Craters of the Moon

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 43.42°N
  • 113.5°W

  • 2005 m
    6576 ft

  • 324020
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Craters of the Moon.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Craters of the Moon.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Bulletin Reports available for Craters of the Moon.

Craters of the Moon, the largest lava field of the Snake River Plain (SRP), covers about 1600 sq km with more than 60 mappable lava flows erupted from eight fissure systems. About 25 cinder cones up to 250-m high formed primarily along a 45-km-long segment of the Great Rift, the principal 2-8 km wide fissure system that trends NW-SE through Craters of the Moon National Monument. Craters of the Moon lies at the NW part of the Eastern Snake River Plain, and the northern part of the field laps up against the White Knob and Pioneer Mountains. The lava field was formed during eight eruptive episodes between about 15,000 and 2000 years ago separated by quiescent periods up to about 3000 years in duration. This contrasts with other SRP lava fields, which were formed during single eruptive episodes of relatively short duration. A complex assemblage of basaltic volcanic features is found at Craters of the Moon, and cinder cones are common.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
0130 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) South of Big Craters, near Broken Top
0260 BCE ± 25 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Big Craters, Trench Mortar Flat
0350 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 0 Magnetism North Crater
1680 BCE ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Vermillion Chasm to Minidoka-Larkspur
2560 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Black Top Butte
4070 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Big Cinder Butte and vents to the SE
4250 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 0 Tephrochronology Sentinel Cone
4600 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Silent Cone
5470 BCE ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Grassy Cone
5890 BCE ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) NW of Echo Crater

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Cones

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Big Cinder Butte Pyroclastic cone 1986 m 43° 25' 5" N 113° 32' 17" W
Big Craters Cone 1919 m 43° 27' 0" N 113° 32' 0" W
Black Top Butte Cone 43° 17' 0" N 113° 26' 0" W
Broken Top Cone 1846 m 43° 25' 0" N 113° 31' 0" W
Coyote Butte Cone 1801 m 43° 24' 0" N 113° 31' 0" W
Crescent Butte Pyroclastic cone 1823 m 43° 25' 0" N 113° 30' 14" W
Devils Cauldron Cone 43° 18' 0" N 113° 26' 0" W
Echo Crater Butte Pyroclastic cone 1782 m 43° 23' 35" N 113° 30' 40" W
Fissure Butte Pyroclastic cone 1791 m 43° 21' 7" N 113° 28' 1" W
Grassy Pyroclastic cone 1925 m 43° 27' 22" N 113° 34' 59" W
Half Cone Cone 1846 m 43° 25' 0" N 113° 31' 0" W
Inferno Cone 1884 m 43° 26' 0" N 113° 32' 0" W
Paisley Pyroclastic cone 1861 m 43° 27' 4" N 113° 32' 53" W
Sentinel, The Pyroclastic cone 1771 m 43° 23' 0" N 113° 30' 0" W
Sheep Trail Butte Pyroclastic cone 1711 m 43° 20' 46" N 113° 27' 22" W
Silent Cone Pyroclastic cone 1938 m 43° 26' 42" N 113° 34' 8" W
Split Butte Cone 1737 m 43° 22' 0" N 113° 29' 0" W
Sunset Pyroclastic cone 1954 m 43° 28' 8" N 113° 33' 47" W
Two Point Butte Pyroclastic cone 1697 m 43° 19' 52" N 113° 26' 49" W
Watchman, The Cone 1786 m 43° 23' 0" N 113° 29' 0" W

Craters

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Great Rift Zone Fissure vent 1800 m 43° 20' 0" N 113° 28' 0" W
North Crater Crater - Cone 1903 m 43° 27' 11" N 113° 33' 43" W
Vermillion Chasm Fissure vent 1664 m 43° 20' 0" N 113° 28' 0" W
The Highway lava flow forming the black lobe in the center of the photo at the base of the Pioneer Mountains was erupted about 2300 years ago from a vent at or near North Crater, out of view to the right. Two other Craters of the Moon flows, the Devils Orchard and Serrate lava flows, were also erupted at about the same time. The complex vegetated cinder cone to the right of the Highway lava flow is the late Pleistocene Sunset Cone.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Blue Dragon lava flow covers about 280 sq km of Craters of the Moon lava field with flat-lying pahoehoe lava. The 3.4 cu km flow, erupted about 2075 years ago, is the largest in the Craters of the Moon volcanic field. It traveled up to 25 km to the east and 15 km to the SW from fissure vents near the center of this photo. The largely pahoehoe lava flow is named for a characteristic iridescent dark- to light-blue, glassy crust.

