fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Who misnamed Crater Lake?

Why is Crater Lake called Crater Lake, considering it is in a caldera? Also I would like to know when it was discovered and who named it?

— Abby G., Eagle Point

Abby, you are correct. Crater Lake does sit in a caldera.

Why the name "Crater Lake" seemed like the best fit would have to be answered by one of a party of lake visitors in July 1869.

The group was led by Jacksonville's Oregon Sentinel newspaper editor Jim Sutton, who coined the name "Crater Lake" in reports published on Aug. 21 and 28, 1869, in the Oregon Sentinel.

According to historic resources, Sutton's party chose the name "Crater Lake," because of the crater the group discovered in the top of the volcanic cinder cone that is Wizard Island.

It is unclear whether someone from the lake-naming party knew that calderas, by scientific definition, are formed by the tops of volcanic mountains collapsing into a concealed magma chamber — in this case the enormous caldera-forming eruption of Mount Mazama about 6,700 years ago.

Abby, you also should probably know that the term "crater," is defined more loosely across sciences as depressions in the ground caused by meteorite impacts or volcanic activity.

Additionally, not only is a crater "a large round hole in the ground made by the explosion of a bomb or by something falling from the sky," Merriam-Webster Dictionary also defines a crater as "the area on top of a volcano that is shaped like a bowl." — a true slap-in-the-face to scientific literalists everywhere.

"Crater Lake," wasn't the caldera lake's first name though.

It is unclear whether Native Americans named the lake specifically, but it was considered sacred water by some tribes in the area.

The lake is confirmed to have been discovered by Euro-Americans on June 12, 1853. Leading a group of lost gold-seeking explorers from Jacksonville, John W. Hillman took a few members of the party to the top of a mountain for a better view and stumbled upon the lake. Hillman, the first confirmed Euro-American to lay eyes on Crater Lake, referred to it as Deep Blue Lake.

In addition to Deep Blue Lake, before Sutton's party named the caldera lake Crater Lake in 1869, it was also known by other Euro-Americans as: Mysterious Lake, Lake Majesty, Lake Mystery, Great Sunken Lake and Blue Lake.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.