When the top blew off Mount Mazama, it was witnessed by Native Americans thousands of years ago. The story of the volcanic eruption that created Crater Lake was preserved in legends that were passed from generation to generation of the Klamath People.
The first European Americans who reportedly visited Crater Lake were three young men looking for gold – John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel and Issac Skeeters on June 12, 1853. Their first impression was the magnificent deep blue of the water and thus they named it "Deep Blue Lake". Because no gold was found in the area, this early discovery of Crater Lake was soon forgotten.
The original name of "Deep Blue Lake" was not popular with many of the locals who preferred the name Crater Lake. However, this is not a true crater, as it was not formed by any type of excavation, but by a volcanic eruption.
In 1870, William Gladstone Steel began his lifelong dedication to the establishment and management of a US National Park at Crater Lake. Steel was also the one person who named many of Crater Lake's unique geological features including Wizard Island, Lloa Rock and Skell Head. Crater Lake and the surrounding area was first surveyed and further explored in 1886 by a USGS expedition. Persuaded by the information received from the surveying expedition and the lobbying from Steel and his supporters, President Theodor Roosevelt established Crater Lake National Park on May 22, 1901.
Crater Lake's long history extends from the time it was first formed –preserved in the legends of the Klamath Indians – to the early European explorers, to the modern ongoing scientific studies occurring today. It is important that these studies continue to promote the cultural and natural history of Crater Lake in order to keep its unique past alive.