The Arizona Meteor Crater is one of the most fascinating natural attractions in a state that is full of them. This large hole in the ground near the town of Winslow stands out against the desert landscape, thanks in part to the fact that it is the better part of a mile wide. In addition to being about 4,000 feet wide, Barringer Crater, as the crater is also known, is approximately 570 feet deep. First discovered by European settlers in the 1800s, the Arizona Meteor Crater quickly caught the interest of scientists, many of whom incorrectly diagnosed the crater's creation. In 1903, a mining engineer by the name of Daniel M. Barringer offered his own theory on the crater, and while that theory was sound, it took almost 60 years for it to finally be proved.
Some 50,000 years ago, what is now northeast Arizona was rocked by a terrific blow. That blow was result of a wayward piece of asteroid, or meteorite, that struck the earth at a speed of around 26,000 miles per hour. As for the size of that asteroid piece, it is believed to have been about 50 yards across when it collided with the Arizona desert. Originally much larger, the asteroid was almost completely vaporized as it traveled through the earth's atmosphere. Little remained of the meteorite after the explosion, so it's easy to understand why it took a while for Barringer's theory to be proved. The Interactive Discovery Center on the north rim of the Arizona Meteor Crater provides wonderful insight into how the crater was formed. It is also possible to take a guided Arizona Meteor Crater tour to learn more about the creation of this amazing attraction.
The Barringer Crater, or Meteor Crater, is only 35 miles east of Flagstaff, which is good news for travelers who are staying at one of the Flagstaff hotels. After getting off at exit 233 on Interstate 40, visitors will proceed along to the air conditioned Meteor Crater Visitor Center, where a general admission fee is charged. After paying the fee at the Arizona Meteor Crater, visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibits at the Interactive Discovery Center. They will also get to watch an informative movie on meteors, observe the natural wonder from three different lookout points, and enjoy an Arizona Meteor Crater tour. Weather permitting, the general guided hiking tours leave on the hour between 9:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., and you will need to wear proper, closed-toe shoes or boots if you want to enjoy them. Guided group tours can also be enjoyed, and there are hiking trails with informative signs for those who want to venture out on their own.
The observation trails at Barringer Crater have interpretive signs that can help visitors make sense of the crater. They also feature telescopes at certain points along the way. While checking out the crater through one of the telescopes, you might search for the remnants of a plane wreck inside the crater itself. This wreckage relates to one of the more curious Barringer Crater facts. In 1964, two commercial pilots decided to fly a Cessna 150 into the Arizona Meteor Crater for an unparalleled look at things. Downdrafts kept them from flying back out, and they were forced to cruise in circles until the plane ran out of fuel. The pilots survived the eventual crash, and pieces of the wrecked plane were never removed.
Arizona Meteor Crater is a truly unique attraction, and many travelers who are passing through northern Arizona understandably include it on the itinerary. After enjoying an Arizona Meteor Crater tour, those who are passing through the general region will have plenty of other amazing natural attractions to check out on their travels. These attractions include the Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert, and the famed Grand Canyon.