Nature Notes

Volume XIX - 1953
Crater Lake Discovery Centennial

The Marten And The "Mac" Marmots
By John R. Rowley, Ranger Naturalist

I was set up to take pictures of a young marmot whose talus slope burrow is located north of Llao Rock. On several earlier visits I had found the young fellow to be sufficiently curious or uninitiated that he would come out of his underground home, looking up toward me from his ridiculous sitting position with his little round belly resting on the ground between his not-long-enough hind legs. My little friend had sat like this several times in the past, with forepaws held primly in front of him, looking toward me with as much interest, it seemed, as I showed toward him.

However, on that day all was not well on the precipitous marmot rock pile. The little fellow came out within minutes, but two adults - - some 60 feet distant - - were constantly giving the alarm cry of the yellow- bellied marmot. Their cries could, I thought, be directed toward me. No, there was a red-tailed hawk sailing slowly overhead; this was probably the cause for the marmots' unusual display of alarm. The short, shrill cries continued, though, long after the hawk had disappeared far east along Crater Lake's rim toward Cleetwood Cove.

Then, without warning, a small mink-like head, rich brown in color, peered from behind the large rock just below the young marmots' hole. It was a pine marten, fearless, pugnacious animal, smaller and more slender than a domestic cat.

The young marmot disappeared into the burrow; the marten, after a hasty look about, which included a glance in my direction, followed. After a few seconds, the marten reappeared and for a time was lost among the rocks. Once more I saw my little friend's nose with its knowing expression. But the sharp, warning cries of the two adults, sitting up like overgrown golden-mantled ground squirrels, sent the young fellow back out of sight.

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Once again the marten appeared, eyes gleaming, head bobbing. He entered the young marmot's burrow, this time coming out of another exit. Smelling the rocks about the area, he once again gave me a fearless glance - - a glance that made me feel the tenseness of the moment acutely - - before he again slipped into the main entrance.

After many seconds, the marten reappeared and poised on the large rock with my little friend clenched shapelessly in his jaws. Quickly now, the marten carried his prey down the rocky slope and across a small pumice meadow to the shadow of a Shasta red fir. Here the marten put down the marmot, looked toward me and toward the two adult marmots, his body vibrating intensely. Then, picking up his plunder, the marten disappeared into the depths of the forest.

Now one of the adult marmots went into action. Whether my presence had prevented earlier defensive activity or whether they had not actually seen the marten, there is no way of determining. I had thought of the marmot as a slow animal, moving lazily about on its short legs. This conception was soon to be altered, for this adult covered the 60 feet of rough terrain between his burrow and that of the young marmot in a matter of seconds. On arrival he sat up and gave three shrill "chirps" before dropping into the burrow, tail bristling so strongly that it approached the size of his fat body. The adult marmot soon returned, sat up straight for an instant. Then, with the bristling tail trailing like a pennant, he returned to the home burrow as quickly as he had come.

For the next ten minutes both adults sat upright, giving their shrill chirp every few seconds. One of the adults began to run toward a pile of rocks that stood on the edge of the pumice meadow and, to my surprise, a marten dodged from behind one of these rocks. The marten sped from the lumbering marmot with a swift airy grace, possibly very soon, by taking to the trees, to complete his escape.

Impressions Of Crater Lake
By Beatrice E. Willard, Ranger Naturalist

What is Crater Lake? How does it affect you? What do you see when visiting it for the first time? The answers to these questions would undoubtedly be as varied as the people giving them, but a general picture would emerge - - an overall impression of beauty and power.

It has long been a conviction of mine that we sometimes become so immersed in a small segment of nature or life that the total picture is lost to our view. Certainly here at Crater Lake, because of the structure of the Park, a full comprehension is more easily gained from one point than in many National Parks. Yes it is ultimately made up of numerous impressions absorbed while watching and studying this outdoor museum. Rather than become engrossed with one of the specific, minute segments of this unique scene, I prefer to view it as a whole, discovering for myself the aspects which unite to form a panorama which has brought many people to think of Crater Lake as the "eighth wonder of the world."

Looking at the Lake for perhaps the first, perhaps the hundredth time, we are unceasingly impressed by the roundness of this caldron of deep blue water, by the steepness of the slopes delineating the Lake, by the intense color of the waters accented by the green hemlocks and multicolored rim and by a sensation of height and space gained from being on top of a collapsed mountain.

In watching this "thing of rare beauty, resting in a circular crater of a great volcano," we become increasingly aware of a unity of form, pattern, and color - - - "a symphony of line."

