National Geographic : 1962 Jul
THE BIRTH OF CRATER LAKE When Mt. Mazama Lost Its Top Oregon beauty spot owes its origin to terrific volcanic eruptions about 4600 B.C. By LYMAN J. BRIGGS, Sc.D., LL.D., Ph.D. Chairman Emeritus of the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration FROM A FEW HANDFULS of charcoal, scientists in recent years have been able to determine the time of the tremendous volcanic eruptions that gave America one of its beauty spots-Crater Lake, in Oregon. Two independent dating tests by the car bon-14 method have shown that the cata clysm occurred only about 6,550 years ago. To understand the story, we must go back to a time when the volcano now known as Mount Mazama was a seemingly dead peak standing where Crater Lake National Park is today. I say seemingly dead because Mount Ma zama had not erupted in centuries. Ever greens fringed its lower slopes, and glaciers mantled the 12,000-foot peak. What is now the United States was one vast wilderness, its stillness broken only by wild creatures, isolated bands of Indians, or the elements. In far-off Mesopotamia, a crude village stood where mighty Nineveh would rise, and Thundering to the skies above primeval America, glacier-sheathed Mount Mazama erupts in the climactic convulsions that gave birth to Crater Lake. The eruptions cost the 12,000-foot volcano a mile of its height. Hurled up from the fiery maw amid smoke and pumice, steam condenses into billowing thunderheads slashed by jagged lightning. PAINTING BY PAUL ROCKWOOD,UNDER DIRECTIONOF 128 GEOLOGIST HOWELWILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA© N.G.S .