Monday, June 16, 2014

Craters of the Moon National Park and Monument Arco, ID

Note:  Before I moved into Oregon I visited Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, ID.  This post is out of chronological sequence because with all the pictures I took and as weak as my internet connection had been until now it would have taken days to upload.

Craters of the Moon is a vast lava field that was formed over 8 eruptive geologic periods from 15,000 to 2000 years ago when what is now Idaho had active volcanoes.

The North Crater--there are 2 major craters in the park.
The Great Rift, out of which the lava erupted, stretches 52 miles across southern Idaho.  The time between actual lava eruptions averages about 2000 years and the last one was about 2000 years ago.  I stayed two nights at the campground ($25/night, no hookups) and rode Wally the Mountain Bike around the Park's 8 mile road loop that gives access to the various points of interest.

I HAD to go see what a Devil's Orchard was!
Devil's Orchard - supposedly a Minister gave it it's name when he first saw it.
There's a short half mile trail through the Orchard with plaques along it explaining what you are seeing.

I think the plaque told me I was looking at a big black lava rock.
There are several cave sites in the park that visitors are allowed to enter and explore if you stop at the Visitor Center and get a permit.

I didn't see a single bat in the cave I went through.
The caves were formed by "Lava Tubes" which is when the lava exposed to the air cools and  hardens but the lava beneath continues to flow creating a tube or, now, a cave.  The caves are accessed via a three quarter mile trail system from the parking lot.

Black path through the black lava field.
I chose to go through Indian Tunnel, a lava tube so named because the Shoshone Indians used to shelter in it overnight on their movement through the lava fields.


They give you this ramp down into the cave but that's it after that.
 Part of the roof of Indian Tunnel had caved in some time in the past so light was able to shine through and you could see most of the loose rocks and boulders you had to climb around as you followed a discernible path to the exit point about 100 yards away.  A flashlight is probably a good idea.

Indian Tunnel's roof hole.
I was kind of surprised that the Park Service lets pretty much anyone wander around in the caves as there were lots of ways to tear up an ankle or leg among the thousands of various sized chunks of lava making up the loose floor, but I made it out injury-free.

Believe it or not there's a foot path through this stuff.
My second day at the Park when I did all the exploring I rode Wally more than 8 miles and logged over 12,000 steps on my pedometer.  I went to bed early that night.

If you are ever in southern Idaho you HAVE to spend a day at Craters of the Moon, it's just awesome scenery and exploring the caves is a blast!

Thanks for reading!