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Barringer Crater

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Meteor Crater

Barringer Crater is a very big crater formed 50,000 years ago by the impact of a meteor. It was the Site of Rimmy Jim's Trading Post, and has the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory, but the best sight is the Barringer Crater itself.

Meteor Crater AZ

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About Barringer Crater, Arizona

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation 5,400 ft (1.647 m). Population n⁄a (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) no DST⁄ PDT (UTC-7).

Barringer Crater or Meteor Crater is a natural landmark near US Route 66 (just 5.8 miles south of I-40's Exit 233) in Coconino County, in the central part of Arizona. See a Map of Barringer Crater.

Barringer Crater seen from the air

Barringer Crater seen from the air
On Route 66: the Barringer meteor impact crater, seen from the air, Barringer Crater, Arizona.

For the early history of Barringer Crater, please see the History of Winslow, located very close to the Crater.

The old wagon trail that linked Winslow with Flagstaff was surveyed in the early 1880s, and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which later became part of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF) built a railroad through this barren region. The tracks are located to the north of what would later become "Meteor Crater".

A station named Sunshine was built about 1 mile north of I-40's Exit 233, and 6 miles to the northwest was the town of Canyon Diablo, now a ghost town. Further north lay the land of the Hopi and Navajo Reservations.

The Name: Barringer Crater

The place is named after the nearby meteorite impact crater (Barringer Crater) which was named after Daniel Barringer who suggested its meteoric origin when most believed it to be an extinct volcano.

When Route 66 was created in 1926 it was aligned through the area along the National Old Trails highway. The road was realigned later in the 1940s. During the 1970s, the freeway (I-40) was built and it included an exit that provides easy access to the Crater.

Where to Stay

There is no lodging on Route 66 in Barringer Crater other than the RV Camp, but you can find hotels nearby in Twin Arrows and Winslow

>> Book your Hotels in neighboring Winslow or Twin Arrows.

Lodging Near Barringer Crater along Route 66

Heading East.... In Arizona

East... In New Mexico

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Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> There is a RV campground in Barringer Crater

Weather in Barringer Crater

Weather widget for Winslow, the town nearest Barringer Crater

Latest Winslow, Arizona, weather
Route 66 location map of Barringer Crater, AZ
Location of Barringer Crater on Route 66

The climate of Barringer Crater is dry, temperate and arid. Relative air humidity is low and this leads to wide variations beween night and day temperatures all through the year, causing hot dry summer days but cool summer nights and cold winter ones.

During summer (Jul), the average high temperature is around 94.5°F (34.7°C) and the average low is 61.9 °F (16.6°C). In winter the average high (Jan) is 49.5°F (9.7°C) and the average low is about 20.8°F (-6.2°C), well below freezing pont.

As expected for an arid area, rainfall is scarce: 6.99 inches (178 mm) yearly and about half of it falls from July to September (3.1 in. - 79 mm). Snowfall is also light, with only 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) per year, between Oct. and April.

It is sunny in Barringer Crater, only 53 days per year are days with precipitation.

Tornado risk

There is almost zero tornado risk in Barringer Crater: Coconino County has no Tornado watches. The area west of the Rocky Mountains has virtually no tornado events at all.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Getting to Barringer Crater

To the east past the "ghost towns" of Meteor City and Leupp Corner is the town of Winslow followed by Joseph City and Holbrook. Head west to Winona and Flagstaff and stop to visit Twin Guns and Two Arrows.

Map of Route 66 through Barringer Crater Arizona

Static Map showing Route 66 alignment through Barringer Crater, AZ

Map of US 66 in Barringer Crater AZ
Map showing Route 66 in Barringer Crater, AZ, by

Display Barringer Crater Route 66 Map


  Click Map will appear below
 

The map above shows several alignments through Barringer Crater, the color key For Barringer Crater only is the following:
(for the other parts of the map, check the color key of the map of the corresponding city)

Pale Blue: Driveable 1926 to 1950s Route 66 alignment.
Blue and Green are other 1930s-40s alignments.
Black segments that can be walked or seen, but cannot be driven any longer. Other segments which are not shown are beneath the roadbed of I-40.

