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.
These spatter cones are like miniature volcanoes; the people on the path to the cone will give a sense of scale