, but unfortunately at that time, people were more interested in finding gold, and the discovery of the lake was soon forgotten.

The first published description of the lake came in 1862 after another party explored the Cascade Range around Mt. Mazama. The leader of the expedition, Chauncy Nye, later wrote a short article for the Jacksonville, Oregon Sentinel. In his article, he stated, "The waters were of a deeply blue color causing us to name it Blue Lake." However, the great depths of Crater Lake weren't explored until 1886, when William Gladstone Steel organized a party from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and enlisted the help of geologist Clarence Dutton. Steel, Dutton and the rest of the exploration party carried a half-ton survey boat, named the Cleetwood, up the uninviting, steep slopes of Mt. Mazama and lowered it into Crater Lake. From the stern of the boat, the party used a piece of pipe on the end of the spool of piano wire to measure the depth of the lake from 168 different points. The party's deepest sounding came in at 1,996 feet, which was remarkably close to the next official measured depth of 1,932 feet, made by sonar measuring in 1953…and only 53 feet, or less than three percent off from the current, official measurement recorded with multibeam sidescan sonar in 2000.

Ten years after Steel and Dutton recorded the first depth measurements of Crater Lake, another crew of scientists set out to measure the lake's clarity for the first time. One of the crew members had a white dinner plate that he planned on using in order to measure the clarity. He attached the white plate to a rope and began to lower the plate down into the water. Once beneath the surface, the scientists watched until the plate disappeared into the darkness and they could no longer see it. At that point, they were able to use the length of the rope to record the first measurement of clarity. Since the initial measurement was recorded using the white plate, scientists have been using a black-and-white disk, known as a Secchi disk, to measure clarity. Crater Lake is the clearest measured natural body of water in the world. Records indicate that the clarity in August averages 98 feet (30 meters), but values as high as 142 feet (43 meters) have been recorded in the last two decades.

Beyond the Blue

Revisiting the Klamath Tribes stories about formation, Skell collapsed the top of Mount Mazama to imprison Llao forever beneath the world. He wanted peace and tranquility to cover up the seeping, dark hole, so he chose to fill it with the most beautiful blue water that anyone would ever lay eyes on. And so it has been that generation after generation, Crater Lake absolutely amazes visitors with its extraordinary color and remarkable clarity.

Crater Lake's breathtaking blue color is a product of several different factors: its great depths, the purity and clarity of its water, and the way solar radiation interacts with water. Research provided from Crater Lake National Park explains that water molecules in the lake absorb the longer wavelengths of light better, for example: reds, oranges, yellows and greens. This energy slowly heats Crater Lake throughout the summer. Shorter wavelengths, blue for example, are more easily scattered than absorbed. In the deep lake, some of the scattered light is redirected back up to the surface where we can see it. Around the edges of the lake, where the water isn't quite as deep, some of the unabsorbed green sunlight is also reflected back up. Crater Lake is known for changing colors on a day-to-day basis on account of varying wind, cloud cover and the angle of the sun.

One of Crater Lake National Park's most frequently asked questions is, "Why is Crater Lake so blue?" Experts explain that the water is so blue because there is hardly anything else in it – just water. Scientists at Crater Lake National Park indicate that while its not 100 percent pure water, it sure is close. Water molecules with little sediments, algae & no pesticides or pollution, will absorb all colors of the spectrum but not much blue. So, those wavelengths will scatter and make the water appear blue. The key is to have relatively pure water and lots of it. There needs to be enough molecules to absorb all of the other colors and, since Crater Lake consists of 4.6 trillion gallons of water, that can explain the extreme blue color of the water.

In an article titled "Crater Lake Clarity: It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This," aquatic biologist, Scott F. Girdner explains that in order to appreciate the lake's remarkable color and clarity, one must understand the relationship between ultraviolet (UV) light and the presence of dissolved organic matter in water. Girdner explains that in most lakes and oceans, dissolved organic matter, which comes from plants and animals in the water, limit the penetration of UV light. He also explains that only a small amount of organic matter dissolved in water is needed to absorb the UV rays, and because UV light is absorbed near the surface of the lake, aquatic organisms within Crater Lake are mostly protected from harmful UV Rays. Crater Lake consists of a very minimal amount of organic matter, so UV light is able to penetrate the lake. In fact, the levels of organic matter are so low that UV light is able to reach 320 feet below the surface. With this being the case, recent analysis of UV measurements have shown that in some months of the year, Crater Lake actually has greater UV transparency than any other known lake or ocean in the world.

