Craters of the Moon National Monument

Date: June 17, 2011
Location: west of Arco, Idaho

North Crater

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a landscape in south central Idaho managed jointly by the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.  The area is the most recent section of the Snake River Plain to experience volcanic activity that began about 15,000 years ago and ended 2,000 years ago.  This received its name when Harold Stearns likened it to "the surface of the moon as seen through as telescope."  President Calvin Coolidge established the area as a national monument in 1924.

Craters of the Moon landscape

The possibility of future volcanic events in the area remain likely, and the area is an excellent place to see a variety of volcanic features including cinder cones, spatter cones, lava tubes, fissures, and rifts.  The monument is most easily accessed from highway 93/26/20 west of Arco where there is a visitor center, campground, scenic drive, trails, and caves (lava tubes).

Monkeyflowers on the cinder cones
Indian Tunnel
During my visit there was construction on the park road, which greatly limited the areas I was able to visit.  The caves can be easily visited on your own, although you will need a flashlight and a permit from the visitor center in an effort to avoid introduction of white-nose syndrome, which has been decimating bats. While this crazy landscape can appear devoid of life, there is an interesting diversity of plants and animals.  Violet-green swallows were common around the caves. and I saw a long-tailed weasel along the Devil's Orchard nature trail.
Lava field
Trees among the lava

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