I couldn’t believe my friend and frequent travel companion Maggie had been all over the world and never seen Crater Lake. So when we discovered a Road Scholar tour that took in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, I knew we would have to detour to America’s deepest, clearest, and bluest lake. Eventually we worked out a zigzag route that took in as many as possible of the other jewels of Southern Oregon.
We started out toward Crater Lake National Park on one of my favorite scenic highways, OR 138 along the North Umpqua River. A very helpful woman in the Visitor Center in Roseburg gave us a map to all the waterfalls along the way. We took several short hikes to see the ones closest to the highway. Too bad I can’t remember all their names–maybe someone can help me out!
Another great viewpoint along the road is called Colliding Waters, where two creeks come crashing in to the Umpqua. I think this is one of the prettiest highways in Oregon, and that’s saying something!
Watson Creek is one of the tallest waterfalls in Oregon. There are several varieties of waterfall along the road, called plunge, punchbowl, tiered, fan, segmented, etc. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center for the map and brochure.
After a lovely day in waterfall land, we came around Diamond Lake and headed south again to our destination for the night, Union Creek Resort. I knew nothing about the place except for online reviews, but we were very pleasantly surprised. Our cabin was cute and comfortable and we had a fantastic breakfast the next morning across the road with the friendly ladies at Becky’s Cafe. There are not a lot of hotels in this area (a good thing!) so it’s great to know there’s a place like this so close to Crater Lake.
People say that seeing Crater Lake is like seeing the ocean for the first time. At 7700 feet above sea level, it takes your breath away (in more ways than one). There are plenty of hiking trails, boat tours, etc. but the major activities here are gawking at the lake, and driving around the Rim Drive looking for all the different angles for gawking at the lake.
Crater Lake was formed by the eruption of Mt. Mazama, which was originally around 12,000 ft. high. The lake has no rivers coming in, so the water comes only from snowfall–about 44 feet in an average year! This is why the water remains so pure and clear.
Knowing about the famously pure water, we were a little concerned when we saw the trail of some sort of bright yellow powdery substance on the surface of the lake. We were happy to learn that the “foreign substance” was the annual appearance of pine pollen from the surrounding forests.
Because of the dry winter, there was very little snowfall this year. In a heavier snow pack year, the Rim Drive might not open until the end of June or even later. This year there was hardly any snow, although a short section of the East Rim Drive was closed due to construction. Fortunately we were still able to get to Sun Notch, one of the viewpoints accessible by a short hike. From here you can see the rock formation known as the Phantom Ship (although I’ve always thought it looked more like a castle than a ship.