An explosive story |

By Emily FitzPatrick, Jeff Carr, Museum of Idaho

We live in a sea of ​​volcanoes. The Craters of the Moon, Hell's Half Acre, Black Butte Crater, and Wapi Flow occupy much of eastern Idaho. Lava rocks envelop the landscape of some of our most significant historical sites, reminding us of past eruptions.

Washington Irving described the fields as an uneventful sight. “…nothing strikes the eye but a desolate and dreadful desolation…and where nothing is to be seen but lava.”

Lava fields can seem desolate at first glance, but anyone who has visited the craters of the moon knows that digging deeper reveals a host of fascinating domes, lava tubes and more. A day of hiking the black rock hills is not enough to grasp the natural labyrinth.

The geology of eastern Idaho is truly unique, for the same reason that Yellowstone National Park is unique: For most of the last 12 million years, Yellowstone lay entirely within Idaho. The hotspots and geysers that now dot America's oldest national park were formed by something called the Yellowstone hotspot—a particularly warm area just beneath the Earth's crust. Because tectonic plates slowly shift over time, hotspots stay in the same place. As our continent drifted toward its current position, the Yellowstone hotspot formed large parts of the eastern Snake River Plain. In fact, about 7 million years ago, the hotspot was directly beneath present-day Idaho Falls. So today, when digging foundations for new buildings, engineers in the city must look for remnants of lava rock in the ground—and sometimes blast them away with explosives. Check out the interactive exhibit about the hotspot at the Museum of Idaho.

Myth vs. Fact: Idaho Volcano Edition

In elementary school, you probably learned all about Yellowstone National Park and the National Park Service. In fact, you were probably even taught some lore that has been proven false over the years. Below, we debunk some common myths:

Myth: The supervolcano could erupt at any time and wipe Idaho off the planet.

Fact: Will the Yellowstone caldera erupt in our lifetime? Scientists have proven that this scenario is unlikely, although eruptions could occur in the next thousand years. Scientists from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho work together to continuously monitor volcanic and seismic activity. They can view their data on the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory website.

Myth: Volcanic activity has increased worldwide.

Fact: Due to recent volcanic activity in Hawaii and Iceland, many believe that volcanic activity is increasing, but we are simply more aware of these eruptions. The number of active volcanoes in the world remains at about eight to twelve.

For more informations

Museum of Idaho


Anna Harden

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