Photo by Lee Siebert. 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
The ropy surface of pahoehoe lava flows is the dominant lava type at Craters of the Moon. The pahoehoe flows were typically erupted through lava tubes and tube systems. Locally collapse of tube roofs has formed skylights and entrances to lava tunnels that are popular among visitors to the national monument.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
Pressure ridges, formed when moving, still-fluid magma buckled the solidified surfaces of pahoehoe lava flows, are one of the many lava flow features easily observed at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
Silent Cone, the partially forested cinder cone in the background, was the source of lava flows primarily to the south about 6500 years ago. The well-preserved cone of Big Craters in the foreground is one of the youngest features of Craters of the Moon.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Big Craters lava flow in the foreground, one of the youngest at the Craters of the Moon, originated about 2200 years ago from vents at the northern base of Big Craters. The flows traveled north before being deflected by the slopes of the Pioneer Mountains in the background and then flowed primarily to the SW.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
The vast extent of the Blue Dragon lava flow, forming the flat area in the middle of the photo, can be appreciated in this view from Big Cinder Butte with Big Southern Butte in the background to the east. The Blue Dragon flow, the largest volume lava flow at Craters of the Moon, covers 280 sq km with 3.4 cu km of lava. The flow was erupted about 2075 years ago and covers broad areas as far as 25 km to the east and 15 km to the SW of its vent area.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Craters of the Moon lava field covers 1600 sq km of the Snake River Plain with lava flows erupted from NW-SE-trending fissures and cinder cones. The northern part of the lava field, seen from Big Cinder Butte with the Pioneer Mountains in the background to the north, contains many flows and cinder cones formed during the most recent eruptions about 2300 to 2100 years ago.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Coombs H A, Howard A D, 1960. United States of America. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 9: 1-68.

Greeley R, King J S (eds), 1977. Volcanism of the eastern Snake River Plain, Idaho: a comparative planetary geology guidebook. NASA (Washington, DC), CR-154621: 1-308.

Green J, Short N M, 1971. Volcanic Landforms and Surface Features: a Photographic Atlas and Glossary. New York: Springer-Verlag, 519 p.

Hughes S S, Smith R P, Hackett W R, Anderson S R, 1999. Mafic volcanism and environmental geology of the eastern Snake River Plain. In: Hughes S S, Thackray G D (eds), {Guidebook to the Geology of eastern Idaho}, Pocatello, Idaho: Idaho Musuem of Nat Hist, p 143-168.

Hughes S S, Smith R P, Hackett W R, McCurry M, Anderson S R, Ferdock G C, 1997. Bimodal magmatism, basaltic volcanic styles, tectonics, and geomorphic processes of the eastern Snake River Plain, Idaho. Brigham Young Univ Geol Studies, 42: 423-458.

Kuntz M A, Champion D E, Lefebvre R H, Covington H R, 1988. Geologic map of the Craters of the Moon, Kings Bowl, and Wapi lava fields and the Great Rift volcanic rift zone, south-central Idaho. U S Geol Surv Misc Invest Ser Map, I:1632, 1:100,000 scale geol map.

Kuntz M A, Champion D E, Spiker E C, Lefebvre R H, McBroome L A, 1982. The Great Rift and the evolution of the Craters of the Moon lava field, Idaho. In: Bonnichsen B, Breckenridge R M (eds), {The Great Rift and the Evolution of the Craters of the Moon Lava Field, Idaho}, Idaho Bur Mines Geol Bull, 26: 423-437.

Kuntz M A, Covington H R, Schorr L J, 1992. An overview of basaltic volcanism of the eastern Snake River Plain. In: Link P K, Kuntz M A, Platt L B (eds), {Regional Geology of Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming}, Geol Soc Amer Mem, 179: 227-267.

Prinz M, 1970. Idaho rift system, Snake River Plain, Idaho. Geol Soc Amer Bull, 81: 941-948.

Stearns H T, Crandall L, Steward W G, 1938. Geology and ground-water resources of the Snake River Plain in southeastern Idaho. U S Geol Surv Water Supply Pap, 774: 1-268.

Volcano Types

Pyroclastic cone(s)
Fissure vent(s)

Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Trachybasalt / Tephrite Basanite
Trachyandesite / Basaltic trachy-andesite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
15
15
1,459
93,300

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Craters of the Moon Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.