My motive for this online research began with a personal
concern about discrepancies in the NPS and USGS published
citations of the maximum depth of Crater Lake (592 versus
594 meters), which I assume are related to the discrepancies
in their reference of the benchmarked surface elevation of
the lake (1881 versus 1883 meters). Interestingly, it turns
out that both federal agencies agree on Crater Lake's
average depth at 350 meters, although there are still some
online sources erroneously quoting the average depth of CRLA
at 1500 feet (457 meters).
As we all have learned, Crater Lake is the second-deepest
lake in North America. Using the USGS published estimate of
594 meters (plus or minus 2 m) as the maximum depth for
Crater Lake, it is clearly in second place to Great Slave
Lake of Canada, whose maximum depth is 614 meters (2014
feet). But changing my thoughts to the average depth, I
asked myself, 'Hmmm, I wonder how Crater Lake would fair if
we compared its average depth against that of Great Slave
To my amazement, I found that Crater Lake wins this
contest hands down! The average depth of
Great Slave Lake
is only 73 meters. Thus, on average, Crater Lake is the
deepest lake in North America!
Now, having answered this question, I asked myself, 'How
does the average depth of Crater Lake stack up against the
other lakes in the rest of the world?' Thanks to the miracle
of the internet and Google, this question can also be
The deepest lake in the world,
Lake Baikal is
still the winner with an average depth of 758 meters and a
maximum depth of 1637 meters. The second deepest lake,
has an average depth of 540 meters and a maximum depth of
1470 meters, is still in second place. But compared to the
350 m average depth of Crater Lake, the other lakes begin to
fall behind: The
Caspian Sea has an
average depth of 184 m and a maximum of 1025 m. Subglacial
Lake Vostok in
Antarctica has an average depth of 344 m and a maximum of
about 1000 m.
Lake Malawi, also
known as Lake Nayasa, has an average depth of 292 m and a
maximum depth of 706 m.
Lake Issyk-Kul has
an average depth of 270 m and a maximum of 668 m.
Lake Tahoe has an
average depth of 305 m and a maximum depth of 501 m.
Thus, based on its average depth, Crater Lake, Oregon has
moved up among the lakes of the world from 8th place [7th
place, if one excludes the subglacial Lake Vostok which
resides beneath nearly 13,000 feet of Antarctic ice] to win
the bronze medal!
Crater Lake is the third deepest lake in the world, on
average, and it's average depth of 350 meters is a statistic
that is agreed upon by both the NPS and USGS
F. Owen Hoffman, Ph. D.
Lake National Park park ranger-naturalist and lake
researcher 1966-68, park ranger-naturalist at Zion (1969),
Yosemite (1969-71), NPS park VIP, 1998-2004, Board of
Directors, Crater Lake Institute, co-author of the Crater
Lake Institute's Field Guide to the Garfield Peak Trail
(2004) and Promoting and Protecting Dark Skies in our