The Crater Lake Boat Tour is the only way to travel around the lake and gain intimate views of the Phantom Ship, Devil's Backbone, waterfalls, and the remaining winter snowbanks. Tour boats for the two-hour volcano cruise depart from the boat dock at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail. Starting in the morning and departing every 30 minutes until mid-afternoon, the vessel proceeds counterclockwise around Crater Lake and is guided by park ranger who discusses the lake's geology and answers questions.
If you choose one of the Wizard Island tours, the first and only stop is Wizard Island, where you'll have the chance to scramble to the summit of a volcano within a volcano, swim, or fish for kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. Wizard Island tours are three-hours for a half-day drop-off or six-hours for full-day.
After looping around Wizard Island, your ranger will continue to point out geologically significant landmarks as you pass by the Crater Lake Lodge and make your way to the Phantom Ship. From the water's level, you can really appreciate the size of the 400,000-year-old, sailboat-shaped formation, which is actually the oldest exposed rock in the caldera and is as tall as a 16-story building. You'll be able to see the seven different species of trees that grow there as well as several varieties of wildflowers and brightly colored lichens—oranges, reds, yellows—which indicate pure air quality. You may even spot some violet green swallows or the ubiquitous Clark's nutcracker flitting about.
As you return to the dock you'll see the Pumice Castle. Perched approximately 1,300 feet above you, layers of rock that is resistant to erosion (like andesite and black obsidian) are surrounded by softer pumice that has worn away over time and left this colorful, fortress-like crater wall behind.
While the cost may be prohibitive for some, the boat tour offers a new, relaxing perspective on the lake that you can't experience any other way.
Reservations cannot be made online, although there is a reservation request form which, upon filing, will be followed up with a call or email from a reservation agent. This means it may be easier and faster to directly email ([email protected]) or call (888.774.2728) for reservations.
Alternately, if you will be visiting the lake for more than one day, a number of tickets for each tour are only sold from within the park starting exactly 24 hours before the departure time. To purchase these tickets, visit one of the touch-screen ticketing kiosks (located next to the front desk inside the Crater Lake Lodge and in the Annie Creek Gift Shop at Mazama Village). You can also purchase same-day tickets from these kiosks as well as at the Cleetwood Cove parking lot on a first-come, first-served basis.