The Mystery Behind Crater Lake’s Old Man

As mysterious as the Old Man may be, you always know you have a familiar friend at Crater Lake.

A trip to Oregon’s Crater Lake should be on every Northern California resident’s Bucket List. And while you’re there, it’s important to know of the most mysterious object in the lake.

If you’ve never heard the story of the incredible Old Man of the Lake in Crater Lake, you’re in for a treat. The Old Man of the Lake is a 30-foot tall tree stump that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for at least 130 years. Yes, you read that right… When Joseph Diller discovered the piece of floating wood in 1896, he described it as “a spectacle curious enough to excite the imagination.”

The tree stump floats aimlessly throughout the lake with just its top end showing out of the water. The Old Man can travel miles in a single day, ignoring any wind or currents in its path. When scientists began tracking the tree in the 1930’s, they saw it could move 60 miles in just three months. Since it can be virtually anywhere on the lake at any given time, boaters commonly communicate its whereabouts for safety purposes.

Photo by Sébastien Goldberg

In the 1980’s, scientists decided to tie the tree to the shore to avoid any water hazards. Bad idea. Shortly after, a huge storm rolled in causing it to snow in August and keeping scientists from recovering the submarine used to tie the tree down. Scientists aren’t typically known to be superstitious, but they quickly untied the Old Man, and of course, the bad weather subsided.

No matter what you believe the Old Man represents, he certainly can captivate the imagination of his loyal fans. As mysterious as he may be, you always know you have a familiar friend at Crater Lake.

Learn more about Crater Lake’s Old Man:

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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