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Sept. 17, 2006

Crater Lake National Park is located in southern Oregon at the crest of the Cascade Mountain range, about 100 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.

The lake was formed when a 12,000-foot-tall volcanic peak lost so much of its underground magma during an eruption that it collapsed, caving in on itself to form a colossal pit.

"It's really important for people to realize that they are inside a volcano here," said Mark Buktenica, an aquatic biologist. "They are inside the volcano here and looking out."

On average, the volcano walls are at a height of 1,000 feet above the lake's surface.

"Sounds like a lot," said Dave Grimes, a park ranger, "until you realize the lake is almost 2,000 feet deep."

Explaining the cause of the lake's intense blue color requires an understanding of a complicated physics formula, Buktenica said.

"To make it very simple, Crater Lake is very blue because the water is so pure," he said. "Molecules of water scatter blue wavelengths of light in all directions, and then those scattered particles -- some of those -- come up to the surface and meet your eye."

Even in mid-summer, there are still snow banks throughout the park, according to Grimes. The park's waterfalls are fed by melting snow trickling down through the rocks.

"Crater Lake is unique in that you can't see it from far and wide like most lakes," Grimes said. "It's that surprise of finding a lake at the top of a mountain that I think a lot of visitors find amazing."

Sept. 10, 2006

Hells Canyon is home to the wild and scenic Snake River -- a 71-mile stretch between Idaho and Oregon

The Snake River is at the bottom of the deepest canyon in North America -- deeper than the Grand Canyon. It measures 8,000 feet from Devil Peak down to the river.

The area is remote, rugged and steep, so the best way to see it is by boating, rafting, horseback riding and hiking.

"Jet boat is a way to navigate the river," said Dan Fleshman, who works for Captain Beamers Jet Boat Tours. "You don't have to worry so much about shallow areas. You can keep the boat up on plane."

Hikers should start off in the valley at 700 feet above sea level and end up at a turn-around point at 1,450 feet above sea level.

Some of the ancient Indian writings are 7,200 years old. No one in any existing Indian tribes can decipher the writing -- three male figures painted in red paint are pictographs.

Most of the writing is petroglyphs.

Boating in the canyon is also very popular. In the upper river, you'll go from class 3 and 4 rapids to class 5 rapids in the high flows.

People often come to the area in the summertime to camp, relax and play Frisbee.

High on the Oregon skyline and up on the rocky ridge, hikers can see a rock formation resembling Mr. Potato Head playing the piano.

Visitors can also find mule deer and great blue harems along the river. There is always a special Rocky Mountain big horn sheep along the water with its young.

Sept. 3, 2006

In Southeast Utah lies 76,000 acres of a gorgeous national park called Arches. Arches has over 2,200 natural arches in the park, the highest concentration in the world.

"The place is, it's addictive. It lures people in and a lot of people never quite get around to leaving this area," said park ranger Murray Shoemaker. "What's the attraction? Color, texture, it's always changing here, different times of the year, different times of the day. The light changes, creates these dramatic shadows, incredible colors."

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