Google Maps. Terms. Nicolas Mollet, CC BY SA 3.0 License

Route 66's alignment in Arizona: Barringer Crater

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across Arizona

Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Arizona.

Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Arizona.

Below is more information on the Route 66's alignment which was routed just north of the Meteor Crater.

Barringer Crater, Arizona, its Sights and Attractions

Things to Do and Places to See

A Meteor Impact Crater

Barringer Crater or Meteor Crater is an amazing natural landmark just south of US 66; it has a Visitor Center and, closer to Route 66 an RV camp and service station.

Historic context, the classic Route 66

When Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 he detailed the attractions along Route 66, which included Leupp Corner and Meteor City". He mentions how the road wound across the hilly contryside and, 3 miles west of Meteor City, the Meteor Crater Observatory, which he noted as "Admission is free, and a stock of curios for sale". Just one mile west was Rimmy Jim's Service Station which had cabins built to look like Navajo hogans, lunchroom and gasoline. You could buy tickets to visit the crater for 25 cents per person (now it costs $18, that is inflation for you). Further west, 4 mi from Rimmy Jim's was Two Guns.

Sights

Head south from I-40s Exit 233 along Meteor Crater Road and after 0.4 mi. you will reach the junction with Old Route 66, which has an east to west course. To the right is the RV campground and service station. Notice the dome shaped shop, evoking the now closed Meteor City Trading Post.

Meteor Crater Observatory

Take a left to visit the Meteor Crater Observatory, 0.6 mile towards the east along Old Route 66. (See Map with directions).

The street view of the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory nowadays:

view of the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory nowadays, Route 66 Barringer Crater, AZ
street view of the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory by Darrell Fulwilder by Darrell Fullwilder
Click on image for full Street View

Looking at the remains of the building, it is hard to imagine that it once looked like a castle. The postcard below is a view of the Meteor Crater Observatory, west of Winslow. It was printed in the 1940s.

A 1940s postcard of the Meteor Crater Observatory on Route 66, Barringer Crater, AZ
A 1940s postcard of the Meteor Crater Observatory near Barringer Crater.
James R. Powell Route 66 Collection
Dr. H.H. (Harvey Harlow) Nininger

Dr. H. H. Nininger (1887 - 1986) was a meteorite hunter and expert in all things relating to meteorites.

Nininger curated the museum he had founded. He also assisted in the investigation of the alleged Roswell "UFO crash".

The rock building that resembled a castle was built by Harry and Hope Locke around 1935 with sandstone rock bricks. Although Harry died during construction, his widow opened the observatory in the late 1930s. But it was not the best time, the Great Depression still hurt business, and World War II killed tourism until 1945. So the observatory closed after a few years.

It reopened in 1946 when Dr. Harvey H. Nininger leased the building and used it for a museum, workplace, laboratory and home.

The crater is located 6 miles south of the observatory. The visitors driving along Route 66 would stop at the observatory and take a peek at the crater through a telescope.

It was known as the American Meteorite Museum and was the first privately owned meteorite museum in the world, and of course it exhibited meteorite fragments. The "castle" closed in 1953 and the Museum relocated to Sedona, Arizona, 1953-60.

The building began to fall apart, and now only a few walls remain standing.

Rimmy Jim's Trading Post

Now gone

Rimmy

The origin of Rimmy Jim's nickname is uncertain. There are two theories, one, is that he lived near the "rim" of the crater, the other that he was a "rimmy" cowboy who rode a "Rim-fire" or double-cinch saddle, common in Texas, where he was born.

On the north side of I-40 right at the Exit 233, westbound.

James ("Rimmy Jim") Giddings was born in Cleburne TX in 1873 and died in Winslow, AZ, 1943. He moved to Arizona around 1908 and never got married. He opened his trading post in 1928 shortly after Route 66 was created.

