Crater Lake's brilliant blues and boat tours
Zach Urness/Daily Courier

Taking a boat tour out to Crater Lake's Wizard Island is a great way to enjoy the United States' deepest lake.

There’s no better way to experience Crater Lake National Park than going on a boat tour and getting dropped off at Wizard Island. Those crazy enough might even try diving into its crystal cold waters.

Here’s a link to a photo gallery and here’s underwater video of swimming in Crater Lake.

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By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier

Below the surface of Crater Lake is a world that, through the eyes of a swimmer, appears made of pure blue glass.

The water is more clear than a swimming pool, with a richer, deeper color infused with pockets of swirling turquoise and pencil-thin rays of sunlight that stream into the depths and disperse in tiny clouds of golden dust.

From the shoreline of Wizard Island, I dove into the stomach of this prehistoric volcano and found an underwater universe of large boulders shimmering 100 feel below, like the tops of skyscrapers in a subaquatic city, and the feeling of a dense silence emanating from the basement of the earth.

I couldn’t stay for long, of course. Only a few feet below the lukewarm top layer, the water’s near-frozen temperature (36 degrees) squeezed a vice grip around my lungs, which sent me sputtering and coughing back to the surface.

Long ago Native American tribes such as the Klamath looked upon Crater Lake as a sacred place of extreme danger and power. Young men scaled the 2,000-foot cliffs and dove as deep as possible, almost to the point of exhaustion, as they attempted to interact with the gods said to inhabit the water and gain their powers.

Many things have changed since those days. More than 500,000 people visit Crater Lake each year, to say nothing of the paved road and buildings that inhabit the rim.

But the mystery and power of these sapphire waters have not waned. Below the surface of Crater Lake is a world of pure blue glass that leaves you breathless.

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One of the strangest things about Crater Lake National Park is that many people confine their visit to simply stepping out of the car, enjoying the view and jumping back in their car and heading home.

The average visit to Crater Lake lasts just two hours — and that number actually is skewed on the high side by the people who stay at the lodge and campsite.

The main reason for the short visits is that there are few ways to interact with the United States’ deepest lake. There are trails, a lodge and visitor’s center to be sure, but you can’t just toss a kayak on the lake or go waterskiing. And the only time you can camp on the rim is during winter.

Crater Lake might be the seminal image of Southern Oregon, but Oregonians themselves visit Diamond Lake (just up the road) more than five times as often.

Which is why the boat tour onto Crater Lake is so important. Given daily from July to mid-September (weather permitting), these tours run seven times per day and give people a chance to get up close and personal with the lake, rather than simply viewing it from a distance.

The tours feature a park ranger who gives a lively talk concerning the lake’s geology, history and cultural significance.

The best trips, however, are the two that drop visitors off at Wizard Island for either three or six hours.

Along with the standard boat tour, the Wizard Island trip allows visitors time to go hiking, fishing and, of course, swimming in one of the most fantastic lakes on earth.

The summit of Wizard Island is a somewhat tough hike but provides a phenomenal panoramic view. Fishing for the lake’s kokanee and rainbow trout is allowed without a license and there’s no bag limit.

Swimming, of course, is the real highlight of the trip. The water is freezing cold, but should you decide to make the plunge, open your eyes for a sight you’ll never forget.

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Standard Tour Schedule:

— 10:05 a.m.

— 11:00 a.m.

— 12:00 p.m.

— 2:00 p.m.

— 3:00 p.m.

Wizard Island Tour Schedule:

— 9:55 a.m.

— 1:00 p.m.

Cost

Adult: $28.00

Adultwith Wizard Island drop off: $38.00

Child (age 3 through 11): $18.00

Child with Wizard Island drop off: $23.00

Infant (under 3 years of age): No Charge


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