Craters of the Moon

May 09, 2014

Craters264_13mar14 (1)
Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary AuthorRay Boren

Craters275_13mar14Some people in the past thought central Idaho’s barren, basalt-black and virtually impassable landscape to be rather otherworldly, and particularly lunar. In reality, of course, the region’s volcanic nature is very much of this Earth. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, the dark igneous heart of the state’s Snake River Plain, is a place millions of years in the making — with some geologically recent makeovers. When viewed from high above the Snake River Plain looks like a long, curving valley stretching about 400 mi (640 km) from the Oregon-Idaho border northeast toward Yellowstone National Park on the borders of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Over millions of years, this valley was created by an underlying volcanic hot spot situated beneath the migrating North American Plate that cooked much of the surface above and fed a series of giant calderas. It’s believed the latest caldera is today’s geologically active Yellowstone region.

More recently, a mere 2,000 to 15,000 years ago, magma continued to bubble upward along what is called the Great Rift of Idaho, with lava surging over the land in eight eruptive periods, according to the National Park Service. These events layered an area of 618 sq. mi (1,600 sq. km) with seemingly fresh cinder cones, crags and lava fields that have come to be called Craters of the Moon. A loop road, viewpoints and hiking and walking paths within range of the park’s visitor center, midway between the cities of Twin Falls and Idaho Falls, take visitors through a piled, pitted, spattered, shattered and tubular (lava caves) landscape that seems to stretch far into the distance, toward Idaho’s often snow-capped mountains. Photos taken on March 13, 2014.

Photo details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G; Focal Length: 22mm (35mm equivalent: 33mm); Aperture: f/11.0; Exposure Time: 0.0025 s (1/400); ISO equiv: 400. Bottom - Same except: Focal Length: 36mm (35mm equivalent: 54mm); Aperture: f/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320).