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As It Was: Early Visitors Awed by Lake’s Blue Waters

In 1876, a small party started out on horseback to see that magnificent lake high in the Cascades some were beginning to call Crater Lake.

The group included an Oregonian reporter and Gen. John Ross, a well-known Indian fighter of the 1850’s and the more recent Modoc War of 1872-73.  Their guide was Jimmy Stewart, a pioneer gold miner and renowned Southern Oregon hunter.

Leaving early in the morning, they reached the Falls of the Rogue River at present-day Prospect in the evening, pressing on in the dark, and made camp near Union Creek.  Lightning and thunder were so strong that night they agreed they had never seen such a display of nature. Their campsite was lit up by two burning trees struck by lightning.

The next day at noon they stood in disbelief on the rim, gazing at the deep blue lake. The storm had cleared the air and the lake was so still they felt they were looking down into the sky.  The reporter said that the roughest mountain man with the least education would be a poet at such a sight.

Source: "A Trip to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon." Morning Oregonian, 28 June 1877 [Portland Oregon], p. 4.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.