Frequently Asked Questions

A Skier Stands on the Rim of Crater Lake

How much snow does the park get?
The yearly average snowfall at Crater Lake National Park has declined from an average of 51 ft (15.5 m) in the 1930’s to 41 ft (12.5 m) in 2021. The greatest cumulative snowfall for one season was 879 inches (73 feet, 22.25 m) the winter of 1932-33. The greatest depth on the ground at one time was 258 inches (21½ ft, 6.5 m) the winter of 1983. Current snow depth (select Crater Lake, Daily Almanac, the date, and Go)

How many people visit the park each year?
In 2016, more than 750,000 people visited Crater Lake National Park. Visitation decreased in 2021 to 647,751 due to hazardous smoke conditions from regional fires and the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on NPS visitor use statistics, please see the AnnualVisitation Highlights page.


about Cleetwood Cove Trail

How difficult is the trail?
Cleetwood Cove Trail is a steep and strenuous hike. In 1.1 miles (1.7 km) the trail drops 700 feet (213 meters) in elevation through a series of long switchbacks. The trail surface is crushed pumice, which is similar to fine sand, and when it is dry, the pumice is loose and slippery under foot. The trail is only partially shaded.

Is Cleetwood Cove Trail the only trail to access the lake for swimming?
There is only one place where it is safe and legal to get down to the lake shore. It is the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which usually opens late June.

What is not allowed in the lake?
Only bathing suits and basic clothing may be worn in the water. To protect the clarity of the lake and decrease the possibility of introducing invasive species these items are not allowed in the lake:
  • scuba and snorkeling gear
  • wet suits, masks, goggles, fins,
  • inner tubes or any towable devices
  • kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and any motorized or non-motorized boats
  • inflatable rafts, flotation devices
  • personal life jackets or vests
  • waders

about the Lake

How deep is Crater Lake?
Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep. It’s the deepest lake in the United States and the deepest volcanic lake in the world.

Where does the water come from?
Rain and snow. No rivers or streams feed into the lake. The average annual precipitation including melted snow, measured at park headquarters is 66 in (5.5 ft,1.7 m).

Why is the lake so blue?
The water is so blue because there is hardly anything else in it - just water. We've all seen the colors in a rainbow when normal white light passes through a raindrop and breaks into the individual colors of the spectrum. All those colors are in sunlight. Water molecules, just plain water with no sediments, algae, pesticides or pollution, will absorb all the colors of the spectrum except the blues. Those wavelengths will bounce back and make the water appear blue. The key is to have relatively pure water and lots of it. There has to be enough molecules to absorb all the other colors. (There are 4.6 trillion gallons of water in the lake, so it works really well.)

Does the lake level change?
Not much. The lake experiences twice as much precipitation as evaporation, but the caldera doesn’t fill up because water seeps out through a porous rock layer along the north shore.

Are there fish in the lake? Is fishing allowed?
Yes—rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. They are not native to the lake but were stocked between 1888 and 1941. Fishing is allowed and encouraged. No license is required. There are no limits on size or quantity but only artificial bait may be used. Fishing is allowed from Cleetwood Cove and Wizard Island (with the purchase of a Wizard Island boat tour ticket.)

Does the lake freeze in the winter?
Very rarely. Crater Lake contains a tremendous volume of water but has relatively little surface area. It takes a very cold winter to freeze the top. Crater Lake has not frozen over since 1949.

How did Crater Lake form?
Crater Lake occupies the shell of Mount Mazama, a collapsed volcano. It once stood 12,000 feet tall, but its summit imploded after a major eruption 7,700 years ago.

Click Crater Lake for more science and trivia about the lake.

What is the yellow stuff floating in the lake?
Through the month of June and into July, yellow swirls of "stuff" can be seen on the surface of the lake and will always prompt great concern from the visitors. It's not pollution or oil or some sort of chemical foamy stuff, it's merely pine pollen - the same stuff that most people find coating their cars in the spring. It's harmless to the lake and will eventually settle out to the bottom.

How cold is the water?
The average temperature (below 300 feet deep) is 38°. In the summer, the surface can warm up to 55° or 60°. Review daily temps and other lake data at MESOWEST STATION INTERFACE ( .

about Plants and Animals

What birds might I see?
Most common birds seen in the park: Raven, Clark's Nutcracker, Canada Jay, Steller's Jay, Dark-Eyed Junco, and Mountain Chickadee. Download a bird species list or discover where to go birding.

Do you have eagles at the park?
Yes, bald eagles are observed in the summer mostly seen flying above the lake. In some years a pair will succesfully nest and rear young in the cliffs of the caldera. Golden Eagles are more rare, but are occassionally seen.

What mammals are at the park?
Most common: Roosevelt Elk, Mule Deer, Black Bear, Coyote, Bobcat, Porcupine, Yellow-bellied Marmot, Pine Marten, Snowshoe Hare, Pika, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, and Townsend Chipmunk. Learn more about all the animals which live in the park.

What is the most common animal I might see?
The answer to this question is a tie between ground squirrels and chipmunks. They are often confused with each other because each species has stripes on their backs but only the chipmunks' stripes continue through their faces to their nose. They are beggars and sometimes sneaky, but don't give in to their cuteness. Petting or feeding any animal in the park is illegal, dangerous, and harmful to their survival.

Where can I see a bear?
Since denning generally occurs between November and May there are only five months when bears are active but even then, seeing one is not likely. Honor the speed limits because bears and other animals forage along the shoulders and linger crossing roads.

What is the tree with the red bark?
Ponderosa Pines dominate the lower elevations of the park, primarily on the south and east sides. They are easily identifed by the yellow to reddish, flat, puzzle-like pieces of bark.

Where is the best place to see wildflowers?
Once the snow melts wildflowers appear in the Ponderosa Picnic Area and in other low-elevation locations. Even while snow barely hangs on the first wildflowers along the Castle Crest Wildflower Trail begin sprouting. By mid-summer in the higher elevations wildflowers much shorter than those seen earlier in the season dot the roadsides and pullouts. Because of this combination of unique habitats wildflowers represent the greatest diversity of plants in the park. Stay on trails to avoid accidently trampling them.


Last updated: July 16, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake, OR 97604


541 594-3000

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