As It Was: Jacksonville Group Reports on Great Sunken Lake

Aug 24, 2018

The discovery and publicizing of Crater Lake came about in fits and starts in the mid-1800s, as stories of a great body of water emerged from a variety of sources.

A group of Jacksonville residents who visited what they called the Great Sunken Lake in 1865 guessed the lakeshore to be about 2,000 feet below the rim, a nearly accurate estimate.  They thought the lake was 10 to 12 miles across, about double the true measure.

In a report published by the Jacksonville, Ore., Sentinel, the group said there was no beach along the lakeshore, and no way to reach or measure the depth of the water.  Their poetic report said, “It lies silent, still and mysterious in the bosom of the everlasting hills, like a huge well scooped out by the hands of the giant genii of the mountains, in the unknown ages gone by, and around it the primeval forests watch and ward are keeping.” The Sentinel report was reprinted by newspapers across the country. 

Later in the year, two Fort Klamath soldiers climbed down the perpendicular walls to the lake waters.

The name, Crater Lake, came later.


Sources: "A Great Natural Curiosity." American Traveller, 28 Oct. 1865 [Boston, Mass.] , p. 2. Accessed 18 Jan. 2018; "Letter from Oregon." Rockford Weekly Register-Gazette, 4 Nov. 1865 [Rockford, Illinois] , p. 1. Accessed 18 Jan. 2018; "The Sunken Lake." Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics, 21 Sept. 1867 [Portsmouth, New Hampshire] , p. 1. Accessed 18 Jan. 2018; "The Sunken Lake." Quincy Daily Whig, 3 Dec. 1869, p. 2. Accessed 18 Jan. 2018.