Science and Discovery

Crater Lake National Park is a beautiful and enchanting place - and a fantastic living laboratory. Path-breaking research is being done every day at the Park, supported by the Science and Learning Center.  Download the Science and Learning Center Brochure here.

The Science and Learning Center sponsors an Artist-in-Residence program at Crater Lake National Park.  The program provides an opportunity for artists to spend up to two weeks at Crater Lake National Park working on their art.   The program does not offer a stipend. However, artists are offered free shared housing in a fully furnished seasonal residence just below the rim in the Park's historic Muson Valley. 

The Park is still accepts application forms year round.



  • Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States
  • It is the second deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere
  • It is the seventh deepest lake in the world
  • Maximum lake depth: 1,943 feet (592 meters)
  • Average lake depth: 1,148 feet (350 meters)
  • Maximum lake width: 6.02 miles (9.69 km)
  • Lake surface elevation: 6,173 feet (1,881 meters)
  • Wizard Island elevation: 6,940 feet (2,115 meters)
  • Wizard Island height above water: 764 feet (233 meters)
  • Hillman Peak, highest point on rim: 8,151 feet (2,484 meters)
  • Mount Scott, highest point in park: 8,929 feet (2,722 meters)
  • Union Peak: 7,709 feet (2,350 meters)
  • Rim Village elevation: 7,100 feet (2,164 meters)
  • Precipitation, yearly average: 66 inches (168 cm)
  • Snowfall, yearly average: 44 feet (13.4 meters)
  • Maximum snow depth at Park Headquarters: 21 feet (6.4 meters)
  • Volume of water within the Lake: 5 trillion gallons (19 trillion liters)
  • Park Size: 183224 acres (74,148 hectares)
  • Location: latitude 42.93°N (42°56'0"N), longitude 122.12°W (122°7'0"W)
  • A 30-foot long hemlock log called the "Old Man of the Lake"has been floating upright in the lake for over 100 years
  • The Park includes the headwaters for both the Klamath and the Rogue rivers.




Crater Lake National Park has a surprising range of plant and animal species. The park has thriving ecosystems throughout the 183,224 acres.  From the sundews of the Sphagnum Bog to the roosevelt elk at the base on Union Peak, Crater Lake has many natural gems to discover.  Explore and learn about the species that help make Crater Lake so unique.


        Phytoplankton (163)

        Amphibians and Reptiles (12)
        Birds (151)
        Fish (5)
        Mammals (52)
        Zooplankton (11)



Geologic Map of the Park
Click here for a larger view

There are many remarkable geologic features within Crater Lake National Park.  The main forces that created the formations around the park were volcanic activity and glaciers.  The steep walls of the caldera in which Crater Lake rests allow for a clear view of the layers of volcanic ash that built up with multiple eruptions, including the eruption that allowed for the formation of Crater Lake.


Cloudcap offers stunning views of the lake from its pumice covered cliff.  It is similar but older than Llao rock; both are formed of rhyodacite lava that filled an old explosion crater. Cloudcap erupted 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Devils Backbone  
This jagged dark rock band runs from the rim down to Crater Lake.  Devils Backbone formed when lava seeped up through a crack in the mountain and cooled.  Over thousands of years, the softer rock around the lava eroded leaving the feature exposed.

Garfield Peak
Named after James Garfield the Secretary of State under Roosevelt and the first cabinet member to visit Crater Lake after it became a national park, Garfield peak provides a spectacular panorama of the lake.  The peak stands at 8,060 feet in elevation and can be accessed by a steep 1.25 mile hike that offers a variety of geologic sights.

Hillman Peak
This peaks is called parasitic cone.  Hillman Peak formed 70,000 years ago.  It was cut in half when Mount Mazama erupted.  The peak is the highest point on the rim.

Kerr Notch and Munson Valley
These two formations are U-shaped valleys.  A valley of this shape indicates that it is carved out by a glacier.  Crater Lake has periodically had glaciers for thousands of years.

Llao Rock

Llao Rock 
This gigantic rock is named after Llao, a Spirit Chief which Klamath tribes said created Crater Lake.  This huge formation is an ancient rhyodacite lava flow which was cut in half when Mt. Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago.  The band-like layers can be seen on the rock; these are formed of lava from different eruptions.  The best view of Llao can be found from the tour boats on the lake.

