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Invasive Species Risk Keeps Divers Out Of Crater Lake

Aug. 29, 2012 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Amelia Templeton

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  • Crater Lake's deep, pristine waters are a big reason it's protected within Oregon's only national park. Officials are banning scuba diving to guard against invasive species that might spread from aquatic gear that's been in other lakes. credit: Amelia Templeton
  • Divers prepare to explore Crater Lake. The activity is now banned because of the threat of invasive species hitching a ride on gear. credit: Oregon Field Guide
  • A diver explores one of the tunnels in the peat moss on the floor of Crater Lake during an Oregon Field Guide shoot. credit: Oregon Field Guide
Crater Lake's deep, pristine waters are a big reason it's protected within Oregon's only national park. Officials are banning scuba diving to guard against invasive species that might spread from aquatic gear that's been in other lakes. | credit: Amelia Templeton | rollover image for more

National park officials have abruptly closed Crater Lake to scuba divers. They say they need time to develop rules to keep invasive species out of the Southern Oregon lake.

Scuba diving in Crater Lake is tricky. The lake sits on the Cascade crest at about 6,000 feet, so divers have to take precautions to handle the elevation and avoid decompression sickness, or the bends. The only access to the lake shore is down the steep, rocky trail to Cleetwood Cove. Diver Walt Bolton says it’s worth the hike.

“The lavenders and the blues at depth are just beautiful, and the topography and geology of the rim where we dive is just breathtaking.”

The park leadership says scuba diving has become increasingly popular. And that raises the risk that invasive species like quagga mussels could hitch a ride on dive gear. The Oregonian attributes the rising popularity to an Oregon Field Guide report on scuba diving in the lake.

Marsha McCabe, Chief of Interpretation for the park, says that praise for the lake in scuba diving magazines may also be contributing to the uptick in interest. McCabe says she is also concerned about the possibility that distance swimmers attempting to cross the six mile lake could introduce aquatic invasives via the gear they carry.

Officials expect to reopen the lake to diving next year, when they have put rules in place to keep invasive species out.

© 2012 OPB
Crater Lake National Park invasive species
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