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Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area

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The United States Congress designated the Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area (map) in 1970 and it now has a total of 43,243 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Idaho and is managed by the National Park Service.


Between 15,000 and 2,100 years ago, repeated volcanic eruptions along the Great Rift spilled huge amounts of basalt lava across the Snake River Plain in south central Idaho. After the molten rock cooled, vast lava fields covering over 700 square miles remained, studded with numerous cinder cones and spatter cones, as well as hidden ice caves and lava tubes. While the landscape may appear black and barren, numerous hardy plants (many which bloom colorfully in spring and summer) and animals live in this dry region. Crepuscular (active at dawn and dust) animals include mule deer, coyotes, porcupines, mountain cottontails, jackrabbits, and many songbirds. Diurnal (active during the day) animals include ground squirrels, marmots, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, hawks, and eagles. Nocturnal animals include woodrats, skunks, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, bats, nighthawks, owls, and most other small desert rodents. While volcanic activity is currently dormant geologists predict the lava will flow in this region again.

A portion of this astonishing landscape, about 83 square miles, was set aside as Craters of the Moon National Monument in 1924. In 2000, an additional 640 square miles of the surrounding Craters of the Moon and adjacent Wapi lava fields were added to the National Park System as Craters of the Moon National Preserve. Most of the Preserve has been recommended for wilderness designation.

Planning to Visit the Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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