Fascinating Day at the Arizona Meteor Crater

meteor crater

The Barringer crater been touted as “The best preserved meteor crater on earth”, and I hoped my kids would find it a worthwhile stop. Luckily the weather held out and we were able to visit northern Arizona on one of the few weeks it wasn’t snowing in February.

Admission tickets get you access to not only the meteor crater impact site, but to a guided tour along the rim as well. Our guide, Eduardo, was funny, friendly, and very knowledgeable about the crater and surrounding area. He made the tour interesting as well as educational.

We started off in the visitor’s center with a short film that explains how the meteor impacted the land over 50,000 years ago, and how the crater was developed. This was helpful in getting perspective on how massive the impact was, and how it affected the land around it. Seeing the visual representation of how the impact happened made viewing the crater more meaningful.

When the video was over we got to touch an actual remnant of the meteor before heading out to see the crater. As we walked along the path on the rim of the crater, Eduardo would point out additional facts about the plants, animals, and geology of the region. We enjoyed his wit and funny quips that kept the group smiling and having a good time. Often the tour guides we’ve encountered are somber, boring, or delivery a dry presentation, so this was a refreshing change.

Many people don’t know that the meteor crater was used by the NASA astronauts as a practice ground for how to drive the moon rover vehicle once they arrived on the moon. 

Our walk took us about 1/3 of the distance around the rim to where Barringer had built a rock house to overlook the drilling project he led for almost 30 years. He believed that the meteor was under the crater, that it consisted of iron, and that once he recovered it, he’d have a multi- million dollar payday. Unfortunately modern science reveals that the meteor broke into millions of pieces and mostly disintegrated upon impact, and there was no large rock waiting to be discovered at the bottom of the crater. His misguided venture left him broke and he had to abandon it shortly before his death. Luckily the family has kept the crater in good shape and opened the privately operated visitor’s center so we all can enjoy it.

When the tour was over we went inside the visitors’ center to explore the exhibits. They have some very insightful displays on other meteor impacts as well as the science and history behind meteors, and this one in particular. You could easily spend an hour being entertained and educated at the same time. 

On the far side of the visitors’ center there’s access to the opposite side of the rim of the crater. Here you can ascend up a path to the highest point for overlooking the crater. There are telescopes for viewing the abandoned drilling project at the bottom of the crater. It’s a spectacular spot for taking photos as well.  For those who can’t make the one- mile walking tour we’d done previously, this is a great alternative for viewing the crater.

Our last stop of the day was to see some of the beautiful artifacts in the gift shop. We typically avoid the gift shops as we have no space in our RV to store trinkets, but there were some beautiful stones, gems, and artwork on display. It was worth spending a few minutes strolling through to appreciate the displays.

From beginning to end I think we were only at the meteor crater for 3 ½ hours, but it felt like a full day’s worth of education and entertainment. We had a great time exploring history and science right in front of us, and not just in a book. This is one of the reasons I love traveling, and why I would highly recommend visiting the Meteor Crater the next time you are in Arizona.

All images via Watts in the World/Shannon Watt

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Fascinating Day at the Arizona Meteor Crater

Shannon is a mother of 3 teens, who hit 40 and decided that instead of a "mid-life crisis", she wanted an adventure of a lifetime. She convinced her wonderfully open-minded husband to pack up their house, sell most of their possessions, and travel the USA in an RV for a year or two. Besides homeschooling her kids, running their online program, Watts in the World, Shannon loves to explore new places. Nothing is more exciting than waking up in a new city everyday, and discovering what's great abou ... More

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