Northern Arizona’s Meteor Crater with Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck

Fifty thousand years ago, a meteor ripped through the skies over the land we now call Arizona. Traveling at roughly 40,000 miles an hour (64,000 kilometers an hour)–11 miles per second (18 kilometers per second), it smashed into the surface of the high plateau.  Within a few seconds, the resulting massive explosion threw millions of tons of rock over the surrounding area, opening a crater three quarters of a mile across and 700 feet (210 meters) deep.  A shock wave of hurricane force winds flashed out in every direction, causing destruction for miles.  So reads the sign, The Birth of Meteor Crater, at Meteor Crater Visitor’s Center in northern Arizona.

Let’s go inside and learn about the meteor

We visited this site in March 2016, but it is definitely worth another look.   After watching the short movie, we spotted this, the Holsinger meteorite, weighing in at 1,406 pounds, and the largest known piece of the 150 foot (45 meter) meteorite that caused this crater.

Largest piece of meteorite found

The meteor, before impact, was estimated to weigh 300,000 tons.   Let’s go outside to see the crater.   It is really windy here, so again the walking tours on the crater’s rim have been cancelled.   This is a big crater.

Meteor Crater

The impact resulted in a crater 750 feet deep.   Due to erosion of the surrounding land, and sediment at the bottom from a former lake, the crater is now 558 feet (170 meters) deep. This crater could hold 200 football fields with 2 million fans watching the games.   Wow!   There are 3 levels of viewing platforms at the crater and some free telescopes, pointed at various places in the crater.   We saw drilling sites, astronaut training sites and fault lines.  This is a simulation of what the bottom of the crater is like.

Simulation of bottom of crater

We could not go to the bottom, but this is what it is like.   You will like this place.  But be prepared for high winds.    For years it was believed that this crater was formed by a volcano.   Even though there was no lava found here.   Scientists did not know how to prove a meteorite landing then.   In the early 1900’s Dr. Daniel Barringer, a geologist, believed this crater was formed by a meteorite.   From 1903-1905 he actively mined inside the crater.   He believed he would find a large part of the meteorite below the surface of the crater and he wanted to mine, find and sell the iron.   He continued to believe he would find the meteorite, but he never did.   He died in 1929, nearly bankrupt.   Later Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, another geologist, visited the crater.

Meteor Crater  Panorama

He had been studying the craters after underground atomic bomb tests in Nevada.   Dr. Shoemaker recognized the signs of high temperatures and pressure.  He discovered the expected material, including shocked quartz (coesite), a form of quartz that has a microscopically unique structure caused by intense pressure and high temperature.   Dr. Shoemaker proved Dr. Barringer’s theory of a meteorite impact.    These are the same tests still used around the world to identify meteorite craters.   And meteorites are shattered and do not survive the impact.  The surface of the crater seemed to be very similar to the craters on the moon, so US astronauts trained here, at Arizona’s Meteor Crater before the first lunar landing. The astronauts scheduled for the Apollo missions to the moon, trained here, under the guidance of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker.   Among those training here were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first humans to walk on the surface of the moon.  Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, in Apollo 11,  landed and walked on the moon July 20, 1969.   This is the type of capsule the astronauts lived in during their time in space.

Space capsule

A little small for several days, but they did it.  We ducks wrote about our first visit to Meteor Crater in March 2016 if you care to read that post also.   Just click on March 2016 in the right side of your screen.   When driving to Meteor Crater, drive slowly as this is a private working cattle ranch and this is free range country.

Free range cattle next to road

We don’t want any person or animal to be injured.    Our Meteor Crater is not the largest and not the oldest, but it is considered the best preserved and the first to prove a meteor impact.   And some scientific trivia.  An object traveling through outer space is an asteroid.   When it enters the earth’s atmosphere it becomes a meteor.   Upon impact with earth, it is a meteorite. We were confused and this is what we were told at Meteor Crater.   For more information visit http://www.MeteorCrater.com   When you are near Winslow, Arizona stop to visit Meteor Crater.   We enjoyed it.   We even enjoyed it twice.

Petrified Forest National Park with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

Here we are, entering another National Park.   Remember this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, but several parks are older than 100 years.

