On May 2, 1924, Calvin Coolidge brought 24,960 acres of southern Idaho into the national park fold, preserving a volcanic landscape so otherworldly that in 1969, preparing for their walk on the moon, Apollo 14 astronauts came here to explore the area’s unique geography.
The volcanic terrain created by “rift eruptions”— curtains of fire rising from cracks in the earth as high as 1,000 feet—is 60 miles wide and two miles deep in places. Though dormant, the volcano is due to awaken any time, within the next 2,000 years or so.
The rugged landscape is dotted with caves (some, such as Indian Tunnel, are partly accessible to explorers), mini volcanic cones and blobs of lava, called bombs.
The park is home to several unique species, including the Great Basin pocket mouse, yellow-bellied marmot and lava tube beetle. Also look for mountain lions, jackrabbits and snowy owls, plus prickly pear cactus, sagebrush and 350 other plant types.
Drive 18 miles southwest of Arco, Idaho, on Highway 20/26/93. In winter, temperatures can dip to minus 30 degrees. Visitors break out the cross-country skis and snowshoes as soon as a good snow base forms.
Visit nps.gov/crmo for more information on this unique landscape.
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