Apparent phreatic explosion craters, caldera-floor volcanic cones, and geothermal features outline a ring fracture zone along which Mount Mazama collapsed to form the Crater Lake caldera during its climactic eruption about 6,850 yr B.P. Within a few years, subaerial deposits infilled the phreatic craters and then formed a thick wedge (10-20 m) of mass flow deposits shed from caldera walls. Intense volcanic activity (phreatic explosions, subaerial flows, and hydrothermal venting) occurred during this early postcaldera stage, and a central platform of subaerial andesite flows and scoria formed on the caldera floor.
Radiocarbon ages suggest that deposition of Iacustrine hemipelagic sediment began on the central platform about 150 yr after the caldera collapse. This is the minimum time to fill the lake halfway with water and cover the platform assuming present hydrologic conditions of precipitation and evaporation but with negligible leakage of lake water. Wizard Island formed during the final part of the 300-yr lake-filling period as shown by its (1) upper subaerial lava flows from 0 to -70 m below present water level and lower subaqueous lava flows from -70 to -500 m and by (2) lacustrine turbidite sand derived from Wizard Island that was deposited on the central platform about 350 yr after the caldera collapse. Pollen stratigraphy indicates that the warm and dry climate of middle Holocene time correlates with the early lake deposits. Diatom stratigraphy also suggests a more thermally stratified and phosphate-rich environment associated respectively with this climate and greater hydrothermal activity during the early lake history.
Apparent coarse-grained and thick-bedded turbidites of the early lake beds were deposited throughout northwest, southwest, and eastern basins during the time that volcanic and seismic activity formed the subaqueous Wizard Island, Merriam Cone, and rhyodacite dome. The last known postcaldera volcanic activity produced a subaqueous rhyodacite ash bed and dome about 4,240 yr B.P. The late lake beds with base-of-slope aprons and thin, fine-grained basin-plain turbidites were deposited during the volcanically quiescent period of the past 4,000 yr.
Deposits in Crater Lake and on similar caldera floors suggest that four stages characterize the postcaldera evolution of smaller (≤10 km in diameter) terrestrial caldera lake floors: (1) initial-stage caldera collapse forms the ring fracture zone that controls location of the main volcanic eruptive centers and sedimentary basin depocenters on the caldera floor; (2) early-stage subaerial sedimentation rapidly fills ring-fracture depressions and constructs basin-floor debris fans from calderawall landslides; (3) first-stage subaqueous sedimentation deposits thick flat-lying lake turbidites throughout basins, while a thin blanket of hemipelagic sediment covers volcanic edifices that continue to form concurrently with lake sedimentation; and (4) second-stage subaqueous sedimentation after the waning of major volcanic activity and the earlier periods of most rapid sedimentation develops small sili-ciclastic basin base-of-slope turbidite aprons and central basin plains. Renewed volcanic activity or lake destruction could cause part or all of the cycle to repeat.