He was quite a character and his store was decorated with signs and cartoons indicating that he disliked salesmen.

Salesmen were not welcome

One sign depicted a sturdy man (Rimmy) with a shovel in his hand walking away from a grave. The caption states: 'Stay from behind this counter - "When I tell'em to stay from behind my counters I mean it."', and the tomb stone declares: "Here lies the man wh had no fear. He went behind Rimmy's counter for a bottle of beer", the foot of the poster says "Rimmy has started his own grave yard. 40 miles east of Flagstaff, Ariz."

Another poster drawn like a cartoon showed Rimmy's face and several salesmen: it stated 'Meet "Rimmy Jim" the only man in the world that loves a salesman, God help the poor salesman on his first visit at Rimmys. Salesmen's time -5- minutes. The salesman who hung around too long "He's dead".'.

This photograph shows a view of the store and a "coffin" painted on its wall, the caption is "For all salesmen: free beheading and coffin fitting by courtesy of Rimmy Jim's Trading Post. Highway 66", 1930s photo of Rimmy Jim's.

His succinct obituary published in the Arizona Champion ⁄ Coconino Sun (Flagstaff, Arizona) read: "Past 15 years owned the Meteor Crater Junction service station,40 miles east of Flagstaff.".

But the store survived him and is said to have burned around 1969, it was located on the later 1947 alignment of Route 66. No traces remain of the original building.

Some mistakenly attribute the Two Guns tower "Fort" and Canyon Lodge as being the original 1926 site of "Rimmy Jim's", but it was not his, it belonged to Harry E. (Indian) Miller.

"Rimmy Jim's" Service Station in 1950s and nowadays (gone) Route 66

Rimmy Jim's trading post and service station at Barringer Crater 1950s and now
On Route 66: Rimmy Jim's trading post and service station at Barringer Crater in 1950s and now, Barringer Crater, Arizona
Click on image for Street View

The mountains on the horizon, the nearby ridge and the sandstone formations close by clearly identify this as the location of the old service station and trading post. But nothing remains of it.

The Meteor Crater: Barringer Crater

From I-40 Exit 233, head 5.8 mi. south along Meteor Crater Rd. until you reach the Visitor Center next to the north rim of the crater.

U.S. National Natural Landmark

The crater was considered the most mysterious geologic feature in the West . Originally it was named "Crater Mound" and "Coon Butte".

From afar it looks like a low ridge, but this is the ridge formed by the rim of the crater, which is a circular depression about 4,000 ft. in diameter.

The crater is well visible because it is located in a very arid region, a desert, devoid of vegetation. Although it was more humid in the past, its dry conditions have preserved the crater fairly well.

Erosion has not degraded the crater but the flat floor inside the crater is due to lake sediments that settled there during a wetter period. The rubble from the rim has fallen into the crater forming "Talus cones" (a mantle of debris below the outcrop broken off by weathering and erosion).

Volcano or Meteor?

Evidence of the Meteoric Impact

The impact thrust the sandstone upwards and outwards so that it fell on the deformed rim (which had been pushed up). You can see the uppermost layer of white colored Coconino sandstone (265 million years old) the "ejecta" lying on top of the red Triassic sandstone that forms the upper layer of the terrain (245 million years old)

This inverted stratigraphy has the layers of rocks stacked in the reverse order to which they normally occur. So the older white rock overlies the younger red rock, indicating that it was formed by an impact.

In 1891 Albert E. Foote wrote the first paper suggesting its meteoric impact origin. He gathered over 600 lb. of tiny fragments of meteoric iron as proof. The following year Grove Karl Gilbert, the chief geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey lectured about its volcanic origin. He believed that a steam explosion had caused the crater and that the lack of magnetic anomalies were proof that no large iron body was buried under the crater. At that time the impact mechanics of meteors was not well known, and that is why Gilbert overlooked the fact that most of the meteorite was vaporized upon impact and therefore there was little iron left in the crater.

