Crater Lake National Park has a fascinating history. Created by the explosion of Mt. Mazama 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake has long inspired reverence and wonder. Here's a brief explanation how it all took place.
Crater Lake sits atop Mount Mazama, a Quaternary volcano that is part of the Western Cascade Range. Mazama began to form a half million years ago. 42,000 years ago it stood at its tallest height at 12,000 feet.
Mazama had its most destructive eruption about 7,700 years ago, spewing 12 cubic miles of rhyolite magma in the form of tephra as far north as Alberta, Canada, as far east as Wyoming and as far south as Nevada and northern California. Pyroclastic flows and lahars descended down around the volcano and a thick layer of tuff formed on the landscape and can still be seen today.
As a result of the eruption, Mazama lost enough material that the weight of the peak of the volcano could not be supported and it collapsed upon itself, creating a caldera.
Mazama continued to have smaller eruptions, which sealed the caldera floor and created a cinder cone within the caldera which is know called Wizard Island.
Formation of the Lake
Over 700 to 1500 years, rain and snow melt gradually filled the caldera, forming Crater Lake. Today, there is a balance between evaporation and precipitation and the water level in the lake usually fluctuates less than three feet year to year.
In terms of geologic time, Crater Lake is very young. It is believed that humans likely witnessed the explosion. In fact, a sandal was found buried in the ash from the eruption. Klamath tribes have legends of how Crater Lake came to be.