Resources 1984 – D. Volcanic Parks 2. Importance of Crater Lake National Park

Historic Resource Study, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1984

V. Geological and Biological Information on Crater Lake Area

D. Volcanic Parks

   2. Importance of Crater Lake National Park

The state of Washington’s Mount St. Helens offers a tremendously exciting opportunity for serious scientific study of the immediate effects of a volcanic explosion on the environment. Oregon’s Crater Lake, on the other hand, enables visitors to comprehend the regenerative abilities of the earth after volcanic activity. Here one can look without fear but with a sense of awe over a land that bears the scars of an earlier violence already partially healed by forest and meadow. The landscape and scenic details of such a volcanic area are unique among other national park units:

of the several processes of world-making, all of which are progressing to-day at normal speed, none is so thrilling as volcanism, because no other concentrates action into terms of human grasp. Lassen Peak’s eruption of a thousand cubic yards of lava in a few hours thrills us more than the Mississippi’s erosion of an average foot of her vast valley in a hundred thousand years; yet the latter is enormously the greater. The explosion of Mount Katmai, the rise and fall of Kilauea’s boiling lava, the playing of Yellowstone’s monster geysers, the spectacle of Mazama’s lake-filled crater, the steaming of the Cascade’s myriad bubbling springs, all make strong appeal to the imagination. They carry home the realization of mysterious, overwhelming power. [14]

As early as the 1880s J.S. Diller of the Geological Survey said of Crater Lake that it “affords one of the most interesting and instructive fields for the study of volcanic geology to be found anywhere in the world.” Ancient Mount Mazama has been important in scientific circles because of the variety of ways in which the ash from her eruption, which can be easily identified by the particular minerals it contains, can be utilized in geological studies: helping to date archeological discoveries in the Northwest; helping to formulate a timetable of glacial movement and melting patterns; helping to determine the length of time it has taken modern soils to develop from various types of deposits; functioning as a time marker in establishing geologic chronology; and helping to determine types of early plant life by its position above or below the pollen immersed in bogs. [16]

Through the years Crater Lake and its surrounding forest lands have been the subject of research in the fields of geology, archeology, paleontology, botany, geography, limnology, zoology, ecology, biology, and physics by scientists from this country and around the world.


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