Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater
Photo credit: Wikipedia
About 900 years ago tremors and earthquakes shook the earth north of what we now know as Flagstaff.  Red-hot rocks exploded from the ground.  They rained down on houses and farmland.  Ash, falling cinders and forest fires blackened the land and the daytime sky.   At night it glowed a fiery red.  When the world was quiet again, the landscape had been drastically altered.  A 1000 foot-high cinder cone stood where open meadow and forests had been.  Black cinders covered everything.   There is no sign that people lost their lives in this eruption so they must have had time to relocate.  But after the volcano settled the area was no longer farmable.  The people relocated farther away from the volcano where the layers of ash and cinder were thinner.  This actually helped the crops by holding the moisture in the soil.

Aerial view of the crater.  You can see the Pinyon pines starting to reemerge.
Photo credit: NAU Pinyon Research
The Squeez-Up on the Lava Flow Trail.  Lava oozed up through a vent and cooled creating this interesting formation.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
That cinder cone is now known as Sunset Crater.  It is the youngest of about 600 in the San Francisco Volcano Field. Almost every mountain in this region is of volcanic origin.  In 1930 the site was declared a National Monument by President Herbert Hoover.  Hollywood wanted to use the crater as a movie set.  They intended to blow it up to simulate a volcanic eruption.  The local people petitioned the government for protection and the monument was born.  Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is 3040 acres and is protected and managed by the National Park Service.  Hiking trails to the top of the cone were shut down in 1973 because they had caused so much damage.  Today you can hike a one-mile trail at the base of the crater.  You will be able to see the lava flows that look like the eruption just happened yesterday.  The land is stark and mostly barren but there are little "islands" of life.  Pine trees and other vegetation are visible in this inhospitable land.  The growth proves that slowly, ever so slowly, life is returning.

The crater is an interesting place to visit and one of my favorite spots.

See you all on Monday!


  1. Thanks for sharing this information - I'm always fascinated by the power of this planet and what it is capable of.

    Wonderful photos too - makes me want to go on a road trip and check out this Sunset Crater and hike in the area. Quite captivating!

    Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

  2. I would love to see this crater.


  3. I'm stopping by from the A to Z Challenge and I wish I had found this blog earlier. I really enjoy your writing. I came to California in 1972 on Route 66 in a VW Bug. I saw the Painted Desert, Flagstaff and many other wonderful sights and Route 66 will always have a special place in my heart. I am a new follower of your blog.