By the Numbers: Crater Lake National Park

The scale of this place is mind-boggling. That tiny white dot near the center of the photo is a tour boat making its way through Skell Channel, the narrow passage between Wizard Island and Hillman Slide. Bob Janiskee photo.

Oregon's Crater Lake National Park, By the Numbers


Recreational visits to Crater National Park in 2008.


Total acreage of the park. That’s a little more than 286 square miles, including the 20.42 square miles accounted for by six mile-wide Crater Lake.


Estimated maximum elevation (feet above sea level) of Mounta Mazama, the stratovolcano that collapsed about 7,700 years ago to form the caldera that Crater Lake sits in. The highest elevation on the caldera rim (Hillman Peak) is now 8,151 feet, so roughly 4,000 feet of ancient Mount Mazama has gone missing.


Elevation (feet above sea level) of Mount Scott, the highest peak in the park. If you’d like to climb it, there’s a five-mile (roundtrip) trail that leads to the top


Maximum depth of the lake, in feet, as recorded by a multibeam survey in July 2000. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh-deepest lake in the world.


Inches of snowfall in a typical winter. That’s over 44 feet, and it makes Crater Lake one of the snowiest places in the world where snowfall is carefully measured. Deep snow curtails access to most park attractions from October through May.


Approximate number of years it took for Crater Lake to fill to its present level after the caldera was formed. The lake has no inlets or outlets. Precipitation and snowmelt supply water to the lake, and evaporation and seepage keep it from getting any deeper. The lake level has varied just 16 feet (less than one percent) during the last century.


Miles of trails in the park.


Transparency of the lake water, in feet, as measured with a secchi disk (a black-and-white disk lowered into the water on a cable). In 1969, and again in 1997, a secchi disk lowered into the lake could still be seen at a depth of 144 feet below the surface. Light penetrates even further than that, making it possible for algae to grow as much as 725 feet below the surface. Crater Lake’s world-record clarity and striking blue color are attributable to its isolation from streams.


Miles of visibility from the highest vantage points in the park. Needless to say, air pollution is not the problem here that it is in many other parks.


Year round temperature (degrees Fahrenheit) of water more than 260 feet below the surface. Temperatures at the surface may be as high as 65 degrees at the summer peak.


Length of Rim Drive (miles). The more than 50 turnouts along this road offer views that are hard to beat for sheer scenic splendor.


Number of national parks created before Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902. People who insist that Crater Lake was the fifth national park don’t count Mackinac National Park (later Mackinac Island National Park), which was established in 1875 and abolished in 1895.


Cubic miles of water in the lake. Each year, about 34 billion gallons of water are added to the lake by precipitation/snowmelt and a like amount is subtracted by evaporation and seepage.


Number of people who have ever been to the bottom of Crater Lake and lived to tell about it. Several decades ago, oceanographer Mark Buktenica rode the submersible Deep Rover to the deepest part of the lake to make scientific observations. No one has been back since.


Number of native species of fish. However, there are several species of stocked fish, and fishermen can keep everything they catch.


Black bears are occasionally seen in the park, but pending the results of research currently underway, nobody knows how many there are.


What a beautiful place! The view from Mt. Scott is the view on the state quarter, and is well worth the hike. We had a little haze from a forest fire partially obstructing the view from the top, but it was still outstanding. We were part of that 415,000, but it seemed like most of them were in the gift shop. Both Cleetwood Cove and Mt. Scott were uncrowded. Wizard Island is an unreal place. It looks like a small island, but it is 800 feet to the top. Thanks for writing about one of my favorite places in the world.

Crater Lake is basically in my backyard since I live only about 1.5 hrs away. I spend a lot of time in the park each year hiking, photographing and driving around the rim. Most folks forget to extend that drive an extra 14 miles round trip to see the Pinnacles. What a sight to see. And if you have the time, it should be seen twice in the day, especially if you are a photographer. The sun keeps one view in the shadow in the morning and then the morning view retreats into the shadow in the afternoon. A must see for all those that visit the park. A lot of folks don't realize that if you take the Cleetwood Cove trail (strenuous back to the top) you can swim and SCUBA dive in the lake, but as you indicated, it is very cold. I highly recommend several hikes in the park, Mount Scott being one of them. The other one is much more strenuous but well worth the effort, is Garfield Peak and then an easy and short hike at the end of the day is Watchman Peak for some awesome photo opportunities at sunset. You can also see Mount Shasta which is approximately 120 miles south from all these hikes and you can also see the Three Sisters which are located north towards Bend and Sisters, from Mount Scott. Thank you for posting these stats. It is always nice to refresh my memory.

