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Crater Lake, On Average, Is Deepest Lake in North America


Crater Lake, shown here with the Phantom Ship island, is, on average, the deepest lake in North America. NPS Photo.

It's easy to determine that Crater Lake is not the deepest lake in North America when you focus on maximum depth. But what happens when you compare lakes by "average" depth?

Owen Hoffman,[/url] a regular reader and occasional contributor, did just that and came to a surprising conclusion.

My motive for this online research began with a personal concern about discrepancies in the NPS and USGS published citations of the maximum depth of Crater Lake (592 versus 594 meters), which I assume are related to the discrepancies in their reference of the benchmarked surface elevation of the lake (1881 versus 1883 meters). Interestingly, it turns out that both federal agencies agree on Crater Lake's average depth at 350 meters, although there are still some online sources erroneously quoting the average depth of CRLA at 1500 feet (457 meters).

As we all have learned, Crater Lake is the second-deepest lake in North America. Using the USGS published estimate of 594 meters (plus or minus 2 m) as the maximum depth for Crater Lake, it is clearly in second place to Great Slave Lake of Canada, whose maximum depth is 614 meters (2014 feet). But changing my thoughts to the average depth, I asked myself, 'Hmmm, I wonder how Crater Lake would fair if we compared its average depth against that of Great Slave Lake?'

To my amazement, I found that Crater Lake wins this contest hands down! The average depth of Great Slave Lake is only 73 meters. Thus, on average, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in North America!

Now, having answered this question, I asked myself, 'How does the average depth of Crater Lake stack up against the other lakes in the rest of the world?' Thanks to the miracle of the internet and Google, this question can also be researched.

The deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal is still the winner with an average depth of 758 meters and a maximum depth of 1637 meters. The second deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika has an average depth of 540 meters and a maximum depth of 1470 meters, is still in second place. But compared to the 350 m average depth of Crater Lake, the other lakes begin to fall behind: The Caspian Sea has an average depth of 184 m and a maximum of 1025 m. Subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica has an average depth of 344 m and a maximum of about 1000 m. Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nayasa, has an average depth of 292 m and a maximum depth of 706 m. Lake Issyk-Kul has an average depth of 270 m and a maximum of 668 m. Lake Tahoe has an average depth of 305 m and a maximum depth of 501 m.

Thus, based on its average depth, Crater Lake, Oregon has moved up among the lakes of the world from 8th place [7th place, if one excludes the subglacial Lake Vostok which resides beneath nearly 13,000 feet of Anarctic ice] to win the bronze medal!

Crater Lake is the third deepest lake in the world, on average, and it's average depth of 350 meters is a statistic that is agreed upon by both the NPS and USGS


Thanks for bringing us this story. No matter its depth (average or maximum or otherwise), Crater Lake for me is the most beautiful lake I've ever seen.

After checking my data and performing some additional online research, I have concluded that Crater Lake, based on a comparison of average depths, is not only the deepest in North America, but also the deepest among lakes in the entire Western Hemisphere!

Based on average depth, Lake Tahoe is second in the US and second in North America.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Just to provide an update about my ongoing research on the deepest lakes of the world:

Crater Lake is the deepest, when compared on the basis of average depth among lakes whose basins are entirely above sea level. The average depths of Lakes Baikal and Tanganyika are deeper than Crater Lake; however, both have basins that extend below sea level.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

I guess you can make up stastics about anything. I have had a great wall paper on my computer for years now showing the deepest lake in N america Slave lake. Does anyone know why its called that? Does anyony Really care about average depth. deep is deep

There is not much anyone can do to encourage respect for learning factual information if that quality
attribute is missing in your young background.  Statistical descriptions have many applications in learning
and comparing Earth's global freshwater lakes.  Averages are useful in comparing many variables as is
the median, or middle value in a list.  The only way our country can remain significant and powerful, is
if our populations of young people respect quality learning and apply their skills to new more complex
future job opportunities. Earth's Geographical facts are interesting:
Crater Lake's depth is approximately 1950 feet whereas Great Slave Lake, NW Territories, Canada, 
is about 65 feet deeper, or approx. 2015 ft.  But the deepest hole tells us nothing about the overall depth
throughout the lake's size in square miles or estimated volume of fresh water.
So, to answer your question asked above:
Why is it Called Great Slave?
The 18th century northern explorer, Samuel Hearne, knew it as “Athupusco.” The aboriginal people who fished in it called themselves the “Etchareottine” – “the people dwelling in the shelter of the Rocky Mountains.” But the fiery Cree, who were contemptuous of the mild-mannered lifestyle of the lake-dwellers, referred to them as “awonak,” or “slaves.” The derisive name, “Slave Lake” found its way into fur trader/cartographer Peter Pond’s 1790 map of the North West. Although a later Pond map, created in 1790, restored the earlier term of “Iotchinine’ (another form of “Etchareottine”), the Slave Lake label became part of common usage. The use of the term “Great” stems from the distinction between the large Slave Lake to the north, and the smaller “Lesser” Slave Lake, located in central Alberta.
May you find learning a greater pleasure in understanding where you are in Space on Our "Pale Blue Dot"

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