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Old Man of the Lake: a 450-year-old hemlock has been floating in Oregon’s Crater Lake since 1896

Alex .A

Old Man of the Lake is not a legend or a myth, as it may sound at first, but a 450-year-old hemlock that’s been floating vertically in the Oregon’s Crater Lake since 1896. The very thought of something so old floating in the lake for almost a century does sound impressive.

The tree trunk, which is 30 feet tall, and stands 4 feet above the water, seems like an interesting sight for tourists. Tiny flowerless plants called Fontinalis in the water of the lake decorate the hemlock and give a charming look to the Old Man.

The exposed end of the driftwood is splintered and wide enough to support a person’s weight, while its surface has been bleached by the elements.

“Old Man of the Lake,” Crater Lake National Park. By Markgorzynski – CC BY-SA 3.0

“Old Man of the Lake,” Crater Lake National Park. By Markgorzynski – CC BY-SA 3.0

Picture of the Old Man of the Lake (September 13th, 2005) – By TCY – CC BY-SA 2.5

Picture of the Old Man of the Lake (September 13th, 2005) – By TCY – CC BY-SA 2.5

The geologist  Joseph S. Diller was the founder of the tree who’s published a study about the lake the same year the area became a national park. Joseph’s report shows that he had found the trunk six years before the lake had become a national park in 1902, and according to his radiocarbon dating, the tree itself was at least 450 years old.

After a long observation, he was almost sure that the tree stump could be displaced, so he tied a pulling wire and pulled it at a short distance.

His assumptions turned out to be true, and five years after the displacement, Joseph had noticed the trunk to be a ¼ mile away from its previous location.

A sketch of the “Old Man of the Lake” published in 1938

A sketch of the “Old Man of the Lake” published in 1938

Washington District conducted their researchers between July 1st and September 30th in 1938 and found out that the trunk traveled extensively, and its biggest movements occurred on days of strong winds and high waves with surprising speed. During the ongoing explorations, the old man traveled at least 62.1 miles, and due to safety, it was tied eastern of Wizard Island in 1988 by submarine explorers and scientists.

However, the stump’s limited freedom became absolute after a storm had hit the lake and had the hemlock broken from his anchor.

It is still a mystery why the tree stump didn’t rot or been knocked to pieces while hitting the shore. Even the great Crater Lake is seen as a mysterious place for some people who admire its crystal-clear water.

View of the “Old Man,” a piece of driftwood that has been floating in the lake for at least 70 years. The picture was taken 18th September 2005 at Crater Lake National Park – By Llywrch – CC BY-SA 2.5

View of the “Old Man,” a piece of driftwood that has been floating in the lake for at least 70 years. The picture was taken 18th September 2005 at Crater Lake National Park – By Llywrch – CC BY-SA 2.5

Many also wondered why the ‘old man’ hasn’t sunk at the bottom of the lake yet and Crater Lake Institute finally came with an explanation.

They said that the equilibrium obtained by the submerged end, which is becoming heavier over time due to water soaking, and the exposed one, which is dry, allow the trunk to be stable in the water and float with the wind.

Regarding the tree trunk’s origins, it’s assumed that it may have been a remnant of a volcano eruption which occurred in 5.680BC. According to other assumptions, the tree is a mute evidence of a rock slide from the crater wall. Apparently, the stump was carried away by the water and has floated in a vertical position for over 120 years.

However, the tree has been bobbing in the deepest lake in America for many years and, still, no one knows how it got there, despite the many fictional stories about its arrival.

Visitors have the opportunity to observe the hemlock from their boats, as since January 2012, tour boats have been provided.

Boat Launch at Cleetwood Cove with the Old Man of the Lake to the left – By Greg Willis – CC BY-SA 3.0

Boat Launch at Cleetwood Cove with the Old Man of the Lake to the left – By Greg Willis – CC BY-SA 3.0

Those who already have seen the Old Man often make jokes related to its name, wondering if he would ever retire.

Read another story from us: Lake Tekapo: A picture-perfect lake with a church situated on its shores

The answer to their most frequent question will remain unanswered until the Old Man waves at them from the surface while floating with the wind.