Girdner explains that UV penetration is very important because of the recent changes in the Earth's ozone layer, climate changes and the impact of dissolved organic matter and corresponding fluctuations in underwater UV levels. Research being conducted at Crater Lake is important because it will help establish new UV absorption limits for pure water, and also will help determine the ecological factors that control the underwater penetration of UV light in lake and ocean ecosystems. Girdner states that further studies of UV light penetration will help ensure the preservation of Crater Lake, which he refers to as a precious gem.

Deep Rover Submersible

The U-Haul SuperGraphic representing the state of Oregon features the Deep Rover submersible. The Deep Rover is a highly technical submarine that the National Park Service (NPS), National Geographic Society (NGS) and the United States Geological Survey leased from Canada Dive Inc. in order to explore the uncharted depths of Crater Lake. Nuytco Research Ltd., a sister company of Can-Dive, Inc., owns the Deep Rover submersible, and is a world leader in the development and operation of undersea technology. Nuytco and its sister company, Can-Dive Construction, Ltd., have more than 30 years of experience working around the world. Nuytco designs, builds and operates atmospheric diving suits, submersibles and remotely operated vehicles, as well as specialty equipment for commercial diving. Can-Dive is a diving company offering state-of-the-art diving technology and services with a reputation solidly built on underwater innovation and satisfied customers. Dr. Phil Nuytten, Nuytco's president and founder, is recognized as one of the pioneers of the diving industry. His current work is aimed at advancing the concepts of deep work in the oceans by using of one-atmosphere vehicles and tools. Nuytco Research provides a system description of the Deep Rover submersible.

Pressure Hull:Two 160 degree, five inch thick acrylic plastic hemispheres, joined by two aluminum rings to form a single sphere, 64 inches O.D.
Power Source:Two pressure compensated battery pods provide 120 v. each. Emergency power provided in seat base. Can be surface powered via umbilical.
Maneuvering Control: Four 1 h.p. innerspace thrusters. Two rear thrusters fixed, two forward thrusters rotatable. All thrusters can be independently activated. Bouyancy provided by a single soft tank, providing 150 pounds bouyant lift.
Life Support: Oxygen carried externally in two 80 c. ft. tanks. Carbon dioxide removed by absorbent scrubbers. Emergency lung powered scrubber also available. Emergency breathing gas via air BIBS.
Viewing: Panoramic, via plastic pressure hull.
Sonar:One scanning sonar.
Manipulators:Two five function, sensory feedback type, with variable geometry and options. Wrist mounted lights, video, and still cameras standard.
Communications:Surface: VHF Sub-Surface: Standard UQC and 18 KHZ
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Optional Equipment:27 KHZ directional hydrophone, direction finder/transmitter, tracking beacon, Xenon strobe, hydraulic cutters/tools, sampling equipment, jetting/dredging pumps. Real time video and sonar data may be supplied when operated in tethered mode.

Deep Rover Revealed

Aquatic ecologist, Mark Buktenica, actually has had the privilege of conducting 17 dives in the Deep Rover, and he explains that Crater Lake is no stranger to scientists conducting research in regard to the physical, chemical and biological properties of its waters, considering that such studies have been taking place for more than a century. However, it wasn't until 1986 that Congress ordered the NPS to start investigating more, which prompted the study of the park's hydrothermal resources. Buktenica recalls that a geothermal energy company was drilling wells adjacent to the park boundary, evaluating whether or not there was potential for any geothermal energy development. The new requirements for further investigation into the depths of Crater Lake were passed right around the same time. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is energy that determines the temperature of matter. The Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, radioactive decay of minerals, volcanic activity, and solar energy absorbed at the surface.

