The Lake in Legend
Explorer John Wesley Hillman first saw Crater
Lake in 1853, but Indians had known of it
long before recorded history. According to
Hillman, the lake was sacred to the Indians, who
refused to acknowledge its existence to outsiders.
Gazing upon the waters was thought to be fatal.
Klamath Indian legends touch on the supernatural
origins of Crater Lake, and the experiences
of early visitors. One story tells of an
Indian who journeyed into the fearful depths
of the crater when it was still dry. On the crater
floor he was fissures, mounds, huge gnarled
rocks, and a strange yellow substance that
Best known, perhaps, are the legends describing
the war between Llao, chief spirit of Crater Lake,
and Skell, a mighty spirit of the Klamath Marsh
country to the south. These legendary characters
are immoritalized at Llao Rock, the massive gray
lava flow across the lake, and at Skell Head the
headland you are standing on.
War between Llao and Skell.
Long, long ago two powerful spirits lived
in the Crater Lake country. Llao
(pronounced "LAH-oh") and Skell. The spirit
followers of Llao and Skell took the form
of animals such as Deer, Fox, and Dove
who often played together on the top of Llao
Rock. But eventually, the groups began to
quarrel, and war broke out.
The forces of Llao and Skell fought many
battles. Skell was killed near the base of
the mountain, and Llao's followers carried
his heart up to Llao Rock for a celebration.
However, Skell's clever followers stole the
heart and restored it to the body, bringing
Skell back to life.
During the last great battle, Llao was killed.
Skell ordered that the body be cut up and
thrown into the lake to be devoured by
Crawfish and other monsters. The water
creatures were loyal to Llao, but Skell tricked
them by shouting, "Here are Skell's arms,"
as he tossed Llao's arms into the water.
Immediately the creatures gobbled them
up. In the same manner Llao's legs were
devoured. But when Skell flung Llao's head
into the lake, the water creatures recognized
their master's face and would not touch it.
You can still see Llao's head, known today
as "Wizard Island". And his sprit still lives
within Llao Rock. Sometimes when all seems
quiet, Llao's restless spirit enters the lake
and stirs up an angry gale.
Llao, chief spirit of Crater Lake, controlled
many lower spirits who appeared in the
shape of animals. One such monster was
a giant crayfish who could pluck unwary
visitors from the crater rim and drag them
down to the dark, chilling depths.