Having lived in northern Arizona for many years before we became fulltime RVers, I was well familiar with Meteor Crater, located just off of Interstate 40 between Winslow and Flagstaff. We had a story about a visit there in an issue of the Gypsy Journal. But on a trip last summer across Texas, I was surprised to learn that there is also a meteor crater near Odessa.
Scientists estimate that the Odessa Crater, as well as four smaller craters not far away, were created over 60,000 years ago when a giant shower of thousands of meteorites hit the earth’s surface.
Meteorites are not uncommon. People see them streaking across the night sky all the time and we know them as falling stars. Most disintegrate before they ever make it to Earth. But while most meteorites are stony and resemble rocks, the ones that came down in a two square mile area near Odessa were composed of a nickel – iron mixture. These are extremely rare, making up only about 10% of all meteorites ever found.
Most of those meteorites were small and stayed on the surface, or else made shallow impact pits that were easy to overlook. But there were also several large ones that hit with such energy that they penetrated deep within the earth, creating craters. The biggest of those craters was about 550 feet in diameter and 100 feet deep. More than 100,000 cubic yards of rock and soil were displaced by the impact.
A rancher discovered the crater in 1892 but didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until the 1920s that people realized what this actually was and scientific studies began with teams from the University of Texas. They sank a 165 foot shaft through the center of the main crater, hoping to locate the meteorite, expecting it to be huge. But as it turned out, it was traveling at such a high rate of speed that it exploded on impact and much of it was vaporized. The largest piece of the Odessa Meteorite ever found weighs about 300 pounds.
Originally, the State of Texas granted the land where the crater is located to the Texas & Pacific Railroad back in the 1890’s. In 1979 the railroad donated the crater site to Ector County.
Today the crater site has a visitors center with a museum displaying meteorites and information about meteors and craters around the world. Over the years much of the crater has been filled in with sediment, so it is not nearly as large or as impressive as the meteor impact site in Arizona. But it’s still well worth the trip the next time you are in the area.
The crater is located at 3100 Meteor Crater Road, five miles west of Odessa, just off Interstate 20. Take Exit 108 and drive two miles south on Meteor Crater Road. Besides the visitors center and museum, there are restrooms and a picnic area. The parking lot has designated bus/RV parking. The site is open Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. and admission is free. For more information, call (432) 381-0946.
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Thought For The Day – To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little. To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all. – Helen Rowland