As a result of Congress's request to the NPS, the 7,000 pound, one-person Deep Rover and 30,000 pounds of additional scientific and technical support equipment were flown into Crater Lake by helicopter to begin conducting hydrothermal studies. Other studies using the Deep Rover were also initiated at the same time in order to explore Crater Lake's deepwater plants, animals, and early volcanic activity. Buktenica explained that learning how to operate the submersible required an intense one-week training program that included field work and classroom instruction in operation, safety and emergency response. All of this required knowledge was to ensure that he and two other Oregon State University oceanographers and principal hydrothermal investigators, Dr. Jack Dymond and Dr. Robert Collier, would be ready to go when it was time for the dives to commence in 1988. Having since conducted 17 successful dives in the Deep Rover, Buktenica wrote an article summarizing the results and observations from hydrothermal, biological, and geological submersible studies at Crater Lake National Park from 1988-1989 called, "Why Enter a Sleeping Volcano in a Submarine?" He opens the article with the following passage:

"I was sitting alone in Crater Lake, 600 feet underwater in a small submarine called Deep Rover. I had just completed collecting rock samples along an underwater edge of Wizard Island, and I had 135 pounds of rocks in a basket attached to the front of the submarine. Unknown to me at the time, a couple of O-ring seals were leaking throughout the dive. Water seeping through the seals into the submarine, combined with condensation from my breathing, created an uncomfortable amount of water on the floor. My feet were near the front of the vessel, and as I prepared to start to the surface with the rocks, the submarine tilted forward. As the submarine tipped, the water level at my feet rose rapidly, giving the distinct impression that the submarine was filling with water. Garbled and intermittent communications with the surface crew aggravated the situation. Everyone operated expertly and efficiently; Deep Rover and the rock samples were recovered smoothly. Actual dangers and repairs turned out to be minimal, and the submarine dove again the next day. Nonetheless, I thoroughly reviewed emergency procedures at my first opportunity."

Into the Deep

Once all systems were go, the operator was required to crawl through a narrow opening into the Deep Rover. The submarine hull was sealed after entering, and all outside noise would suddenly cut off. Buktenica realized on his first dive that upon being sealed shut, the Deep Rover heated up like a mini-greenhouse, and would typically reach up to 92 degrees Fahrenheit every time it was sealed. After receiving permission to leave the surface of Crater Lake on his first dive in the Deep Rover, Buktenica began the adrenaline-filled descent to the bottom of the deepest lake in the United States. The journey to the bottom took up to 30 minutes, during which time he was engulfed with nothing but blue until the blue simply turned black. Buktenica said the only sounds he heard while sinking into the dark depths was that of the creaking and popping from the Deep Rover as it adjusted to the increase in water pressure, along with the hum of carbon dioxide scrubbers cleaning the air.

Once Buktenica reached the bottom, he recalls taking a moment to reflect on the fact that he was the very first person to visit the deepest part of the lake, but knew that with only six hours allowed per dive, he needed to take care of business. Though the Deep Rover was designed to operate instinctively, Buktenica explained that many of the tasks he needed to perform required extreme concentration and were mentally challenging and physically demanding. Whoever was piloting the Deep Rover during a dive also was in charge of monitoring electrical and life-support systems, operating the submarine, collecting samples, recording observations on tape and film, and communicating with the surface boat via an underwater wireless telephone.

Deep Water Discoveries

In Buktenica's aforementioned article, he reviewed the deep-water discoveries that he, Dymond and Collier made from their dives in the Deep Rover, and said that one of the highlights of the research was the discovery of bacteria colonies associated with hydrothermal fluids deep in the lake. The colonies formed yellow-orange mats which consisted of thousands of bacteria (Gallionella and leptothrix) that lived on chemicals in the hydrothermal fluids that slowly entered Crater Lake through lake sediments. According to Buktenica, it is unusual that the chemical energy from the fluids allowed the colonies to live in the darkness on the floor of the lake. Temperatures measured inside of the mats were as high as 68 degrees Fahrenheit in comparison to the rest of the water temperature, which was measured at 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dymond discovered and observed the first "blue pool," which he named Llao's Bath, after the Native American story Llao, chief of the Below World. These blue pools were discrete pools of saline water on the floor of the lake that had very distinct blue coloring, and looked like long bathtubs. Blue pools are composed of hydrothermal water with a salt content 10 times higher than the surrounding lakewater. The salt made the liquids in the pool heavier than the rest of the normal lakewater, and the pools appeared to be blue because of the optical properties of the chemically enriched fluids. The scientists were able to detect many chemical indicators of hydrothermal origin in the fluids taken from the blue pools. During their dives, the scientists continued to find other areas of hydrothermal activity in the depths of Crater Lake.