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

But, what is petrified wood?   This is the explanation from the National Park Service.   Approximately 216 million years ago, these trees died and fell in a river.   They were buried beneath layers of silt, mud, sand and volcanic ash, which protected them from decay.   Mineral laden ground water percolated through the layers,carrying silica from the volcanic ash and other trace minerals.   The absorbent dead wood became saturated with the minerals.   The silica, or quartz, crystals slowly bonded with the cells of the tree replicating the organic material in perfect detail.   Eventually, silica replaced the old material.    Wow, that is pretty involved.   The short version is a log is petrified when all the original plant material is replaced by minerals.   First stop for us was the museum and Visitor’s Center.   This is a petrified tree stump.   We love the colors in the petrified wood.

Colors of petrified wood

Colors of petrified wood

Check out this long log.

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons.   Don’t we look little?

This log, sometimes called “Old Faithful”, is 35 feet long and weighs 44 tons.   Big and heavy.   We are still in the northern Arizona desert and we loved this blooming cactus.

Blooming cactus

Blooming cactus

This is Agate Bridge.

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

The bridge is formed by a fossilized tree, 110 feet long.   This tree flourished in a lush tropical forest 217 million years ago.   The supportive concrete span was built in 1917.

There is a river bed under the bridge

There is a river bed under the bridge

It was very windy when we were here, so we rubber ducks had to be protected.   We did not want to go in the river under the Agate Bridge.   There are really two parts to the Petrified Forest National Park.   Interstate 40 divides the park, with the petrified forest part south of the highway, and the area north of I-40 is the Painted Desert.   These great colors are in the area of transition.

Colorful

Colorful

Years ago, before interstate highways were built, Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles was a favorite road.   Route 66 came through this part of Arizona.

Route 66. An American favorite

Route 66. An American favorite.   Route 66 crossed the Petrified Forest National Park.

We also saw this 1932 Studebaker by the road.   This is a real piece of Americana.

1932 Studebaker

1932 Studebaker

So many people drove this road and there are so many great memories here.    Aren’t the colors of this Painted Desert beautiful?

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

There are many such lookouts into the canyon.   We stopped at several of them.   This is the famous Painted Desert Inn, now a National Historic Landmark.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn

We went inside.   The old soda fountain is still there.   We really liked this petroglyph.

Petroglyph

Petroglyph

Everything in this park is so wonderful and colorful.   This is a panorama from the overlook of the Painted Desert Inn.

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

What an incredible view to watch the sunset and sunrise.   We hope you stop to see the Petrified Forest National Park and also enjoy the Painted Desert.     The gift shops here are wonderful also.   We brought home some heavy bags.   Petrified wood plaques are very heavy.

50,000 Years Ago A Meteor Landed in Arizona

Several hundred thousand tons of rock, traveling 26,000 miles per hour, collided with the earth 50,000 years ago.   What a fiery explosion, a force greater than 20 million tons of TNT there was in northern Arizona.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks, visited Meteor Crater.

Let's go inside and learn about the meteor

Let’s go inside and learn about the meteor

Entering the building we examined the Holsinger meteorite.

Holsinger Meteorite

Holsinger Meteorite

This is largest fragment discovered from the 150 foot meteor that crashed into the earth.   Much of the meteor vaporized on impact.   First we watched a short movie about the impact of the meteor and the resulting crater in the earth.   Our crater is not the oldest, nor is it the largest, on planet earth.   But it is the best preserved.   The isolated location and the dry Arizona desert, with only 7 inches of moisture annually, has not allowed much erosion or change to the site.   Our crater is 550 feet deep.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater with monument to Apollo astronauts at bottom

That is deep enough for a 60 story building to stand inside the crater and not reach over the top.   The hole is more than 4,000 feet across, with a circumference of 2.4 miles.   This hole is big enough for 20 football stadiums with games being played and 2 million spectators to fit comfortably within the crater.   That is big!   It was a very windy day; the tours around the crater rim were cancelled due to wind.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater

We ducks were outside, but we had to sit by this trash can so we didn’t blow away.

