Medford to Crater Lake Along the Rogue River

Miles Today: 106 miles Total Miles: 2,369

Today we spent having a leisurely drive along Rt. 62 from Medford to Crater Lake National Park.  It was another one of those steadily climbing, heavily forested routes, plenty of camp grounds and a few tiny towns along the way.  Our first stops were about 40 miles north east of Medford in the small settlement of Prospect.  The Rogue river runs through gorges here and there are some fantastic waterfalls easily viewed on short, if steep, trails.  The first pullout was at the Avenue of the Boulders, a place where the river cuts through a rock gorge lined with massive rocks, like the gates of a city wall.  Spectacular.

We then drove a little further along the river to the Prospect State Viewpoint trail which leads to  the lovely Mill Creek Falls.  It was a very nice walk through the woods to get to the overlook, maybe about .6 mile, but about a 200 foot elevation change, so pretty steep on the return.  Worth it to see the pretty falls though. 

On we went another few miles to the Natural Bridge site near Union Creek.  This was a lovely trail in the woods again back to the river.  We had our picnic here before setting off.  There is first a small bridge over the Rogue where you can see this part of it gushing down over a small fall and cascades.  The force was pretty strong, you wouldn’t want to fall in.  The interesting thing about this section of the river is that above the bridge there are a couple of lava tubes, some 300 – 400 feet apart.  The lower one has collapsed into a cave, and you see the river flow into it and then back out again.  The tube above it, is still intact and so there is a point 300 feet up river where the whole river descends into a hole in the rock and then reappears out of a hole 300 feet away.  An amazing thing to see.  It’s absolutely torrenting down at this point, so clear and blue……  like magic.

Upper Rogue torrenting down.. so clear and blue
Rogue goes into “cave” ie collapsed lave tube and busts out again
Looking down the hidden river, then showing it going down hole and finally re-emerging.

Shortly after Natural Bridge, Rt. 62 bends right to enter the Crater Lake NP.  We were  very excited to be here at last and we had a beautiful day for it.  Sunny and blue and the temperatures in the mid 70s, much nicer to be out in than yesterday down in the valley.  It’s quite a long road into the park, densely forested, just a two lane highway.  Absolutely nothing along the way by way of manmade structures.  No phone signal either.  Eventually we reached the park booth and the Mazama campground and drove on to our Lodge.  Crater Lake only has one lodge, built in 1916 and modernised since then but still retaining much of the usual NP lodge character: stone and wood; enormous fireplaces, small cosy rooms.  We sat in the huge lodge lounge tll we could check in at about 345. 

And great joys!  We found out as we passed through the park booth that boat trips have restarted – yesterday! As if it was meant to be! I’ve been waiting for this boat trip to restart after covid for so long. I so wanted to see the lake from the water level, looking up at the caldera walls and looking right down into the water.   So we booked immediately we arrived at the lodge reception.  Today was all sold out but we have got on the 330 boat tomorrow.  So excited for that.  There is only one point in the whole lake that you can get down to the water – a pretty fierce trail down and of course….. up…… to a little cove where the boat picks you up. Its also the only place you can get to swim if the fancy takes you. I might have to dip a toe in but I bet it’s cold

And double joy, we got a room on the ground floor and it has a private bathroom.  I’d made the reservation here a year ago, that’s how booked up they get.  It’s completely sold out and has been for months and months.

As we approached the Lodge which is perched on the edge of the caldera, we got our first glimpse of the amazing Crater Lake!!!!  A perfect blue round mirror surrounded by a rim of jagged sand coloured rock.  Some details about it:  About 7000 years ago Mt. Mazama (12000 feet) erupted in a massive, massive eruption that lead to the mountain collapsing and losing about 4000 feet off the top and forming an enormous caldera.  The resulting lake is fed only by rainfall and snowmelt and is one of the cleanest, clearest bodies of water in the world.  The maximum depth is almost 2000 ft and it is 5 to 6 miles across and at an elevation of 7000 to 8000 feet.  It is the deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere.  There is still volcanic activity on the lake bottom and there is a cinder crater, Wizard Island, in the lake which has its own caldera at the top.  Fascinating place.

Tomorrow we have a whole day of exploring both on land and on the boat tour.    Tonight we enjoyed some views from the terrace of the lodge,  lined with rocking chairs.    We had dinner in the lounge rather than the restaurant.   The only lodge restaurant is serving a dinner buffet for a princely $54 plus 18% service per person. So, not really hungry enough to justify that. We had light plates of cheese, charcuterie and steak kebabs with salad plus a glass of red and a beer for the price of one buffet. It was plenty.

Sat by the big log fire for a while waiting for sunset which we decided to view tonight. It’s such a nice lodge. More modern than the one at Paradise but so much less crowded and the facilities are better. The WiFi is amazing for a NP and there’s a lift. Not that we need one… I love the fact that even on a summer’s night, the log fires are blazing away. Mind, the temperature does drop at night. Down into the 40sF once it is dark.

For the sunset we drove up to a point on the west side of the caldera called Watchtower lookout. It’s supposed to be be the best place to be able to see the last sunlight on the lake and the caldera sides but also to see it disappear over the western mountain ranges between here and the Pacific. It did not disappoint even though a bit of breeze over the water stopped any question of a glassy reflection. It was a bit chilly. I had a short sleeved t shirt on, a long sleeved t shirt on and a hooded long sleeved t shirt on top of that. I wasn’t cold but my hands were. Bob retired to the car to watch from there!!!! The sunset was fantastic. The sky to the west looked like it was on fire. Magnificent. Tomorrow night we are going to stay out later to see the stars in the dark sky on the eastern rim. It should be amazing.