Jared Kennedy | 06.07.2014

Wednesday's Word is Mazama - mə.ˈzɑː.mə -- muh-ZAH-muh

m: 'm' in 'my'  ə: 'u' in 'syrup'  .: syllable break  ˈ: primary stress follows  z: 'z' in 'zebra'  ɑː: 'a' in 'father'  .: syllable break  m: 'm' in 'my'  ə: 'u' in 'syrup'

Mazama is the name bestowed on the mountain that occupied Crater Lake and the surrounding Crater Lake National Park. The name comes from the Nahuatl language that was spoken by the Aztecs, being the plural for deer. The most likely account for this most unlikely name involves a group of settlers who used an incorrect dictionary. According to Edmond S. Meany, who wrote on the geographic names of Washington State, the inhabitants of Mazama, Washington, intended to choose the Greek word for "mountain goat" to name their town; instead, they mistakenly consulted a Spanish dictionary and located the Nahuatl word for "deer."

Around the same time, the Mazamas Mountaineering Club, whose emblem includes a mountain goat, was founded on the summit of Oregon's Mount Hood. In 1896, a club group visited Crater Lake and decided to bestow their club name on the mountain, the lake being the mountain's caldera. Mount Mazama once stood over 12,000 feet, and it would have been the tallest mountain in Oregon at the time. Sometime around 5677 BC, the mountain collapsed in on itself in an explosive eruption, leaving a massive crater. Crater Lake is the deepest in the United States, with a maximum depth of 1,949 feet, and Wizard Island is the growing cinder cone of the active volcano. 

The area was originally inhabited by the Klamath Native Americans. Llao Rock, on the lake's rim, was named for the Klamath god that was believed to inhabit the mountain. According to Klamath legend, Mount Mazama's eruption and Crater Lake formation was the result of a battle between Llao and his rival Skell, the Klamath sun god.

As Oregon's only National Park, there are a variety of ways to explore Crater Lake. Options include a boat tour of the lake and a hike to the top of Wizard Island, or hikes on the various trails around the lake's rim. It's a popular spot for winter snowshoeing as well.


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