Craters of the Moon
National Monument and Preserve
Two thousand years ago, a volcanic eruption created the Broken Top Flow. In the same time period, the Shoshone built rock rings at Indian Tunnel.
In 1901 Israel Russell with the Geological Survey explored the area and provided the first geologic description of what he called the Cinder Buttes.
In 1920, Robert Limbert hiked the entire length of the Great Rift and widely promoted the region for status as a national park.
In 1923, Harold Sterns, a geologist, described the area as the most recent example of a fissure eruption in this country and recommended it be preserved as a national monument.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation, creating Craters of the Moon National Monument.
In 1956, the Mission 66 Program initiated construction of today’s road system, visitor centre, shop, campground, and comfort station.
In 1962, the addition of an island of vegetation completely surrounded by lava, known as Carey Kipuka, increased the size of the monument by 5,360 acres.
In 1969, NASA astronauts Alan Shepherd, Edgar Mitchell, Eugene Cernan, and Joe Engle explored the monument while training to visit the moon. Since much of the moon’s surface is covered by volcanic materials, it was very important that they know something about the lava they would encounter.
This was the reason that the astronauts visited such places as Hawaii, Iceland, and Craters of the Moon. Visiting these places allowed the astronauts to become educated observers who could describe the surface features they were exploring to geologists back on Earth.
In 1970, Congress created the Craters of the Moon Wilderness, the first such designation within the National Park Service.
In 1983, the Mt. Borah earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale, was felt at the monument, but little damage was done.
See map of the monument.
We would like to thank Mike Munts, Wildlife Biologist, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, and the National Park Service for information for this page.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)