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How did Crater Lake get so deep?

I got the chance to visit the beautiful Crater Lake during my vacation on the West Coast. The sight was truly breathtaking, the water was clear and clean and amazingly blue. Surrounding the lake are mountains. Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the United States, so it stands to wonder how it got so deep in the first place.

Earth’s structure has four major layers: inner core (at the center of Earth, very dense, very hot and the pressure is very high), outer core (the layer outside the inner core; the liquid version of the inner core; generates electrical currents; responsible for Earth’s magnetic field), the mantle (the layer outside the outer core, semi-solid  — kind of like gum but a little harder; upper part is where tectonic plates move around on), and the crust (cut up like puzzle pieces called tectonic plates). The tectonic plates that make up the crust are what create mountains, earthquakes and volcanoes.

The area where two tectonic plates move away from each other is called a divergent boundary. This creates troughs if the tectonic plates moving away are under land. If the tectonic plates are under the ocean, it creates mid-ocean ridges.

Transform boundaries are where tectonic plates slide against each other, causing earthquakes. The area where two tectonic plates collide into each other is called a convergent boundary. This collision creates mountains and mountain ranges.

When the tectonic plate under Asia and the tectonic plate under India collided, the Himalayas were created. When a tectonic plate under the ocean collides with a tectonic plate under land, a volcano forms.

This is how the volcano called Mount Mazama was formed. Underneath the mountain, there were cracks opening and it ended up draining molten material. This led to the cone part of the volcano collapsing into the empty area where the molten material had been. This left a huge caldera, also known as a crater.

A few years later, the crater was filled with water and thus, Crater Lake was made.

The cool thing about Crater Lake is that there aren’t any water outlets coming in or going out. So, the water in the caldera came from snow and rain. When taking into account the evaporation rate along with the water that comes in due to the snow and rain, it has been seen that the total amount of water is replaced about every 250 years.

The Klamath tribe,  in southern Oregon and northern California, has an oral history wherein the ancestors witnessed Mount Mazama collapsing and Crater Lake coming into existence. They think of Crater Lake as an “abode to the Great Spirit.” According to their oral history, there was a battle between the sky god, Skell, and the god of the underworld, Llao. Due to the battle, Mount Mazama was destroyed and led to Crater Lake’s existence.

The Klamath tribe has vision quests, or rites of passages, in which Native Americans climb the caldera walls and do other dangerous tasks. Crater Lake is still of spiritual significance to the Klamath tribe.

Crater Lake was gorgeous, and I highly recommend it.

 VAAGEESHA DAS is a rising senior at Morgantown High School. 

Information comes from: 

  • Encyclopedia Brittanica. (2009). Crater Lake. YouTube.; Geiger, B. (2021, March 18).
  • Explainer: Earth – layer by layer. Science News for Students.;  Means, T. (2021, May 26). 
  • What is plate tectonics. Life Science.; 
  • Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, April 30). Crater Lake. Wikipedia.

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