When traveling the Pacific Northwest, you probably think of mountains and clean lakes and rivers. We’re sure you have Mount Rainier National Park on your list of places to visit.
But if you’ll continue south a few hours, there’s another National Park that’s home to the cleanest lake in America: Crater Lake National Park.
Don’t skip out on stopping to visit this breathtaking scenery in Oregon.
Let’s learn more!
What Is the Cleanest Lake in America?
From the pristine waters of Lake Chelan in Washington to the beautiful blues of Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California, the United States is home to several breathtaking lakes. These lakes are so clean and clear that visitors can look down dozens of feet in some locations.
But only one lake has earned the title of “Cleanest Lake in America.” There’s a reason almost 700,000 people visit Crater Lake National Park each year.
Because Crater Lake is only fed by snowmelt and rainfall, it avoids the muddy muck and mire from flowing rivers. Also, since it’s protected and managed by the National Park Service, efforts are made to keep this beautiful lake in its pristine condition.
Where Is Crater Lake?
Located in south-central Oregon, Crater Lake is part of Crater Lake National Park. The park is between Highway 97 on the east and Highway 230 on the west.
Highway 139 runs along the northern border and Highway 62 cuts through the southern portion of the park. Klamath Falls, Medford, and Roseburg are all cities nearby.
How Did Crater Lake Form?
Mount Mazama erupted around 5700 BC. When its peak collapsed, it created a caldera, which is a massive depression in the earth.
Over time, snow and rain accumulated in the caldera to create what is now Crater Lake. Wizard Island, located in Crater Lake, is a cinder cone from an eruption that happened after the big one in 5700 BC.
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Can You Swim in Crater Lake?
Open from mid-June to late October, Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake. It’s a steep, strenuous 1.1-mile hike that quickly drops 700 feet in elevation. Once you reach the shore, you’re allowed to swim in Crater Lake, although the waters will be a bit chilly.
The average surface temperature of the lake is 57 degrees during the summer months. However, after hiking down Cleetwood Cove Trail, it may be a welcome and refreshing respite. Note that swimming is only allowed within 100 yards of Cleetwood Cove and within 100 yards of Wizard Island.
How Deep is Crater Lake?
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet. It’s one of the top ten deepest lakes in the world. Lake Baikal in Russia is the deepest at 5,369 feet and the only lake reaching depths over 5,000 feet in the world.
To put into perspective just how deep 1,943 feet is, the Eiffel Tower is 985 feet tall, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall, and the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall. If you stacked all three of these on top of each other and placed them in the deepest part of Crater Lake, there would still be 100 feet of water above Lady Liberty’s torch.
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Things to Do at Crater Lake
Crater Lake is known for its pristine beauty, but there are other things to do besides gaze at this wonder. The area is full of outdoor recreational activities, and the National Park has numerous opportunities to explore and learn more about the land.
Take a Hike
There are 16 forest and meadow hiking trails and seven trails with lake views within Crater Lake National Park. Most of the lake view trails begin around the rim at 7,100 feet above sea level. The Mount Scott Trail will take you to the park’s highest peak at 8,929 feet.
The Union Peak Trail is the longest trail, with 9.8 miles of forests, pumice meadows, and rocky inclines that end with beautiful 360-degree summit views.
Drive Rim Drive
The Rim Drive is 33 miles that include 30 overlooks and access to five picnic areas. Pack a lunch and head out for a few hours of exploring.
The full loop remains open from July to October. If you don’t want to drive yourself, you could also board a trolley at Rim Village and allow the captain to traverse the winding roads.
A park ranger will provide stories and information about the National Park.
Only two lodges and two campgrounds are available for overnight stays in Crater Lake National Park. Only open seasonally, these locations are booked months in advance, so you better plan ahead if you want to stay on-site. Mazama Campground has over 200 sites about seven miles from Rim Village.
Only some sites offer electric hookups. Lost Creek Campground has 16 tent-only sites.
Crater Lake draws fishermen from all over the world because of its clear, clean waters. Since Crater Lake was formed after a volcanic eruption, no native fish have ever lived here. Between 1888 and 1941, it was stocked with seven different species of fish.
However, only two species still live here today: kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. It’s important to note that no fishing license is required, and there are no size restrictions or catch and possession limits.
Become a Junior Ranger
For the younger visitors, Crater Lake National Park’s Junior Ranger program allows kids to learn more about the park and its history. Program and activities begin at the Rim Village Visitor Center and last about 20 minutes.
Kids can also receive a Junior Ranger book, complete the pages in the book, and return to the Visitor Center to earn a Junior Ranger badge.
The Cleanest Lake in America is a Thing of Beauty
If you’ve never visited the cleanest lake in America, you need to put Crater Lake on your bucket list. The sheer beauty of its pristine condition is awe-inspiring and breathtaking. It’s something you can’t capture in photos but must see for yourself. So the next time you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, make sure a stay near Crater Lake National Park is on your itinerary.
What impresses you the most about Crater Lake? Let us know in the comments!
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