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With a depth of nearly 2,000 feet Crater Lake in the Oregon Cascades is one of the deepest lakes in the world. In terms of average depth, it is fourth.  After a earth rumbling explosion and then collapse of 12,000 foot Mt. Mazama some 7,000 years ago, the lake filled with prodigious snow melt. It is now in a state of hydrologic balance.

Crater is also one of the most pristine of lakes, with remarkable clarity. Established in 1902 as one of the earliest national parks, it’s pretty much pollution free. And thankfully  the Park Service intends to keep it that way.

A lot of natural wonders are called jewels of this or that. But Crater Lake is surely the jewel of jewels. Like an opal, the color of its waters migrate as the sun and atmosphere change, all set in a deep facet of whitish volcanic cliffs streaked with black igneous rock, some rising over 2,000 feet above the lake surface. Sun rise, high noon, late in the day, clouds or clear skies, the colors are what? Sky blue azure, deepest cerulean blue, palest magenta, dark agate, silver in rippling and glinting reflections, even a bland gray under high clouds, red and gold at sunrise and sunset, mild rose to purple blue as evening falls across a mysterious void 6,000 feet above the world.

Crater Lake presents exhilarating mountain beauty at its most intense. Millions of photos have been taken over many years, years of depression and prosperity, war and peace, hope and fear, and the lake has survived intact. The record below spans some seventy-five years and three generations, from film to digital photography. Hopefully little will change in the next  seventy-five. But Crater Lake, because of its purity and uniqueness, is a frightfully good place to watch the growing impacts of climate change.

Whitebark Pine, the picturesque icon of the higher altitudes of Crater Lake National Park, is being decimated. A major factor is the mountain pine beetle, which proliferates as winter low temperatures rise and which, over time, can kill a tree. The Whitebark Pine is a “foundational species”, on which many other species, plant and animal, depend. Together with an onslaught of white pine blister rust, Whitebark Pine is on the way to extinction. Tiny carbon atoms may be the destruction of Crater Lake’s ecosystem, and thereby the lake itself as we know it.  And in truth, we all know where those atoms come from.

SRE

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