Daniel Moreau Barringer (1860 - 1929) was a wealthy businessman who had made a fortune with silver mining in Arizona and he believed that there was plenty of iron to be mined at the crater.

He organized the Standard Iron Company and staked a mining claim on 640 acres (259 ha.) surrounding the crater in 1903. He lobbied to have a post office, which opened in Meteor, Arizona in 1906.

He championed the meteoric origin and wrote a paper with Benjamin Chew Tilghman in 1906 which was published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

George Perkins Merrill supported the meteor impact ("The Meteor crater of Canyon Diablo, Arizona its history, origin and associated meteoric irons", 1908) as did Herman L. Fairchild ("Origin of meteor crater (Coon butte), Arizona", 1907).

Trivia

A small lunar crater on the far side of the Moon is named after Daniel Barringer.

But Barringer never found any large lump of iron (he expected to find ten million tons of it), so skepticism on the meteoric origin of the crater prevailed.

Ninninger (who ran the nearby Meteor Observatory) discoverd particles formed by the fusion of local rocks that contained magnetite spheroids with cobalt and nickel these particles of glass slag were named impactites and clearly could not have been produced by a volcano, only by a meteorite.

But total proof would have to wait until 1959 when Eugene Merle Shoemaker (1928-1997) confirmed Barringer's hypothesis in his Ph.D. Thesis

More Crater Trivia

After Shoemaker's death, the Lunar Prospector space probe carried his ashes to the Moon, and he is the only person buried there.

Shoemaker's proof was the presence of two very rare forms of silica which are created under extreme pressure for very short period of times, like those encountered in a meteor impact event. No volcano can produce these forces.

From Iron Mine to attraction

Barringer's company spent over $600,000 on the mine and found nothing. He passed away in 1929 and the mining operations ceased. His wife and children formed the Barringer Crater Company and have operated it to this day.

The Crater in figures
  • Diameter: 0.737 miles (1.186 m).
  • Depth: 560 feet (170 m)
  • Rim rise: 148 feet (45 m)
  • Meteor diameter: 160 feet (50 m)
  • Meteor type: iron meteorite
  • Mass: 300,000 tons.
  • Impact speed: 28,600 mph (12.8 m⁄s)
  • Impact energy: 10 megatons
  • Rubble layer thickness: 690 - 790 ft. (210 - 240 m) above the bedrock
The crater's name: Meteor Crater

The United States Board on Geographic Names assigns the names of natural features based on the nearest post office. So, as the nearest post office was the one located in the now defunct town of Canyon Diablo, the crater was known as Canyon Diablo Crater, and some iron fragments recovered from the impact are known as "Canyon Diablo Meteorite".

Later the Meteor post office opened next to the crater and it was renamed as "Meteor Crater". The scientific community knows it as "Barringer Crater" after Daniel Barringer who was the first to suggest its meteoric origin.

Visiting the Crater

It is a privately owned landmark despite being designated as a National Natural Landmark, it is not a National Monument (which would need it to be owned by the Federal government).

There is an admission fee charged to see the crater, and the Meteor Crater Visitor Center located on the north rim has interactive exhibits and displays, including the American Astron aut Wall of Fame, a part of an Apollo craft and the largest piece of the meteorite.

There is a gift shop, three lookout points and guided tours too. Give yourself around 1.5 hours for the Discovery Center and at least 1 hour for the guided rim trail tour.

Visit the website: http://meteorcrater.com/ for more information.

Walk all around the rim of the Brringer Meteor Crater

Google view from the Rim of Meteor Crater near Route 66, Barringer Crater, AZ
View from the rim of Barringe CraterGoogle
Click on image for an Interactive walk along the whole rim

NASA astronauts trained in the crater during the 1960s preparing for the Apollo Moon missions

The largest fragment yet discovered of the meteorite that impacted here is the Holsinger meteorite, you can see it and touch it at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center.

On meteor impacts

The impact of Barringer's Meteorite

This meteorite struck the ground about 50,000 years ago and ejected 175 million tonnes of rock creating this "Meteor Crater".