In addition to the hydrothermal studies, the Deep Rover also provided scientists with the unique opportunity to survey Crater Lake's floor for plants and animals and conduct geological surveys to learn more about the volcanic history of Mazama. Prior to the submersible studies with the Deep Rover, scientists were able only to collect samples and specimens from the lake's surface, along a shoreline or from shallow scuba dives. With the use of the Deep Rover, however, they were able to make some interesting underwater discoveries. One such discovery was that of a huge colony of moss (Drepanocladusa aduncus) living in the dark depths of Crater Lake that could quite possibly hold the record of being the oldest form of life in the World at between 4,000 and 7,700 years old. Collier explained that this could potentially be true; however, it can't be proven because deep moss is not just one organism. Growing at depths from 85 to 460 feet, the Deep Rover made it possible to see that deep moss hangs like icicles on underwater cliffs and forms underwater fields on smaller slopes. Buktenica explained that the discovery of the moss 460 feet below the surface was very remarkable, and was made possible because of Crater Lake's super-clear water. The water is so clear that sunlight is able to penetrate deep enough to allow growth of the unique, ancient deep moss. Animals also were discovered living beyond the blue, in the dark depths of Crater Lake at 1,932 feet below the surface of the water…. another remarkable discovery because the water pressure that the animals had to live at was so extreme. Among the deepwater animals found were flatworms, nematodes, earthworms and the midge fly (Heterotrissocladius).

Scientists also discovered 157 species of phytoplankton and 12 species of zooplankton in the depths of Crater Lake. Plankton are free-floating, drifting microscopic organisms that live in saltwater or fresh water. Scientists again determined that the unusual depths in which these organisms were able to survive was a direct result of lake clarity, which allows sunlight to reach so deeply beneath the surface. Scientists at Crater Lake explain that the density and diversity of these life forms is restricted because of the low concentration of nitrogen in the lake; however, different forms of plant and animal plankton live at different depths, down to around 600 feet below the water's surface.

It's back! Scientists were happy to report that Crater Lake's largest zooplankton, Daphnia pulicaria. returned to the lake after having been absent for eight years. Scientists realized that the return of Daphnia in high abundance was a direct result of fewer fish in the lake. Daphnia disappeared almost completely in 1991, and then again in 2000, due to the increase of kokanee, a particular type of fish living in Crater Lake. Kokanee ate the zooplankton and other small invertebrates, which ultimately reduced the amount of Daphnia and other zooplankton in Crater Lake. Daphnia is important at Crater Lake because when its levels decrease, the food chain is adversely affected. Now that we know more about Crater Lake and some of unique things existing in its depths, let's learn how some particular discoveries below the surface can alter our understanding of life elsewhere in our universe.

The Europa Project

Crater Lake is no stranger to scientists conducting research; however, there is always a first time for everything. In August 2000, Crater Lake was the testing ground for the unique study of the Antarctic Ice Borehole Probe, whose mission was to undertake glaciological investigation. The probe mission also was to serve as a stepping stone in the development of technology to acquire data in extreme ice and liquid environments. The experience and information gathered aided other projects involving exploration in ice/liquid environments including Mars' polar caps and Jupiter's moon, Europa.

The Antarctic Ice Borehole Probe was required to operate at high external pressure in Antarctica ice streams, which meant to field test that requirement, scientists conducted what they called an "end-to-end" system deployment at Crater Lake, because it is so deep and cold.

Crater Lake
National Park

Prior to the first time he explored the depths of Crater Lake with the USGS in 1886, William Gladstone Steel had actually been intrigued by it for more than 16 years. Back in 1870, as a young man living in Kansas, Steel sat down one day to eat lunch, which he had wrapped up in an old newspaper. As he sat there eating, he read an article about an unusual lake in Oregon, which sparked his imagination. At that moment, he vowed that he would see this unusual lake for himself one day. Two years later, Steel and his family moved from Kansas to Portland, Oregon, and 13 years later he finally had the opportunity to see Crater Lake. Steel was so moved by its pristine beauty that he decided Crater Lake should be preserved forever as a public park so future generations could have the pleasure of seeing the lake. That moment was when Steel began his 17-year quest to see Crater Lake be established as a national park.

Steel's initial proposal to create a national park was met with arguments and anger. However, a conservation movement during the late 1800s aided Steel's efforts to promote awareness in preserving natural areas. In 1893, Crater Lake received some protection as part of the Cascade Range Forest Reserve but, for Steel, that was not good enough. He continued to push for national park status, and because of his dedicated efforts and determination, President Theodore Roosevelt named Crater Lake a national park on May 22, 1902. Now, as one of America's oldest national parks, Steel's wish has been granted, as millions of people have had the pleasure of seeing the pristine, one-of-a-kind lake which has been a source of public enjoyment for more than 100 years now.

