National Geographic : 1937 Mar
CRATER LAKE AND YOSEMITE THROUGH THE AGES BY WALLACE W. ATWOOD, JR. With 13 paintings by Eugene Kingman TO THE Klamath Indians, who lived long ago in the Cascade Range of southern Oregon, jewel-like Crater Lake in its massive rock setting was a weird and ghostly amphitheater where the gods were forever embroiled in conflict, sporting in the blue waters and dwelling on the highly colored crags of the crater rim. Rarely did these early inhabitants visit the lake, for they believed it to be the home of the gods, not to be molested. Rumors of the existence of a deep-blue lake early reached the ears of Oregon miners, but its location remained unknown until June 12, 1853, when John Wesley Hillman, leader of a party of prospectors, found the hidden waters. News of the discovery of Crater Lake spread rapidly throughout the West, but only a handful of travelers made the ardu ous climb to the crater's rim before the close of the century. In 1902 the area was set aside as Crater Lake National Park; good roads were constructed up the moun tain, and now each summer thousands of visitors from near and far view its pastel waters. A DRAMA OF THE ICE AGE Like other visitors to Crater Lake, I was impressed with its deep-blue color and the rare beauty of the precipitous crater walls. But more than that, I wondered how the unique setting had come into existence. What story of earth history was hidden away in the massive rocks which formed the crater rim? I recalled that Joseph S. Diller, of the United States Geological Survey, had stud ied the area many years before. After many weeks he had reached the opinion that a large volcano had collapsed to produce the basin now occupied by the lake. Was he right? Could a mountain top disappear and leave a huge caldera more than 4,000 feet in depth? As a member of the scientific staff of the National Park Service, it was my duty to unravel further the geologic story buried in the rocks surrounding Crater Lake. From my tent tucked away beneath the branches of a mountain hemlock close to the rim, I could see the lake far below me. Each shift of the winds that ruffled the water pro duced new shades of blue, and drifting clouds floating high overhead sent shadows racing across the ever-changing picture. When darkness shut off the view, a night hawk's call alone broke the silence. The morning sunlight just touched the water as I worked my way along the rim to the Ranger Station. A welcome surprise awaited me there. "Hello, Doc, what brings you here?" came the familiar voice of my old friend and associate, George Grant, the chief photographer for the National Park Service. I promptly asked him to join me for the day. "Sure will," was his hearty reply. "Maybe I can take some pictures for you." Nothing could be better. Not ventur ing to ask outright for his services as a pho tographer, I had been secretly hoping he would bring his camera. Within a few steps George saw his chance for a first picture. While he set up the tripod, I clambered down the steep slope of the crater rim. Suddenly I stopped. Be fore me was a grayish clay containing rounded bowlders of many sizes. Had I seen this in New England, or in some high mountain valley of the West, I might have given it a casual glance, but here on the steep lava walls surrounding Crater Lake it brought me to a sudden halt. FINDING GLACIER FINGERPRINTS Immediately I was on my hands and knees examining the material. The bowl ders were covered with scratches called "striae," and many of the smaller stones were highly polished. These and the glacial till * before me were sure indications of former glaciation, and yet I was inside an ancient volcanic crater from which hot molten rock had once issued. How was I to explain this circum stance? A mystery story was unfolding. To the geographer these scratched stones were clues akin to those that Sherlock Holmes would seize upon. * Glacial till is a mixture of stones, sand, and clay deposited by a glacier.