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More Craters of the Moon
Highlights
Cool Facts
Facilities
Getting There
When to Visit
Web Sites


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Central Idaho Attractions
Craters of the Moon National Monument

Highlights
Craters embraces an amazing array of volcanic formations - a mix of spatter cones, cinder cones, fissure vents, raft blocks, and lava tubes (caves). Lava flows include pahoehoe, and aa (names that originated in volcano studies on Hawaii), and lava "bombs" come in such evocatively-named forms as cow dung and breadcrust. Craters is your one-stop shop for basaltic volcanism! A strange landscape, the area is considered so lunar-like American astronauts have actually been trained at this site. (Did anyone think to ask how the places compared, I wonder?)

Cool Facts

  • The Monument sits on a lava field that is the largest in the United States at 618 square miles (1,600 square kilometers).

  • You can figure out where the Great Rift lies, by the chain of cinder cones.

  • The highest cinder cone is Big Cinder Butte which stands more than 700 feet above the surrounding plain.

  • Craters is home to 300 species of plants, 2,000 insect species, 148 birds, 47 mammals, 8 reptiles, and a lone amphibian, the western toad.

  • Plants and animals have adapted in unique ways to deal with this environment. A sagebrush sitting unprepossessingly on a lump of lava, might have a tap root going 20 feet down to get at water. Marmots hibernate both summer and winter.

  • In places, molten lava flows encased standing trees and then hardened, and eventually the wood rotted, resulting in vertical tree molds.

Facilities

  • Visitor Information Center. Displays, video, conducted walks, evening programs, and publications for sale, water and comfort station. Phone: 208-527-3257.

  • Paved roads for vehicles include a 7-mile loop road. Walking trails include disabled access.

  • Campground is available.

  • The southern part of the Monument is a wilderness area closed to vehicles.

Getting There

The Monument lies on U.S. Alternate Route 93. You'll find it 29 kilometers southwest of Arco in Butte and Blaine counties. Closest interstate is I-84 to the south.

When to Visit;

  • Early May until late August (especially late June) when wildflowers transform the harsh landscape.

  • Winter to ski on the groomed Loop Drive and see a strange landscape of black and white.

  • Note: Extremes of weather are part and parcel of the Monument. The intense summer sun bakes the black lava, generating air temperatures in the 90's (Fahrenheit). Winds are daily occurrence, especially in the afternoon, and may reach 15 to 30 miles per hour.

And remember rock collecting is not permitted!

Web Sites

Craters of the Moon
National Park Service page on the monument has basic information on how to make the best of a visit to the monument, plus a link to their expanded web pages.

Craters of the Moon, Idaho
Includes geographic setting, and geologic and eruptive history. (On the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory web site.)

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