History of Crater Lake

Volcanic crater lakes

Crater lakes form as the created depression, within the crater rim, is filled by water. The water may come from precipitation, groundwater circulation  (often hydrothermal fluids in the case of volcanic craters) or melted ice. Its level rises until an equilibrium is reached between the rate of incoming and outgoing water. Sources of water loss singly or together may include evaporation, subsurface seepage and, in places, surface leakage or overflow when the lake level reaches the lowest point on its rim. At such a saddle location, the upper portion of the lake is contained only by its adjacent natural volcanic dam; continued leakage through or surface outflow across the dam can erode its included material, thus lowering lake level until a new equilibrium of water flow, erosion and rock resistance is established. If the volcanic dam portion erodes rapidly or fails catastrophically, the occurrence produces a breakout  or outburst  flood. With changes in environmental conditions over time, the occurrence of such floods is common to all natural dam types.

A well-known crater lake, which bears the same name as the geological feature, is Crater Lake in Oregon, USA. It is located in the caldera of Mount Mazama. It is the deepest lake in the United States with a depth of 594 m (1,949 ft). Crater Lake is fed solely by falling rain and snow, with no inflow or outflow at the surface, and hence is one of the clearest lakes in the world.

The highest volcano in the world, 6,893 metres (22,615 ft) Ojos del Salado in Chile, has a permanent crater lake about 100 metres (300 ft) in diameter at an elevation of 6,390 m (20,960 ft) on its eastern side. This is most likely the highest lake of any kind in the world.

Due to their unstable environment, some crater lakes exist only intermittently. Caldera lakes in contrast can be quite large and long-lasting; for instance, Lake Toba (Indonesia) formed after its eruption