Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ubehebe Crater

The Death Valley Blogathon continues...after Scotty's Castle, we drove west eight miles to Ubehebe Crater. There's a legend that the name means "big basket" in Shoshone. According to National Park literature, however, the Shoshone name for the crater is actually "Tem-pin-tta-Wo'sah," which means "Coyote's Basket." In any case, it's a spectacular site!

The crater was created by a "Maar volcano." Hot magma rose and hit ground water, causing steam and gas explosions. This one occurred around 3,000 years ago--practically yesterday in geological time. There are clusters of Maar volcanoes in the area, but this is the largest one. All that colorful rock inside the crater is "fanglomerate," an alluvial fan that hardened into rock.
The surrounding area is covered with cinders. In this photo, you can see a bit of the crater to the right of the road. They say the cinders are up to 150 feet thick at the crater rim! The day we were there, it was so windy that we literally almost got blown over. The famous Racetrack is just another 20 miles or so down the road...it's easy to imagine a wind strong enough to push rocks across the playa.
More views of the cinder-covered surrounding area. To me, there is something exhilarating about these remote volcanic landscapes.