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Geologic field trip guide to Mount Mazama and Crater Lake Caldera, Oregon

August 8, 2017

Crater Lake partly fills one of the most spectacular calderas of the world—an 8 by 10 kilometer (km) basin more than 1 km deep formed by collapse of the Mount Mazama volcano during a rapid series of explosive eruptions ~7,700 years ago. Having a maximum depth of 594 meters (m), Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. Crater Lake National Park, dedicated in 1902, encompasses 645 square kilometers (km2) of pristine forested and alpine terrain, including the lake itself, and virtually all of Mount Mazama. The geology of the area was first described in detail by Diller and Patton (1902) and later by Williams (1942), whose vivid account led to international recognition of Crater Lake as the classic collapse caldera. Because of excellent preservation and access, Mount Mazama, Crater Lake caldera, and the deposits formed by the climactic eruption constitute a natural laboratory for study of volcanic and magmatic processes. For example, the climactic ejecta are renowned among volcanologists as evidence for systematic compositional zonation within a subterranean magma chamber. Mount Mazama’s climactic eruption also is important as the source of the widespread Mazama ash, a useful Holocene stratigraphic marker throughout the Pacific Northwest United States, adjacent Canada, and offshore. A detailed bathymetric survey of the floor of Crater Lake in 2000 (Bacon and others, 2002) provides a unique record of postcaldera eruptions, the interplay between volcanism and filling of the lake, and sediment transport within this closed basin. Knowledge of the geology and eruptive history of the Mount Mazama edifice, enhanced by the caldera wall exposures, gives exceptional insight into how large volcanoes of magmatic arcs grow and evolve. In addition, many smaller volcanoes of the High Cascades beyond the limits of Mount Mazama provide information on the flux of mantle-derived magma through the region. General principles of magmatic and eruptive processes revealed by geologic research at Crater Lake have been incorporated not only in scientific investigations elsewhere, but also in the practical evaluation of local hazards (Bacon and others, 1997b) and geothermal resources (Bacon and Nathenson, 1996). The 1:24,000-scale geologic map of Mount Mazama and Crater Lake caldera (Bacon, 2008) is unusual because it portrays bedrock (outcrop), surficial, and lake floor geology. Caldera wall geology is depicted in detail on the accompanying geologic panoramas, and bedrock geology is shown in a 1:50,000-scale geologic map. This field guide supersedes earlier geology guides of Crater Lake (Bacon, 1987, 1989).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Geologic field trip guide to Mount Mazama and Crater Lake Caldera, Oregon
DOI 10.3133/sir20175022J1
Authors Charles R. Bacon, Heather M. Wright
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5022
Index ID sir20175022J1
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center