A lake that literally takes your breath away

Just about nothing beats the national parks system for America’s travelers when it comes to showing off nature’s one-of-a-kind sights.

Like the country’s deepest lake, for example. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake in southern Oregon is the world’s deepest volcanic lake. Replenished only by rain and snow, Crater Lake is widely considered to be the cleanest, clearest large body of water in the world.

When one travels around the American West as I have the past few months, I can’t help but appreciate this country’s national parks (I’ve written about my appreciation for the interstate highway system in the past, too). Yellowstone National Park was established as the nation’s first national park in 1872, and the National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The system includes 417 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. More than 330 million people visited national park areas last year.

Crater Lake, resting inside a caldera formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano collapsed, was established as a national park in 1902 and has been protected from lakefront developers who might sully its rugged shores.

crater lake best

When my Beloved and I got to witness it earlier this week on a calm, sunny day, it was the bluest reflecting pool I’ve ever seen. Those white streaks in the water? Those are the reverse images of the wispy contrails in the sky. The peak on the left is Wizard Island, a cinder cone created by the volcano.

The surrounding caldera is at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet and therefore chilly; we had to climb a 20-foot snow bank in order to catch a glimpse of the lake (after a 90-minute drive through winding roads–it’s as remote as it is stunning). Forty-six feet of snow fell at Crater Lake this year. Road crews use rotary plows equipped with fans that can shoot snow 75 to 80 feet in the air, but Rim Drive (the road circling the lake) remains blocked at this time of year.

I can only imagine how beautiful the lake must be in August.

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