The iron bolid was about 100 to 164 ft in diameter (30 to 50 m) and it caused some significant local damage.

At that time there were no people in America, the first humans reached the New World some 20,000 years ago, but there were plenty of animals in the area.

There was a juniper-pinyon forest in what is now a desert, and megafaunal mammals lived there (mammoths, camels, tapirs, horses and giant ground sloths).

The impact zone would have experienced a 20 to 40 megaton bast -equivalent to 1,300 to 2,700 bombs the size of the one that razed Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

The impact ejected red hot rocks and molten meteorite fragments over 1 mile from ground zero (1 to 2 km), all animals in that area would have been vaporized.

The shock wave would have blasted the air outwards at an explosive sub-sonic speed (620 miles per hour, 1.000 km⁄h) killing all animals and flatenning trees to a distance of about 10 miles (16 km). Rocks and branches moving in the shock wave could have injured animals up to 15 miles (24 km) away.

The dust cloud and the smoke from the burning woodland would have had a regional impact, but did not affect the global climate or cause extinctions. Rain and snow melt filled the depression with a during the subsequent Ice Ages, when the climate was more humid.

The NASA and its Near Earth Object Program

Meteorites are mostly harmless, thousands of tonnes of meteor dust falls on the surface of the Earth each year. Some meteorites reach the surface but are seldom noticed as they are mostly small.

But on occasions larger bodies strike our planet and gouge out large craters like Barringer Crater, or even bigger. Their consequences depend on their size...

Collision size and frequency
  • 13 ft. (4 m) meteorites strike Earth once a year.
  • 23 ft. (7 m) meteorites impact Earth every 5 years.
  • 164 ft. (50 m) bodies collide once every thousand years.
  • 0.6 mi (1 km) bodies hit the Earth every 500,000 years.
  • 3.0 mi (5 km) asteroids hit us every 20 million years.
  • 6.0 mi (10 km) asteroids at least every 66 million years.

The Chicxulub crater in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico caused the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction (which wiped out the dinosaurs) 66 million years ago. The crater is over 110 mi (180 km) in diameter and 12 mi (20 km) deep. It was formed when a 6 mi. (10 km) body crashed into the Earth.

The Tunguska meteor that exploded in mid-air over the forests in Siberia in 1908, was about 200 to 620 ft. wide ( 61 to 190 m) and had the kick of 1,000 to 2,000 atomic bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima. It fellled over 80 million trees covering an area of 830 sq. mi. (2,150 km2).

With this in mind, the NASA keeps an eye on asteroids and comets that many move close to the Earth's neighborhood, they are Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). The largest known NEO is 1036 Ganymed with a 19.7 mi. diameter (31.7 km).

Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite

There are many bodies that orbit around the Sun: the planets, their moons, the asteroids, comets and also, smallers chunks of rock known as "meteoroids".

Most of the meteoroids are formed from the remains of ancient comets, the dust and rock that was embedded in the comets ice are released after each successive close encounter with the Sun. Other meteoroids are formed by the collisions between asteroids, which generate small fragments. Some are even ejected into space from Mars when large meteorites impact the Martian surface.

These meteoroids are mostly small and the gravity of the planets and Sun tug them about so that their orbits are modified in such a way that they intersect the Earth's orbit, colliding with our planet.

Most of them are small pebbles or tiny boulders. They enter the Earth's atmosphere at high speed and the friction with its gases heat it and vaporize it. These are known as "meteors", and we can see them burning upon entry as "shooting stars".

Some meteors are large enough to survive burn up and impact the Earth's surface, these are known as "meteorites".

Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Head east and visit Meteor City, Winslow, Holbrook, Houck and Lupton. Go west and visit Two Guns, Twin Arrows, Winona and Flagstaff.

The area around Barringer Crater

Heading west from Barringer Crater the road climbs into the Arizona Plateau, a table-land which will rise all the way to Flagstaff.