Forms that immediately draw our attention are: Llao Rock, whose massive face forms an imposing feature of the rim wall from any vista; closer examination reveals the volcanic source of this "bird of fire". Wizard Island, whose shape inspired the belief among early travelers that monsters might live on this volcano within a volcano. The trees, uniformly arranged in line patterns against the gray and black cinder, catch the evening light as it glances golden across the southern face. Hillman Peak, whose sharp, unicorn-like point is the highest on the rim wall, creates many varied impressions of form and color as light and shadow play upon the jagged spires, remnants of an age-old vent from which once spewed molten materials from deep within the earth. Delicate tints of red, lavender and black emerge at various angles and in varying lights. And, last but not least, the Phantom Ship, whose so illusive, and yet so majestic, shape has aroused the casual visitor and the ardent scientist alike to wonder about the story which lies bound within its rocky masts and wing-torn sides.

Line and pattern add to the picture: The frivolous wind ripples playing constantly about on the surface of the Lake create an ever-changing pattern; reflections of the steep rim walls and passing clouds add soft line and color; layers of long-erupted lavas parallel the sky as huge rock slides reach skyward from the water; and light and shadow produce shifting contrasts.

All of these impressions add to our awareness of distance, size, and scale. John C. Merriam expresses the idea that "The sublimity, power, and orderly operation in this process of creation develop in us reactions produced by other elements which we recognize as beauty and harmony".

The finishing touch to our impressions of beauty born of form, line and pattern is color - - color born of light as it reflects from the steep walls and deep water; color which at first is not apparent, so subtle is its effect upon our view. But, as we continue to look at this incomparable scene, we begin to see myriad hues within the frame of this "deep Blue Lake".

The primary color, and the only color evident to many, is Crater Lake Blue. So blue is it that one feels it cannot be real! But the Lake varies in shade from pale, baby blue where the horizon is reflected, to a somber midnight blue when, near sunset, the cliffs cast their dark shadows upon the waters. Thus, since the origin of these colors is dependent mainly on light, as the light changes so does the blue.

The pastels of the rim contrast strikingly with the intensity of the water and serve well to enhance its beauty. Such are the vivid pinks of Dutton Cliff, the softer hues of Red Cloud Cliff - - startlingly accented by the tile red of Pumice Castle; the brilliant golds and browns of Garfield Peak and Chaski Slide which turn to turquoise the water of Eagle Bay; the somber grays and blacks of Roundtop and Palisades which form a fitting backdrop to vivid curstose lichens of chartreuse, orange, blue-gray and black. A symphony of gray rises from the andesitic and dacitic flows of Mt. Mazama - - in Llao Rock, Palisades, Roundtop, and the cinder of Wizard Island, Red Cloud Cliff, Sentinel Point, the many layers of Dutton Cliff, Phantom Ship and those transient summer visitors, the thunderheads. And over all the rim lies the light tan of pumice flows, a neutral color which ties together all in peaceful harmony of line and color.

To this picture painted in rock, water, sky, and wind are brought each summer the fleeting colors of wildflowers as they make their ephemeral display within hitherto unnoticed crannies of rock, on forest floors and in pumice flats. Prominent among the eye-catchers are the smooth wood rush whose yellow-green shoots spring through shallow snow in their eagerness to become a dense green carpet beneath the hemlocks; the rock-loving penstemon whose showy, trumpet-shaped flowers make a blaze of color on overhanging ledges; the spreading phlox whose petals shade from white to deep lavender, making a patchwork quilt of the open pumice slopes; the Indian paint brush whose gaudy crimson heads wave merrily in the wind; and the Lewis's monkey flower whose more demure shade attracts ardent rufous hummingbirds for a drink of nectar.

And so these impressions flow and change, but constantly build an abiding feeling of serenity and an increasing awareness of the magnitude of the creative Power, which guides us all. We might say, as did the poet, Ernest Moll,

"Untouched by thought, I give myself to these
Rich intervals of blue and rose and grey,
Free as a white-winged ship that sails the seas
Knowing no port nor and homing - day."


Merriam, John C. 1938. Published papers and Addresses of John Campbell Merriam. Volume IV. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D. C. pp. i-vii, 1947-2672.

Moll, Ernest G. 1934. In: Ranger - Naturalists Temporary Manual of Operation. Field Division of Education, Berkeley, California (Mimeographed). 109 pp.

Moll, Ernest G. 1935. Blue Interval. Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon. 41 pp.

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