Nature Notes


Mr. E. C. Solinsky
Mr. D. S. Libbey
Park Naturalist
August, 1932 Vol. V, No. 2

This publication is issued for the purpose of recording observations and making known the results of research and scientific investigation concerning the natural history of Crater Lake National Park. It is under the jurisdiction of the Research and Education Staff and is supplemental to the lectures and field excursions conducted by the staff. Publications using these notes please give credit to the author and to Crater Lake National Park Nature Notes.

Cover design and illustrations by Albert E. Long.

The Sinnott Memorial Orientation Station and Museum
By Park Naturalist D. S. Libbey

(Sketch of the building appears as the cover design).

This year our visitors to Crater Lake are finding the views along the parapet of the Sinnott Memorial Orientation Station and Museum to be particularly fascinating and instructive. Those who approach this station are impressed by the marvelous beauty of the deep blue water of Crater Lake visible through the hemlock trees as they make the descent along the winding walk.

In this issue of Nature Notes the description of this viewpoint is made so that you who have visited Crater Lake in past years may realize the great value that the parapet displays and museum exhibits render. The marvelous beauty, the aesthetic charm, the influence of color, and the exceedingly fascinating story as told by Crater Lake is the purpose of this unique orientation station and museum.

Immediately, when the visitor steps inside the door to the station a Ranger Naturalist hands him a pamphlet describing the use of the equipment. The story which is told in the pamphlet and by the views, aided by display material in cases and located by binoculars and range finders, is as follows:

The first binocular the visitor meets with as he begins his tour of inspection from left to right is the one focused upon Discovery Point, the place where John Wesley Hillman accidentally approached on mule back, June 12, 1853. Attaching interest to this point affords a tie which binds the interest both with the contemporary history of the region and with the question which unconsciously occurs in the minds of the visitors: "What did Mr. Hillman think when he, as the first white man viewed the tremendous caldera filled with marvelous blue water". No one probably will ever know exactly what thoughts dominated Mr. Hillman's mind but it seems exceedingly probable that anyone would have been impressed with the fact that some great cataclysmal action of Nature had occurred here at Crater Lake sometime in the past. With concept the visitor looks down through the binoculars, to read the following story as revealed in Nature's great out-of-door laboratory, in this case, the caldera walls of the Rim Area, and the views of Crater Lake. The first display case shows the approximate location of the vast lava field, some 2,500 square miles in area extending over six states of the Pacific Northwest. In addition the location of these huge fire mountains, volcanoes which were probably formed as one of the late stages in the volcanic activity of the entire region, is shown.

Specimen Case No. 2 accompanied by attendant binoculars, one focused on the west side of the Rim for morning observation, the other focused on the magnificent exposure of Dutton Cliff for afternoon views, lets the visitor read the story of the building upon of a mountain by successive flows of molten lava interspersed with recurrent explosive action. Observation shows that the final and topmost layer was the fire-fragmented, pumiceous cover.

In succeeding views one observes that the mountain side was fractured, molten material forced in the crevices thus forming the radiating dike system. The fact that the mountain reared its top so that it was exposed to the erosive action of running water and of ice and snow is made evident. Glacial valleys are shown and the evidence of lava pouring down the mountain side and filling these ice scoured depressions is spectacularly displayed.

The progress in the building process is emphasized, and then in View 5 diagrams explain how the mountain top was destroyed by any one of three alternative catastrophes; these being engulfment, explosion or sapping, or possibly a very complex combination. The precise nature of the catastrophe is not yet accurately known. Then a view shows how a huge kettle-shaped pit or caldera existed and as the final dying gasp of vulcanism Wizard Island and lesser volcanic cones were built in the bowl-shaped depression. The next view explains how Crater Lake was filled with water to its approximate present level and has continued to exist as an exceedingly deep fresh water lake without surface inlet or outlet. The climax of the entire story is told impressively by two intriguing views. These show the marvelous color and the exquisite beauty of the lake with its surroundings. The visitor is left with the following concepts:

First that the color of crater Lake is generally recognized as the most attractive feature of this region. Among the spectacular lakes of the world there is none in which the depth of color and brilliance of blue is more striking. The blue of the deeper water is brought out in contrast with the brilliant green of the shallow areas along the margin.

In the second case the concept is developed that a thing of beauty may have its value enhanced by the setting in which it appears; so that the attractiveness of this lake varies according to the conditions under which it is seen. In the same way the beauty of other things may be increased by relation to the lake. Of many possible examples, the following have been found of interest:

I. Beauty of color in the lake as seen through the screen of hemlocks on the path leading to the Sinnott Memorial -- similar as seen through trees from many points along the Rim.

II. Form and reflection of the Phantom Ship. The smooth reflecting surface of the water enhances this concept.

III. Continuous changes of light, due to position of sun, to wind, reflections and shadows of clouds producing continually changing pictures of great interest.

IV. Reflections of cliffs and other features along the margin of the lake materially aid in enhancing the entire concept of the inter-relations of beauty.

After completing the observations along the parapet all of our visitors then pass into the museum room and see balopticon views, moving pictures and transparencies. These supplement the story.

It is suggested that you who have visited Crater Lake in the past, return and visit the Sinnott Memorial Orientation Station and Museum. A new beauty, and a greater appreciation of the vast forces of power and fire which brought the lake into being as well as the emphasis upon the inter-relation of color, beauty of form and the aesthetic charm of the entire setting is impressed. The cover design of this issue shows an artist's sketch of the memorial building.

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