At the conclusion of our 72 mile trek through the northern-most part of Death Valley, we reached a paved road indicating that Ubehebe Crater was 3 miles west. This was another “I didn’t know anything about this” find for us, and I have to say it was a pretty dramatic sight.
It is a giant red and orange hole in the side of Tin Mountain that was created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rose up from the depths of the earth and reached ground water. It is 600 feet deep in the center and a half-mile across.
Apparently, the intense heat flashed the water into steam which expanded until the pressure was released as a tremendous explosion. It was originally thought that the crater was anywhere from 2000 to 7000 years old, but recent testing and research conducted in 2012 now suggests that the crater is only about 800 years old.
One of things that was very noticeable was that the area surrounding the crater rim was covered in cinders. They are left over from the volcanic explosions that took place and they are also very evident as you drive up the hill to the parking area. It turns out that the cinders are as much as 150 feet thick at the crater rim, decreasing in depth radically outward from there.
Water erosion created the deep gullies that you see on the crater’s east side. The pink and brown mud flat at the bottom of the crater is the site of many short-lived lakes.
Ubehebe is not the only crater found in this part of Death Valley. There are clusters of craters to the south and west of Ubehebe. You can walk from the sign at Ubehebe Crater around the rim to the west and over to Little Hebe Crater, observing various smaller craters along the way. We didn’t venture out on this walk, as we still wanted to check out Scotty’s Castle, and also make it to Las Vegas at a reasonable time.
Another thing worth noting is that it was incredibly windy around the rim of the crater where we were standing, making it impossible to take a “hair all in place” photo.
We only spent about 20 minutes here, taking in the view, and reading about the history of the crater. It was definitely another really cool point of interest for us on our drive from Langley to Phoenix.