Named one of the Seven Wonders of the World 2020 by Conde Nast Traveler, Winslow’s Meteor Crater is awe inspiring.
As one of the world’s few meteorite impact sites, Meteor Crater is considered to be the best-preserved on the planet. At 550 feet deep and almost a mile wide, the crater was formed in about 10 seconds when the meteorite, traveling at 26,000 mph, crashed into the earth. The force of impact was 150 times greater than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and equal to 20 million tons of TNT.
The impact occurred during the last ice age, at a time when the Arizona landscape was cooler and wetter. Winslow was then covered with a forest, where mammoths, mastodons and giant ground sloths grazed, and the force of the impact leveled the forest and wiped out life for miles.
Arizona’s dry climate has helped preserve this crater. Little of the rim’s crest has eroded, unlike most craters on Earth that are often erased by geological processes.
Daniel M. Barringer, a mining engineer and businessman, would have benefited from knowing that the meteorite vaporized. In 1903, Barringer believed the site was created by a large nickel-iron metallic meteorite. He formed a company, the Standard Iron Company, and staked claim to the land. He received a land patent signed by Theodore Roosevelt, allowing the company to research the crater.
Barringer found fragments of oxidized iron meteorite in the surrounding area, leading Barringer to believe there must be a large deposit of meteoric iron below the surface.
Barringer spent the next 27 years drilling, mining and searching for iron ore, but no significant deposit was found. He had grand plans for the iron, estimating that if the iron were found, the amount would be valued at more than $1 billion in 1903. Unfortunately, he lost his fortune trying to do so.
The Barringer family, along with long-time Arizona ranching and business families the Tremaines and Chilsons, now own the site. It’s been transformed into one of Arizona’s most enduring family attractions.
The Meteor Crater also has deep ties to NASA and space exploration. In the 1960s, astronauts preparing for the first moon landing worked and explored the crater’s rugged terrain. The move helped them train for what they could expect in space, because the Meteor Crater is one of the few impact sites that is still exposed.
The several hundred thousand visitors who trek to the Meteor Crater each year will see an Apollo space capsule, which commemorates the 50-plus-year relationship with NASA.
Daily guided rim tours provide a fun, educational and interactive experience. The observation decks are equipped with telescopes so visitors can study the crater’s rock walls and see the breathtaking desert landscape from the air-conditioned Meteor Crater Visitors Center.
This world-class attraction also features a museum and discovery center housing interactive displays with information about meteorites, asteroids, impact cratering mechanics and the formation of Meteor Crater.
The whole family will enjoy “IMPACT: The Mystery of Meteor Crater,” which is shown in the 80-seat big-screen theater, and the new, immersive 4D movie experience “Collision! You Can Help Save Earth.” The film allows viewers to race the meteorite’s impact to help save the planet.
The Gift & Mineral Shop has minerals, jewelry, gems, American Indian art, science-based kids games, toys, shirts, hats and mugs.
Hungry guests can fill their tank at the Blasted Bistro, which features fresh sandwiches, salads and sweets.
An on-site RV park offers housing and one of the finest star and sky shows in the Southwest. Set up camp and take in the views within the majestic pines, playground and dog park. Amenities include a gas station and general store. Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff is on the near horizon in the Western sky. Also nearby is the Grand Canyon, Havasupai Falls, Route 66, Snowbowl and Petrified Forest.
The Meteor Crater is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Elevators and ADA accessibility are available.