To the west you can see the snow capped summits of volcanic San Francisco Peaks around Flagstaff. These are relatively young volcanoes (6-million-years-old) and the highest one is Humphreys Peak which is the highest point in the state of Arizona (12,633 ft - 3.853 m).

The Alignment of Old Route 66 near Barringer Crater

route 66 shield Arizona
Leaving Winslow

Leave central Winslow and head West along West 3rd St. (Map: Leaving downtown Winslow), at the junction with Old W Hwy 66 you have two options:

  • 1926 road: Head west along the 1926 alignment until it reaches a dead end just south of I-40. (1926 alignment map).
  • later road: keep along W 3rd St. to its end, just past Exit 252 of I-40. (Later alignment).

Both options end on the south side of I-40 and their roadbeds further west are under the freeway, but you can meet them further west on the north side of I-40, so head there crossing to the North Frontage Rd. at Exit 252 and head west.

There is a segment 1.3 miles long shown in Map of Route 66 just west of Winslow.

To Leupp Corner

This segment also ends in a dead end, making it necessary to backtrack and get on I-40 at Exit 252 and head west along it until Exit 245, where you can go to the North Frontage Rd. again and head west along Route 66 (AZ-99). This segment passes by Leupp Corner.

1926 - 1935

The road continued further west and heads along the Red Gap Ranch. This segment passes Exit 239 and (this is the 1926 alignment) it ends in a dead end on the east side of the railroad tracks after 8.1 miles. ( see a photograph of the dead end here). By clicking you will leave our Website. Come back soon!

This is the Map alignment through Leupp Corner.

Where the dead end is now located, the old road crossed the tracks and headed towards what is now the south of I-40; the road then arches in a wide curve further south and then back again towards I-40, crossing a creek and what is now I-40 at the Westbound Rest Area. You cannot drive this segment, but you can still see the old roadbed in many places south of I-40. This alignment is shown in the image below:

Route 66 alignment near Meteor City and Barringer Crater
Route 66 alignment close to Meteor Crater and Meteor City, Arizona
by A. Whittall
Meteor City on the Later 1940s - 1969 alignment

The road took another course after it was paved in 1935, at the point where modern I-40s Exit 239 is located, the road veered towards the south, passing in front of Meteor City trading Post and keeping west south of what is now I-40, across Cow Wash, the railway and then heading north into what today is the Rest Stop West, merging with the previous alignment.

This is the Map of the 1940s road through Meteor City; the western part of the road cannot be driven as it is cut by the tracks and I-40.

Both alignments by Barringer Crater

The late 1940s alignment is now covered by the roadbed of I-40 between the Westbound Rest Area and Two Guns, but the older aligment used until the mid 1940s can still be driven; but to do so you must reach it via Exit 233 on I-40 and head south for 0.4 mi. till reaching "Old Route 66" by the RV campground. Options:

  • Go East: Take a left and drive all the way to the end of the segment, which is beside the of the Eastbound Rest Area of I-40. Actually the old road is now interrupted by the rest area and I-40, as it came from the north side of I-40 (now the Westbound Rest Area). This is a 1.6 mile long segment. This is its Map.
  • Go West: Take a right and drive straight to the next Exit of I-40 (Exit 230) at Two Guns 5.4 miles away. This is the Map.

These two options are also shown in the map above

> > See the previous segment Joseph City to Winslow

> > This segment Winslow to Winona

> > See the next segment Flagstaff to Winona

National and State Parks

There are two parks which are relatively close to Meteor Crater: the Petrified Forest National Park and the Homolovi State Park.

To the west, near Flagstaff there are even more parks, such as the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument and Slide Rock State Park, among others.

Sources

NASA Near Earth Object Program

Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), International Astronomical Union (IAU)

Barringer Meteor Crater and Its Environmental Effects David A. Kring and Jake Bailey

Shoemaker E. M., (1959) Impact mechanics at Meteor Crater, Arizona, (Ph.D. Thesis) Princeton University

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api.

Will Croft Barnes, Arizona Place Names, University of Arizona Press, 1988.

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.