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What Is Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument?

President Hoover made the Sunset Crater Volcano area a national monument in 1930.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a national monument found in a national park in the northern region of Arizona in the United States (US). The monument itself is a fairly large volcanic crater, and the surrounding region shows the destruction to the terrain caused by the eruption of the volcano. It is one of many major tourist attractions in that particular region of the state, with a relatively close proximity to the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, and Meteor Crater. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is operated and protected by the National Park Service of the US Department of the Interior.

The area around Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument was blasted by the explosive force of the volcanic eruption that formed the crater sometime between about 1040 AD and 1100 AD. Though the eruption was around 900 years ago, the area around the crater still reflects the devastation caused by the explosion. It is estimated, based on observations from modern volcanic eruptions similar to the one that formed the crater, that a fountain of molten rock and gas sprayed up more than 800 feet (about 244 m) high as the volcano erupted, and the ash plume likely rose several miles (about 4 km) into the air before falling over a region of about 64,000 acres (about 25,900 hectares). It is one of hundreds of volcanoes that formed the San Francisco Peaks mountain range that runs throughout northern Arizona.

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In 1929, a film production for a movie called Avalanche wanted to use dynamite on the crater to create a landslide for a scene in the movie. Public protest, however, stopped the filmmakers from doing so, and in 1930 President Herbert Hoover officially sanctioned the area as a protected national monument. The area was originally named Sunset Crater National Monument, but was changed to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in 1990.

Since 1930, the area has been a federally governed and protected national park and was even used in the 1960s by astronauts training for missions on the moon. The rocky terrain acted as a simulation for the moon’s surface. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is open to the public 364 days a year, closed on the 25th of December, from morning until about dusk. There is a per person charge and a hiking trail around the base of the crater, though hiking up to the cone of the crater itself is not permitted after extensive damage to the crater from hikers was found in the 1970s. More information about costs and features can be gained by contacting the National Park Service.

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