Poet Penned Vivid Lines On Crater Lake
Klamath Falls Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
February 26, 1965
Editor’s Notes–On the occasion of his second visit to Crater Lake in 1903, the celebrated poet Joaquin Miller penned the following lines.
“Starting in from the California side, 50 miles or more from the line, we come to the deepest body of fresh water in the world. What do we know about it? We do not even know how deep it is. Recent Federal surveys give it a depth, so far as explored, of 2,800 feet, an altitude of about 9,000 feet above the sea, a diameter of 25 miles, a circle of almost vertical walls of 2,000 feet, transparent but stormy and perilous waters, alive with fowl and enormous fishes.
“As you climb to this new wonder of the world you see a level natural bridge of lava one hundred yards wide, under which a stormy river rushes and sobs and sighs and cries like a god in pain, and then thunders down in a cataract that calls out through the somber wilderness a defiant challenge to Yosemite. Yet what knows or cares imperious California for or about Crater Lake, our natural bridge or this new and most impressive Yosemite?
“The president recently declared this sea the heart of a National Park. A party of us went with the soldiers, year before last, hoisted the Stars and Stripes, marched and made speeches all around the fearful mountain that had knocked its forehead against the stars and then burst into flame, like Pele, and was not. And we know little or nothing more about it, and the learned of other lands smiled at our claim of the deepest body of fresh water in the world. For we had, outside of the Federal survey, no evidence to offer in the world’s court of learning. Snow peaks here and snow peaks there, mighty mountains of lava looking down, dark – browed and sullen, into this sea of silence, into the tomb of their departed emperor; but we have no evidence, as yet, of this awful presence, or even of its existence, save some deep and glass-like grooves in the solid granite of a little spur that literally overhangs the lake, thousands of feet below. This one single witness stands to its waist in eternal snow far around to the west, the highest point.
Oh for a Cuvier to take this one bone and give us the story of this once stately mastodon! The waters flowing away from the torn and tattered walls that hang above this wonderous scene seek the Klamath River to the South, the Umpqua to the West and the Columbia to the north. So that we know Crater Lake is the summit of the mountain range known in early times, and as named by the Spanish explorers, Sierra Grande del Norte. Yonder to the south, in all his glory of eternal whiteness, looms Mount Shasta, monarch of the Sierra de Nevadas. But California has insisted that the Sierras end with Mount Shasta (named Chaste Butte by the French). The truth is, however, that the Spaniards named these divisions of the one continuous range of the Sierras-Sierra Madre, away down toward and in Mexico, the Sierra de Nava in California, and this Oregon range, the Sierra Grande del Norte. Let us retain this name. The cheap and childish local name, “Cascades” means nothing and is entirely misleading.”