Laura Jones

Posts Tagged ‘Biodiversity’

Crater Lake National Park

In National Parks on July 28, 2009 at 8:38 am

Crater Lake

If I had only one word to describe Crater Lake, it would be vibrant. This dramatic mountainous landscape is painted with lively color in every element. Silvery stone, bright green evergreen trees blossoming with new sprouts, vast hilly meadows blanketed with wild flowers in yellow, purple, white and pink. Even tired, sun bleached tree trunks laying at rest teem with neon lichens that crawl across them and bring them back to life.

Fields of flowers at Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is acclaimed as one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, with royal blue depths maintained only by snowmelt and rainfall. The lake as we saw it was still and glassy, dark at the center depths with colors that striated into aquas and sky blues as the waters slowly lapped the rocky shores. These waters are home to only two species of fish, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, the lone survivors of an attempt to introduce six species between 1888 and 1941 when, originally, the lake contained no fish.

This national park is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, from tiny American pika, alpine dwelling relatives of the rabbit to black bears; and tall whitebark pine trees to the lichens that grow on their bark and branches.


Last summer, three lichen experts and a group of volunteers teamed up for a one-day BioBlitz where they recorded different 61 species of lichen to add to their existing inventory of 64, bringing the park’s lichen biodiviersity list to 125 species. These bright, colorful organisms are hardy and useful to ecologists as potential bioindicators, helping to gauge the health of the park and its ecosystems. They also provide food for animal, furnish nesting materials for birds and, although they look parasitic, they are actually composite organisims formed by a symbiotic relationship between a fungus, which provides structure and protection to an algae, which manufactures food for the fungus via photosynthesis. Lichens were one of my favorite parts of Crater Lake, as you walked around the forests you could see dozens of different kinds in all shapes and colors hanging from tree limbs like tinsel.

Way on the other side of the biodiversity spectrum are the park’s black bears (Ursus americanus). Both visitors and staff have reported sightings of black bears at Crater Lake National Park, but it’s only now with the establishment of a newly established wildlife program that they will be conducting a survey to estimate the population by collecting hair samples in snare traps and analyzing DNA. This survey began this summer in 2009 and by fall, they park should be able to size up this population and even their distribution across the park. Sorry I don’t have any photos to share of this one: I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to spot a black bear during my visit!

Bottom line: Crater Lake is worth a trip. The drive through tall forests and hikes up the tall cliffsides are simply beautiful and nothing really compares to the deep blue calm of the lake itself as it sits nestled in its spot on this dormant volcano. However, the water is freezing! So, if you’re looking to go for a swim, we suggest visiting Crater Lake’s younger sister, Diamond Lake, just off the north shore.