Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a U.S. National Monument and national preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. The protected area's features are volcanic and represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.
The Craters of the Moon Lava Field spreads across 618 square miles (1,601 km2) and is the largest mostly Holocene-aged basaltic lava field in the contiguous United States. The Monument and Preserve contain more than 25 volcanic cones, including outstanding examples of spatter cones. The 60 distinct solidified lava flows that form the Craters of the Moon Lava Field range in age from 15,000 to just 2,000 years. The Kings Bowl and Wapi lava fields, both about 2,200 years old, are part of the National Preserve.
(Click on photos to enlarge)
(Click on photos to enlarge)
This lava field is the largest of several large beds of lava that erupted from the 53-mile (85 km) south-east to north-west trending Great Rift volcanic zone, a line of weakness in the Earth's crust. Together with fields from other fissures they make up the Lava Beds of Idaho, which in turn are in the much larger Snake River Plain volcanic province. The Great Rift extends across almost the entire Snake River Plain.
Then it was time to explore Craters of the Moon by the taking the Loop Road. The scenic 7-mile loop road provides access to trails that take you over, under and around the various volcanic features.
A Cinder Garden...Dwarf buckwheat plants grow with such regular spacing that you might think someone planted them. But the regular spacing occurs because the plants compete for water through their extensive root systems. Many plants here are adapted to resist losing moisture from the heat and wind. Some have small leaves that minimize water loss.
These miniature volcanoes formed when blobs of molten lava were lobbed into the air during the last gasp of an eruption sequence that ended about 2100 years ago...
Last but not least was the Cave Area. We had to get a free permit to go into this area (we obtained it while at the Visitor Center). They asked if we've been to any other caves recently as there is a disease killing off bats.
We headed off on the .8 mile trail across the lava field to the Indian Tunnel.
The entrance to Indian Tunnel...
Indian Cave is the largest tube, measuring 30 feet tall and 800 feet long with several massive skylights that provide so much sunlight, you don’t need a flashlight.
We did stop at this Heritage Marker to check it out...
Goodale's Cutoff...Pioneers traveling in wagon trains on the Oregon Trail in the 1850s and 1860s followed an alternative route in the area that used old Indian trails that skirted the lava flows. This alternative route was later named Goodale's Cutoff and part of it is in the northern part of the monument. The cutoff was created to reduce the possibility of ambush by Shoshone warriors along the Snake River such as the one that occurred at Massacre Rocks, which today is memorialized in Idaho's Massacre Rocks State Park.
It was going on 5:00 by the time we got back to the fairgrounds. What a fabulous day...so glad we decided to spend an extra day here and check it out!
We had stopped for diesel at the station near the entrance to the fairgrounds, so we decided to get hitched up tonight. With that done, we retreated inside...we were all alone tonight...and no concert.