The Pumice Desert
The Pumice Desert stretches for acres in the northwestern section of the park.  50 feet of pumice and ash settled on the land during the eruption that created the caldera of Crater Lake.  The few plants that can survive on the landscape are hardy and provide food and shelter to many small mammals and insects.

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles (pictured left)
These towering formations  of scoria and pumice are found along the sides of the Sand Creek Valley.  The Pinnacles formed when hot volcanic gases shot up through the ash, cementing it.  Through weathering, the softer surrounding materials were carried away, leaving these formations which rise up more than 50 feet. 

Mt. Scott
This peak is called parasitic cone located east of the lake. It is the highest point within the park at 8,926 feet and it is over 400,000 years old.

Sun Notch
Located along the Rim Drive, Sun Notch is a U-shaped, glacier carved valley that is very distinctive.  In August, the sun sets down into the valley of Sun Notch, giving it its name.

The Watchman
The Watchman is a peak on the rim that is a remnant of a lava flow about 50,000 years ago.

Wizard Island and the Merriam Cone 

Wizard Island and Merriam Cone are cinder cones that rose up after the eruption that formed the caldera.  Wizard Island has trees as old as 800 years; it is believed that this is when the Island broke the water's surface.  The Merriam Cone remain below the lake's surface.











Crater Lake's bathymetry, or water depth, was studied in detail by a research boat airlifted into Crater Lake in 2000. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of New Hampshire, and the National Park Service studied the lake bottom in depth and produced a wealth of data.



Several government agencies have partnered to develop databases of GIS (geographic information service) data about Crater Lake, which is available free for download.

View an aerial map of Crater Lake here.




Thousands of hours of research is conducted each year at Crater Lake.  With its diversity in elevation, soil types and ecosystems there are ample opportunities to interpret and evaluate the science of the Park.  The following is a list of the most current research conducted at Crater Lake.


1).  A Phylogeographic and Taxonomic Study of Oxypolis occidentalis (Apiaceae).

2).  Absolute and relative gravimeter measurements to support state-wide geoid defitions of Cascadian tectonics research.

3).  Bio-Optics of Crater Lake

4).  Burning and Beetles

5).  Comparative ecological genetics of adaptation in the high-elevation endemic monkeyflower, Mimulus tilingii.

6).  Crater Lake BioBlitz: Sphagnum Bog

7).  Demography of Northern Spotted Owls on Crater Lake National Park.  Contact the Park Research Coordinator at Crater Lake National Park for more details on this report.



Bathymetry: The study of underwater depth

Caldera: The resulting formation from a volcano ejecting material causing the top of the volcano to fracture and collapse creating a bowl-shape.

Lahar: A hot mudflow containing ash and pyroclastic material from an eruption.  Commonly caused when hot ash hits snow.

Parasitic Cone: A vent (tiny volcano) that grows out of a larger volcano.

Pyroclastic flow: A very fast-moving flow of ash, rock and gas (tephra) that rolls down an erupting volcano. Also know as nuée ardente.

Rhyodacite: A type of igneous (volcanic) rock that is halfway between dacite and rhyolite.

Scoria: red, black or gray igneous (volcanic) rock that is filled with holes from gases escaping as the rock cools.

Tephra: A general term for fragments of igneous (volcanic) rock that is blasted into the air during an eruption.  Tephra can be as small as ash or as large as boulders.

Tuff: Ash that has become compacted into a solid layer on the ground.

Quaternary: a period of geologic time that runs from two million years ago to now.


Support Crater Lake

The Trust depends on your tax-deductible donations to help students, teachers, and visitors to share in the excitement of this great natural wonder.

Read more

Crater Lake License Plates

For just $30, you can join some 400,000 Oregon residents and show your support for Crater Lake by purchasing a Crater Lake License Plate.

Read more

Contact Us

Email Us:

Write Us:
Crater Lake National Park Trust
PO Box 62
Crater Lake, OR 97604

Call Us:
(541) 770-1179

Find us on Facebook:
Crater Lake National Park Trust

Find us on Twitter:

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable