Lava bed in Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area
Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area is located and Idaho, and is comprised of 43,234 acres of unique and otherworldly wilderness.
This wilderness area was designated in 1970, and is managed by the National Park Service. It was one of the first areas of land to be designated as wilderness within the National Park System. Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area encompasses more than 80 percent of Craters of the Moon National Monument (which was designated in 1924). Set aside to protect volcanic features which ended 2,100 years ago, the wilderness has numerous lava flows, cinder cones and moon-like craters.
September is National Wilderness Month, and we're highlighting some of America's most incredible (and incredibly important) wilderness areas! Take a wilderness photo tour and learn how you can protect it.
Lava beds and cinder cones. Photo: pfly, flickr
This designated wilderness area was even utilized by NASA to help prepare astronauts for moon walks as they believed that the region would provide a similar setting to what astronauts could expect to see on the moon.
Inferno Cone overlook. Photo: SocialGeek, flickr
Between 15,000 and 2,100 years ago, repeated volcanic eruptions along the Great Rift spilled huge amounts of basalt lava across the Snake River Plain in south central Idaho. After the molten rock cooled, vast lava fields covering over 700 square miles remained, studded with numerous cinder cones and spatter cones, as well as hidden ice caves and lava tubes.
Frozen lava close up. Photo: pfly, flickr
While the landscape may appear black and barren, numerous hardy plants (many of which bloom colorfully in spring and summer) and animals live in this dry region. While volcanic activity is currently dormant geologists predict the lava will flow in this region again.
Cirsium subniveum. Photo: Matt Lavin, flickr
Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area does not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Although camping and fishing are allowed with a proper permit, no roads or buildings are constructed and there is also no logging or mining, in compliance with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Fewer than 100 people a year obtain overnight camping permits for this area.
Photo: StupidDingo, flickr
The entire area is snow covered and virtually inaccessible for at least a third of the year. The vast majority of overnight wilderness users hike the Wilderness Trail and camp inside of Echo Crater.