Monday, August 18, 2008

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho, U.S.A. (August 1, 2008)

When geologist Harold T. Stearns described this area in 1923, he likened it to “the surface of the moon as seen through a telescope.” The bleak and rather bizarre landscape does indeed look otherworldly, but its appearance is actually due to huge amounts of lava that flowed from long fissures across the Snake River Plain, also known as the “Great Rift.”

Approximately 15,000 years ago, eruptions along the Great Rift produced the vast lava fields that can be seen today, complete with spatter cones, cinder cones, fissures, rifts and lava tubes. The arid environment supports a surprisingly diverse plant and animal community, although one sometimes has to look closely to find it.

The area was named a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and in 2002, Congress established the national preserve. An interesting fact: NASA’s Apollo astronauts Alan Shephard, Edgar Mitchell, Eugene Cernan and Joe Engle came to the monument in 1969 to learn basic volcanic geology in preparation for their moon missions.
The otherworldly landscape of Craters of the Moon, with the Idaho hills behind
People climb Inferno Cone for a view of the Great Rift
These spatter cones are like miniature volcanoes; the people on the path to the cone will give a sense of scale
This trail leads across a lava flow to a series of caves formed by lava tubes
Having never been to a “tame” cave, I cannot provide readers an accurate comparison
Inside the Indian Tunnel cave, formed by a lava tube; a lava tube is a lava flow that hardened on the outside first, while the lava inside continued to flow through

No comments: