Thursday, July 16, 2015

Exploring Arizona: Sunset Crater

Recently our family took a detour to explore Sunset Crater. We were fortunate to be joined by friends, one of whom has an deep interest in geology. Sunset Crater is the result of a volcanic eruption over 900 years ago. The resultant landscape is one of twisted Ponderosa Pines and cinder deposits. You can see the flow of the lava that devastated the area. When we first arrived we discussed the bleak landscape so different from the forested areas nearby (Flagstaff, AZ is 12 miles away). Each of the kiddos picked up a piece of cinder noting how lightweight it was. We talked a bit about pumice and the air pockets in the rock.

As we meandered along the trail, wildlife and flora became more apparent. Between rocky crags, small plants emerged. We noticed desert shrubs and the beginnings of tree stands. Our friend acted as our guide pointing out other cinder cones, splatter cones, and gas vents. He mentioned that a lava tube, currently blocked, was once accessible. The kiddos noticed how cool the air was near the boarded up opening. Although the region was populated with farmers (the Sinagua), no human remains have been found at the site. It seems that the peoples of the time had warning of the volcanic activity. It was interesting to surmise what warnings they had and their keen observations of nature. The kiddos really enjoyed exploring the site. They worked a bit on their junior ranger packet as they skipped and ran ahead. It was really a nice trip to an impressive geological site.


  1. Gorgeous scenery! Thank you for sharing!