- Crater Lake, located in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon, is the seventh deepest lake in the world. Unlike a majority of the deepest lakes in the world, found in continental rift valleys, Crater Lake is in the caldera of a volcano. For the young at heart and mind, those willing to descend (and ascend) about 700 feet to Cleetwood Cove can
undertake a boat tour of Crater Lake. From the boat, Crater Lake is more than just a
beautiful blue lake; it becomes the inside of a volcano, where the response of people and
plants to a geologic event can be investigated. The catastrophic eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago affected both plant and human populations. Before pumice and ash from the volcano blanketed the landscape like freshly fallen snow, the forests to the east of Mount Mazama were dominated by ponderosa and lodgepole pine. Within the immediate vicinity of the volcano all life was obliterated; the force of the eruptive material toppled vegetation and buried it with ash and pumice. Through the recovery process of succession, life has slowly returned to Crater Lake. Forests surrounding the lake are now dominated by mountain hemlock, whitebark pine, and lodgepole pine. These plants not only depict the process of succession, but also of adaptation to a volcanic environment. Factors restricting establishment and growth of plants are controlled by the nonliving
environment. Climate, geologic activities, elevation, and time all contribute to the
availability of water, soil, nutrients, and sunlight, which directly affect plant growth.
Heavy winter snows, which linger until July, and very little summer rain, control soil
moisture and the length of the growing season at Crater Lake. Volcanic activity dictates the parent material, which with time breaks down forming soil. The properties of the soil
determine its ability to hold water and the concentrations and availability of nutrients.
Pumice soils provide developing plants with low nutrient supplies and affect the growth of plants with extreme surface temperature fluctuations. Volcanic cinder has a very low
capacity to hold water and nutrients, thus restricting plant growth. People have lived in the Pacific Northwest for at least the last 10,000 years. Direct archaeological evidence of life near Mount Mazama is scarce. Those occupation sites closest to the volcano were covered with pumice and ash from the climactic eruptions. Sites protected from the eruptive material and sites farther away provide archaeologists a glimpse into the cultures of the Basin and Range Province. People living around Mount Mazama were predominantly nomadic; their survival depended on available resources. The
catastrophic eruption of Mount Mazama and the subsequent devastation of the land disrupted their lives. As the environment recovered from the eruption, the people also recovered. They were forced to find alternative food sources, fuels, and shelters. The indigenous people's perceptions of this natural disaster are understood indirectly through the use of archaeological data and folklore. Their stories tell of angry gods and stalwart ancestors. Llao, the God of the underworld, and Skell, the God of light, were often at war, Llao from Mount Mazama and Skell from Mount Shasta. Although the origins of such legends are difficult to trace, they emphasize the perceptions of those who lived in the shadow of this mystical volcano. People's limited understanding of the
volcano thus triggered their reverence for the place.