I’d heard about Meteor Crater on an episode of the Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase (http://betty.libsyn.com/) podcast. In the episode, a pilot tells the story of flying over the gigantic crater near Winslow, AZ. Supposedly, a stewardess saw the crater from high up in the airplane and marveled at the fact that the meteor landed right at the end of a road.
I made a mental note of the location of the crater and told myself I’d visit if I were ever nearby.
In the Fall of 2015, I found myself passing through the area as I traveled from Las Vegas to New Mexico. I’d stopped in Winslow to take some photos of the Standin’ on the Corner Park to update my blog post about the town (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/04/28/winslow-arizona/), but I hadn’t stayed there long.
I was driving east on Interstate 40 when I saw one of those brown signs that alert drivers to state parks and outdoor activities. I think this one said “natural attraction,” and probably something to let me know Meteor Crater was the attraction in question. I was not traveling under a deadline, so I decided to stop and see the sights.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_Crater,
Meteor Crater is a meteoriteimpact crater approximately 37 miles (60 km) east of Flagstaff and 18 miles (29 km) west of Winslow in the northern Arizona desert…Because the United States Board on Geographic Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of “Meteor Crater” from the nearby post office named Meteor. The site was formerly known as the Canyon Diablo Crater and fragments of the meteorite are officially called the Canyon Diablo Meteorite. Scientists refer to the crater as Barringer Crater in honor of Daniel Barringer, who was first to suggest that it was produced by meteorite impact. The crater is privately owned by the Barringer family through their Barringer Crater Company, which proclaims it to be the “best preserved meteorite crater on Earth”.
Despite its importance as a geological site, the crater is not protected as a national monument, a status that would require federal ownership. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.
Meteor Crater lies at an elevation of about 1,740 m (5,710 ft) above sea level. It is about 1,200 m (3,900 ft) in diameter, some 170 m deep (570 ft), and is surrounded by a rim that rises 45 m (148 ft) above the surrounding plains. The center of the crater is filled with 210–240 m (690–790 ft) of rubble lying above crater bedrock. One of the interesting features of the crater is its squared-off outline, believed to be caused by existing regional jointing (cracks) in the strata at the impact site.
After exiting I-40 (at exit 233, according to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/13081), I drove a few miles through the desert. As I drove, I saw several signs, each with a clever or funny message, like the one that opens this post. I became more excited as I drew closer to the attraction.
Because I’d done no research on the crater, I had no idea the attraction is privately owned. According to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/13081,
The Barringer family still owns the Crater, and has made a tidier profit as a tourist attraction than Daniel ever would have made from the meteorite.[Daniel Barringer, a mining engineer from Philadelphia, bought the crater in 1903 and spent 20+ years looking for the meteorite that made it.]
The Crater is such a big natural wonder that some people mistakenly believe it’s owned by the government, and are sometimes unhappy to discover that they have to pay retail price to see it. But, you know, the Barringers have sunk a lot of cash into this place. They built a six-mile-long paved road between it and the interstate, and a nice visitor’s center and museum, and even an elevator to take you to the rim if you don’t want to climb the stairs.
I’d figured there would be a price for admission, even if the attraction were owned by the government, and I was ready to pay it. I’m fully aware that many (most?) cool things to see in the U.S. have some sort of price tag attached. So I budgeted $10 to see the Meteor Crater. I don’t typically spend more than $5 on an activity, but I decided I’d splurge to see the crater.
I tucked a ten-dollar bill in my small travel purse, along with my camera and my lip balm, and walked into the visitors center. I got in line to pay my entrance fee, and looked up at the board listing admission prices. WHAT? $18 for adult admission? (The Meteor Crater website [http://meteorcrater.com/contact-us/] lists other admission fees as follows: Seniors (age 60 and older) $16.00; Juniors (age 6-17) $9.00; Non-Active Duty U.S Military/Veterans (with I.D.) $9.00; U.S. Military Youth (age 6-17) $5.00; Active U.S. Military (with I.D.) FREE.) Upon seeing I was expected to fork over $18 to see the crater, I turned right around and left. $18 was simply more than I could justify spending.
I get it. As the Roadside America.com article quoted above says, money’s been sunk into the place, paved road, visitor’s center and museum, elevator, etc., etc. However, $18 just seemed more than it was worth for the time I was going to spend there and the photos I was going to take and the information I was going to acquire.
I asked one of my Arizona friends if she’d ever been there. She said no. She said she’d waited in the car while her husband and daughter went in. When I asked her husband if it had been worth the $18 admission fee (plus the $9 he’d have paid for his daughter to get in), he had a hard time believing he would have paid that much to see the crater. He kept insisting they must have had a coupon. (Or maybe he’d just wanted to please his daughter and had swallowed hard and handed over the $27.)
In any case, while I would have liked to have seen the crater and learned more about it, I still don’t think the visit would have been worth the price of admission.
I took the photo at the top of this post.