Meteor Crater with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

Meteor Crater with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

But we had to be outside to see everything.     From 1964 to 1972 the Apollo astronauts trained here at Meteor Crater.   The surface of the moon has meteor craters and the astronauts learned how to move on the surface and what types of materials to bring back to earth.   This is a test capsule for the astronauts.

Apollo Test Capsule

Apollo Test Capsule

Can you imagine living in a capsule this size for several days?   This capsule is really small.   Let’s talk about the speed of the meteor when it collided with the earth.   We said it traveled at 26,000 miles per hour, but how fast is that?   If you left New York, traveling at 26,000 miles per hour, you would arrive in Las Angeles in FIVE minutes.   That is fast.   When you visit Meteor Crater, remember that it is on private property, and there is a real ranch here.

This is a working ranch. Be careful.

This is a working ranch. Be careful.

The cattle are free range cattle, no fences, so they can cross the road.

Free range cattle next to road

Free range cattle next to road

Be careful.   If you hit a cow, nobody wins.   This is a National Natural Landmark.   For more information visit http://www.meteorcrater.com

Arizona Mountains with Zeb the Duck

Leaving Utah, I Zeb the Duck, entered Arizona.

We are in Arizona

We are in Arizona

Mom said we would only be in Arizona for 30 miles, but to look out the window as the scenery is great.

Great rock formation in rock canyon

Great rock formation in rock canyon

Driving through these mountains was like looking at old western movies.

Feel like we are in an old western movie

Feel like we are in an old western movie

We stopped and I got out of the car, too, but the mountains were too tall to get me in many photos.   Our road, I-15, cut right through the mountains and there were few places to stop.

Road through mountains

Road through mountains

You will notice that there are no houses or people by the highway, in these rugged mountains.

No buildings and people in sight

No buildings and people in sight

OK, we found an exit and now let’s enjoy the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area.   Picnic tables make this a perfect place to spend time, eat, and relax.

Picnic area at Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area

Picnic area at Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area

Sit by a cactus in the shade of a tree.

Under the shade of a tree

Under the shade of a tree

Admire the barren mountains with color in the rock.

Sitting by cactus with great mountains behind

Sitting by cactus with great mountains behind

Here is the Virgin River.

The Virgin River. Rapids and calm places

The Virgin River. Rapids and calm places

You may want to fish today.   I don’t know where we are going, the signs say Las Vegas, but mom says we are not going to Las Vegas now.   Wherever we are going, I really like this mountain scenery in Arizona.

We like the scenery in this little corner of Arizona

We like the scenery in this little corner of Arizona

When you drive through here, you will like it also.

Oatman Arizona with Eider Duck

Eider and the humans left Las Vegas and arrived in Oatman, Arizona.

Eider and Cindy entering Oatman

Eider and Cindy entering Oatman

This is an old west ghost mining town on the famous Route 66.  Gold was discovered in 1863 and a large gold rush started in 1915.

Oatman

Oatman

Now the population of Oatman, according to their post cards, is 150.

Oatman attracts tourists that travel Route 66.  The turtle ranch has big turtles.

Turtle Ranch in Oatman, Arizona

Turtle Ranch in Oatman, Arizona

Eider is on a post and

Large live turtle approaching building

Large live turtle approaching building

there is a large turtle behind him heading for the building.

A main attraction is the group of wild burros that roam freely through town.

Burro patrol

Burro patrol

Tourists often feed them carrots and burro chow, available in several stores.

Some tourist attractions include Wild West shootouts and on July 4 they cook eggs on the sidewalk, using some solar devices.  This really is an old western town.

Oatman has several photo opportunities.

Oatman road sign

Oatman photo opportunity

There are also many signs

In Oatman

In Oatman

expressing the independent spirit

Be aware

Be aware

of the early residents.

This souvenir store tries to capitalize on the wild burro residents.

Eider is riding a burro!

Eider is riding a burro!

Oatman, Arizona is located in the

Black Mountains of Oatman, Arizona

Black Mountains of Oatman, Arizona

Black Mountains of Arizona.

This is certainly a different type of town.

Street in Oatman

Street in Oatman

So glad you sent the pictures Eider.  Thanks again for sharing with us.