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.
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 which 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Interstate 40, Exit 233
Winslow, AZ 86047
Memorial Day to Labor Day: 7 am – 7 pm
Fall, Winter, Spring: 8 am – 5 pm
Seniors (60+): $16
Children (6-17): $9