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Crater Lake hits record for low snow

Crater Lake National Park has hit a record for the lowest snow level since measurements began in 1931.

The official snow depth at park headquarters was 28 inches Thursday — breaking a low-snow record of 31 inches set back in 1977, according to Park Ranger Dave Grimes.

The average snow depth for Feb. 26 is 110 inches, or more than 9 feet, records show.

Winter visitors to the park who delight in taking photos of themselves standing against towering snowbanks along the road have missed that tradition this year.

But the low snow has drawn more visitors to the park, Grimes said.

"The effect is we've been quite busy," he said. "If anyone wants to play in the snow in Southern Oregon, they don't have many other options. Our ranger-led snowshoe walks have been very popular. A lot of people are coming up for snowball fights."

Grimes said there is still plenty of snow for winter recreation, just not the mountains of white stuff people normally see.

On Friday morning, the snow level was at 32 inches, tying the Feb. 27 record for low snow. However, snow was falling Friday from a new storm system bringing rain to the Rogue Valley and snow to higher elevations.

Grimes said the park is actually at 104 percent of its average precipitation for this time of the year. But warmer temperatures have caused much of that moisture to fall as rain rather than snow.

Cloudy weather usually obscures views of the world-famous Crater Lake about half the time during winter, but visibility has been good about 80 percent of the time this season, Grimes said.

People who want to visit the lake should check the park's Web cameras for visibility and also check weather forecasts, he advised.

The National Weather Service forecasts a chance of snow through Monday night.

The park's south and west entrances are open, as is the road up to Rim Village, which provides views of the lake. The 30-mile Rim Drive around the lake is closed to vehicles but open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

The north entrance is closed as it usually is. That road is typically used as a snowmobile trail in winter but hasn't had enough snow this year, Grimes said.

For more information about Crater Lake National Park and to see webcam views of the lake, the Annie Springs entrance off Highway 62 and the Steel Visitor Center, visit www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.