World-Class Laboratory

Girdner, Buktenica and Gary Larson compiled research into an annual report and detailed trend analysis called, Crater Lake Long – Term Limnological Monitoring Program, which can be found on the Crater Lake Institute website: craterlakeinstitute.com/online-library. Their report evaluates long-term trends in Crater Lake's physical, chemical, biological and climatological dataset (collection of data) and attempts to identify possible reasons for trends using statistical inferences between datasets and comparisons to other lake studies. The analysis is informative and provides a lot of data, with an overview and look into various operations, methods, results, discussions and other special projects that have and are currently taking place at Crater Lake. Crater Lake National Park provides scientists and park managers with a gauge for assessing changing environmental conditions external to the park, and the long-term monitoring of Crater Lake has allowed scientists to develop information about Crater Lake's natural dynamics and complexity. Scientists explain that the data will serve as a reference when studying the impacts of climate change, and the effects of human activities, such as agriculture and urban growth, on other lakes. For the last two decades, scientists have teamed up with the USGS, the NPS and Oregon State University to study Crater Lake. Authorities from Crater Lake National Park have stated that long-term monitoring of the lake has been a priority for them for some time, and will continue far into the future.

Known by many for being one of the world's most extraordinary landscapes, a little-known fact that visitors aren't always aware of is that Crater Lake also serves as a one-of-a-kind outdoor classroom. Crater Lake has been referred to as a "world-class" laboratory for studying lakes because of its pristine condition. Scientists, teachers, students and artists are all welcome to visit Crater Lake's Science and Learning center to investigate, instruct and learn from what the park has to offer. Crater Lake National Park welcomes those who can lend their talents, share their discoveries, and teach lessons with the hope of inspiring generations to come to continue to explore and learn more about what Crater Lake has to offer.

Wizards, Phantoms and Dragons...Oh My!

Along with its majestic setting and extraordinary surroundings, Crater Lake also features enigmas and ironic anecdotes. After the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Mazama more than 7,700 years ago, smaller volcanic eruptions continued…which caused cinder cones to form on the crater's floor, far below the surface of the lake. One cinder cone managed to reach the surface and actually extend 2,700 feet above Crater Lake's deepest point. Back in 1885, Steele, after seeing it for the first time, dubbed the cinder cone Wizard Island because he thought it looked like a wizard's hat. According to Native American stories, Wizard Island really is Llao's head. After the mighty Skell defeated Llao, he threw Llao's body back into Crater Lake, where it would remain buried forever. Steele also named the crater at the top of Wizard Island, calling it the Witches' Cauldron. Today, the cinder cone and crater are still referred to and known as Wizard Island and the Witches' Cauldron. In addition to these unique names, Crater Lake also has features known as The Devil's Backbone, Llao Rock, Llao Bay and Skell Channel.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable features of Crater Lake is the infamous Phantom Ship Island. The silhouette of the island closely resembles a sailing ship; however, it was dubbed "phantom" because the island tends to disappear into thin air, only to reemerge later on. It has been suggested that this effect is the result of different viewing perspectives, lighting and weather conditions; however, imaginations tend to run wild with this enigma. Phantom Ship Island is part of a 400,000-year-old formation known as "The Phantom Cone," the first major volcanic eruption that occurred before Mt. Mazama blew its top.

Many creature-sighting stories and myths have surfaced over the years; however, the most recent sighting story was told in 2002 by a woman who recalled seeing something very strange in the waters while visiting Crater Lake as a child. According to the woman, she and her friends were on the water in a rowboat when something she remembers being a block long, swam beneath their boat and terrified them. When telling the story, she recalled never having been so scared in her life, saying what she saw swim below her that day was a dragon! She also stated that she knows why Native Americans say monsters live in the lake--because they do, and she saw one with her own eyes.

The infamous Crater Lake creature even made it to Hollywood in 1977 with the production of a film titled "The Crater Lake Monster." The movie begins with a meteor from outer space crashing into the waters of Crater Lake and leaving a giant egg, which subsequently hatches. After hatching, the creature traveled in and around the lake's waters, making meals out of unsuspecting campers. And though the film is called "The Crater Lake Monster," filming did not take place at Crater Lake, and the lake used didn't resemble Crater Lake at all. But with that said, every lake has to have a monster, right?

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