Enjoyed my visit last year. However - that was during that wildfire season in Northern California, which affect the air quality. We could clearly see across the lake, but it had this sort of purplish tinge similar to the typical day at the Grand Canyon.

I understand that the lake was once stocked with fish but hasn't been in years. The fish in the lake are supposedly reproducing and have a stable population. The last fish stocking in the lake was in 1941.

While they might not have a good estimate of the bear population, they did have bear boxes at every campsite. That was a nice touch.

My answer to the question "What is your favorite color?" is always "Crater Lake Blue." I could sit for hours and stare into it. Ken Burns' very short discussion of Crater Lake that I saw on one night of his recent series was quite disappointing because he chose to show black and white photos (understandable, due to era) and sunset pictures featuring the sky. I only saw one picture of the beautiful blue, which is the most unique aspect of the park!

Visited this park in January last year and snowshoed on rim drive. It was amazing! Blue skies, sunshine, felt very warm. Summer season is much too busy.

Cycle Oregon, an annual bicycle tour, included Crater Lake in 2007. I was fortunate to be on the ride. The Crater Lake day began at Diamond Lake north of the park and ascended road leading to the rim with an option to circle the rim road. It was a beautiful ride. The weather was cool and sunny, and the crater was in its full glory. It really is a fantastic park.

2: the number of sewage spills that have contaminated munson creek, crater lake's drinking water supply

This comment makes little sense: YES, THERE HAVE


Springs-Creek is no longer CRLA's drinking

water source; today, it is Annie Spring at approx. 6000 ft.

that is, about 170 ft. below Crater Lake surface elevation.

Yes, Annie Creek is the water source today, but not in 1975, at least according to news sources linked to your website, The Crater Lake Institute:

"While properly functioning treatment of Munson Springs water appears adequate for removal of bacteria and parasite contamination, it does not assure protection from disease-causing viruses."

So add "at the time" to the end of this statement, this comment makes sense in historical context.

But these things always get swept under the rug and don't end up in cutesy little by-the-numbers articles. That would be too negative for NPT's new corporate sponsors.

Thanks Bob for alerting me to this fine article. Here are some modifications to the facts you have quoted above: (1) The filling of Crater Lake is estimated to have taken many centuries, perhaps more than 1000 years, due to fluctuations in climate and precipitation and the presence of subsurface seepage. The often cited estimate of 250 years is based on a simple calculation that assumes no subsurface seepage until the lake reached the present level and no change in precipitation over time. (2) Crater Lake is often cited as the 7th deepest lake in the world. However, in recent times, two lakes have been added to the list of the worlds deepest lakes, Lake O'HIggins-St. Martin of Chile and Argentina (2742 feet), and Lake Vostok of Antarctica (>2950 feet). Thus, Crater Lake, with a maximum depth of 1949 feet, now ranks as the 9th deepest lake in the world.

But, don't fret, based on a comparison of the average depth of the lakes of the world, Crater Lake with an average depth of 1,148 feet ranks 3rd. Furthermore, when comparing average depths among lakes whose basins are entirely above sea level, Crater Lake is the deepest in the world!

By the way, an excellent, abiet "fictional," account of the days of the 1975 water crises at Crater Lake is described in the book, "Why is Crater Lake so Blue?" by Michael Lalumiere. Unfortunately, there are only a few copies of this book available online, as it has recently sold out.

The Crater Lake Institute still has copies
Why Is Crater Lake So Blue ? (depression blue ! not Lake Transparency))
from the first printing:
Price approx: $18 incl. shipping

PO Box 2, Crater Lake, OR. 97604