Arizona August 30, 2017
Few People Realize There’s An Active Volcanic Field Right Here In Arizona
When we think of current volcanic activity, Arizona usually isn’t anywhere near the top of the list. It probably doesn’t help that most people tend to think of massive eruptions (like Mount Saint Helens), lava oozing through the landscape (like Hawai’i), or some truly surreal landscapes (like Yellowstone National Park). But Arizona is actually located in a bit of a hot bed for magma activity; it just moves much slower than most other places.
Let's start by getting this image out of the way. Most people imagine volcanoes to look something similar to this scary, fiery landscape.
Perhaps in their prime Arizona's volcanoes looked something like that but these days they look more like this: extinct and unlikely to erupt again.
Yup, the San Francisco Peaks are an extinct stratovolcano which last erupted some 200,000 years ago.
Despite the extinct volcanoes, Arizona is actually home to a prominent volcanic field that is still active! The San Francisco Volcanic Field covers 1,800 square mile in northern Arizona with volcanoes that are up to 6 million years old.
The youngest volcano in the area is Sunset Crater, which erupted nearly 1,000 years ago in 1085 AD. This relatively young age and the slow activity in the volcanic field means it is still considered active with future eruptions expected in the next few thousand years from new vents.
Aside from the volcanoes themselves, you can find evidence of the volcanic activity that took place here. Dark lava flows look pristine and cooled in some interesting shapes.
In addition to once bubbling volcanoes and ash-covered landscapes, you can also find old lava tube caves where liquid lava flowed thousands of years before.
Lava River Cave northwest of Flagstaff is one example.
Eruptions in the field occur every few thousand years. Since Sunset Crater erupted less than 1,000 years ago, it's unlikely we'll see another eruption in our lifetime. However,
scientists agree that another will eventually occur since a "hot spot" exists here deep below the earth's surface.
Want to check out the insides of an extinct volcano in Arizona? You can see one at Red Mountain, just 25 miles from Flagstaff. Read about the hiking trail and the volcano in
The Absurdly Beautiful Hike In Arizona That Will Make You Feel At One With Nature.