Arizona – Barringer Meteor Crater

Arizona – Barringer Meteor Crater

We get inspiration for our travels from a variety of sources, but the Barringer Meteor Crater marks the first time we’ve picked a vacation destination based on a video game.  As we were driving out west for our Southwest Road Trip (Trip #5 from my e-book, How To Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips), my son asked me if I’d ever heard of the Barringer Meteor Crater and if I knew where it was. He had heard about it while playing Civilization V with a friend. I hadn’t heard of it, so I pulled out my trusty smartphone and looked it up. Wouldn’t you know, it was right on our route, so we added it to the itinerary.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons, Shane Torgerson

The crater is almost a mile wide and is believed to have been created 50,000 years ago when a 150-foot wide meteor traveling at a speed of 26,000 miles per hour collided with Earth. It is the first crater proven to be created by a meteor and also the best-preserved site. In 1903, mining engineer and businessman Daniel Barringer became convinced that the crater was created by a meteor, not an extinct volcano as others had thought. Barringer was interested in mining the crater for iron and formed a company that purchased the land containing the crater. He spent 26 years attempting to find a giant iron meteorite. Although his meteor theory was correct, he did not account for the vaporization of the meteorite upon impact, and the mining operation was unsuccessful. The Barringer family still owns the land, but a separate company, Meteor Crater Enterprises operates the Visitor Center as a tourist attraction.

The only way to see inside the crater (other than flying over it) is through the Visitor Center. Admission includes access to three sightseeing points along the inside wall of the crater, a tour, a film, and a museum. We arrived too late to take the tour, so we toured the crater on our own.

Inside Meteor Crater

One of the sightseeing decks had telescopes for viewing specific points of interest inside the crater. The telescopes were in a fixed position, aimed right at what they wanted you to see, including drill holes and a rock that’s the size of a house.

Telescopes inside Barringer Meteor Crater

After viewing the crater, we went inside and watched the movie (which was interesting) and toured the museum. One of the outdoor exhibits is an Apollo test capsule. NASA astronauts have used the crater for training.

Apollo test capsule at Meteor Crater

Unfortunately, my son (yes, the one who wanted to see the crater in the first place) had come down with a fever and was feeling really awful at this point, so we rushed through the museum so we could get to the hotel for him to rest. We saw a meteorite that was the largest recovered chunk of the 150-foot whopper that made the crater.

Holsinger meteorite - Meteor Crater

Since it’s hard to picture just how big this crater is, I love this graphic that shows it in comparison with the Eiffel Tower, Washington Monument, and Statue of Liberty.

How big is Meteor crater

One of the exhibits focused on the likelihood of other space bodies hitting the earth. We learned that 2000 tons of meteorites hit the earth every day, but most burn up or hit the ocean. Scientists do track asteroids and have calculated when and how close they will come to our planet.

Tracking asteroids

At least one of the exhibits was just for fun. Since you aren’t permitted to visit the bottom of the crater, they’ve created a photo backdrop so that you can pretend you did.

Meteor Crater photo op

We enjoyed our visit to Meteor Crater. We found both the crater and the museum very interesting. I’m glad we were able to squeeze it into our itinerary.

Ready to visit?

Meteor Crater
Interstate 40, Exit 233
Winslow, AZ 86047
(800) 289-5898

This attraction appears in my e-book, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.

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