Phantom's elusive but quite large

Why is that little island in Crater Lake called the Phantom Ship?

— Zach B., Talent

We'd love to tell you a good ghost story about the Phantom Ship, Zach, but alas, no apparitions have been reported floating from its lava spires — at least not yet. And though it appears as a "little island" in Crater Lake, dwarfed by Dutton Cliff that rises 8,106 feet above it, Phantom Ship is longer than a football field and as tall as a 16-story building, something you really can't appreciate until you take the boat tour — which we highly recommend.

As its name suggests, the Phantom Ship is elusive. Tucked near the caldera wall between Chatski and Danger bays in the southern part of the lake, it seems to appear and disappear as you circle the rim, depending on your location, the angle of the sun, whether there are clouds or whether the lake is calm.

The Phantom Ship is solid lava and, at 400,000 years old, one of the oldest features in the lake. It is a remnant of a partially submerged ridge that was part of Mount Mazama before it blew its top in a cataclysmic eruption 7,700 years ago.

At least seven different trees live on Phantom Ship. It's also home to colonies of violet green swallows and several varieties of wildflowers and lichens.

The best places to see it are from the Sun Notch Trail (an easy hike off East Rim Drive about 4.4 miles from park headquarters), the Garfield Peak Trail (just east of Crater Lake Lodge for those who need a good workout), or from the Phantom Ship Overlook, which you can drive to on the East Rim. Boat tours run from June 29 through Sept. 16 only, so you'll have to put that on your list for next summer.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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