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About that floating tree in Crater Lake ...

Some time ago, I heard that a tree or tree trunk was floating vertically, not horizontally, in Crater Lake in the vicinity of the Phantom Ship.  Question: If so, why vertically, what size, and is it still there?

— James D., Medford

If the "some time ago" was within a 100-plus year period, James, you heard correctly. 

Crater Lake National Park officials tell us the remains of a 30-foot or so mountain hemlock tree, affectionately known as the "Old Man," have been floating in the lake for at least a century, probably longer. 

"The water's so clear, you can see the moss growing on the trunk," park spokeswoman Marcia McCabe says. "It absolutely floats vertically all around the lake."

It probably was in the Phantom Ship's vicinity at one time, James, but it doesn't seem to want to put down roots. Or it can't.

Whatever. The point is that the Old Man is nomadic, meandering back and forth across the water as the breezes change.

"The winds and the currents from the winds in the lake blow him around," McCabe says.

In a 1938 paper, "Wind Currents in Crater Lake as Revealed by The Old Man of the Lake,"  by park naturalist John E. Doerr, Jr., the tree is described as "mute evidence of a rock slide which occurred on the crater wall years ago, the slide breaking off a tree and carrying down the stump in the roots of which rocks remained wedged."

Doerr adds: "For a number of years, The Old Man of the Lake has been observed by visitors at Crater Lake. Not infrequently it has been mistaken for a boat, and occasionally for a white pelican."

Visitors can still see it to this day. McCabe says boat tours on the water make a special effort to pass the Old Man by. 

"You never quite know where the Old Man's going to be from one day to the next, which is part of the fun of it," she says. 

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