Monday, February 15, 2021

Checking Out Lunar Crater, Nevada

We were heading across Nevada on Highway 6, and 75 miles east of Tonopah (near Nye County mile marker 79) made a turn. We took a detour to Lunar Crater, nine miles off the highway on a gravel road. Part of the Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark (designated in 1973), Lunar Crater is a 430-foot deep maar, or volcanic explosion pit.

With several hours of driving ahead of us, I proposed that we get our blood flowing and hike down to the bottom. My husband agreed and the kids had no choice.

We were the only ones there, which didn't surprise us. Highway 6 is one of the least traveled highways in the U.S., so we didn't even see many cars on the highway. The crater looked beautiful. I figured there was a way down, but wasn't sure what the route was.

Fortunately it wasn't too bad, although getting down the cliff band takes a little scrambling. 

In 1972, astronauts practiced picking up rock samples here in full spacesuits. It was part of NASA's program to get the Apollo 16 and 17 astronauts more familiar with volcanic features.

In short time we were down at the bottom.

Desert Boy was even willing to smile!

Over in the corner was an intriguing looking canyon. 

I was fascinated by the buckwheat, a reddish plant growing on the volcanic soil. It would be much prettier in the summer!

Then it was time to start back up!

It was cool seeing the lava swirl by the cliff band.

There are over 20 volcanic features visible from Lunar Crater. Can you spot the one in the background?

From the top was a nice view of Easy Chair Crater to the northeast.

There's a short trail and a bench by the Lunar Crater parking area.

A little plaque under the bench.

Apparently you can make a backcountry loop past Lunar Crater on a scenic byway to get back on the highway. We didn't know, so we went back to the highway the same way we came, seeing a few cows.

We had another nice view of Easy Chair Crater.

Off in the distance, on the other side of the highway, we could see the Black Rock Lava Flow. I've done a previous post about it, and it's another fun stop. Here's more about the geology from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

Looking at this area from the birds-eye view is fascinating. The lava flow really stands out with its black. I like seeing the shapes of all the craters. And there are a surprising number of playas.

And here's a closeup:

If you like seeing some different things, I highly recommend visiting Lunar Crater.

Before I end, let me pose a question. Where do you see big craters?
1. Volcanic areas
2. Meteors (e.g., Meteor Crater in Arizona)

Do you have a favorite crater?

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