Odessa Meteor Crater

Texas > Odessa Meteor Crater

Around 30 meteoric impact craters have been identified in the US, the majority not easily visible, either as the site is buried beneath sediment, or because the diameter is too large (up to 37 miles) but the relief is very low. By far the most famous and spectacular example is the privately-owned Barringer Meteor Crater near Winslow in Arizona; all others are much less known. Texas has two surface craters - one south of Fort Stockton (Sierra Madera), where quite a large central peak rises 240 feet above the 8 mile diameter rim, and the other just southwest of Odessa, close to interstate 20. Despite the proximity to the city, the Odessa Meteor Crater was discovered fairly recently (in the 1920s), since it is not obvious; although 100 feet deep when it was formed by a nickel-iron meteorite approximately 64,000 years ago, the crater has been filled to within less than ten feet of the neighboring flat land, and the low, circular rim rises just a few feet more. The site is rather overgrown with grass and bushes, and there isn't really a lot to see, so for non-astrolithologists the place is probably not worth a diversion. Nevertheless, the crater was made a National Natural Landmark in 1965, charges no fee for entry, and has a good visitor center with a picnic area and short loop trail.


The Odessa Meteor Crater is reached by driving 2 miles along a side road (FM 1936) south of I-20 exit 108, over some railroad tracks then across level scrubland used, like most of the surroundings for many miles, for oil and gas drilling - past the crater turn-off, the road continues southwards through a gate and into private land of the South Cowden Oil Field. The north side of the crater is overlooked by the staffed visitor center and museum (open 9 am to 6 pm), from where a quarter mile path crosses the center and returns along the western rim, passing such features as exploratory trenches (excavated between 1939 and 1941), overgrown limestone strata pushed up by the meteor 50 feet above their normal level, powdered rock resulting from the impact, a capped 165 foot shaft dug by misguided early geologists looking for the buried meteor, and a small satellite crater, also discovered quite recently, using a magnetometer. In fact the land nearby has several other craters, even less obvious, all resulting from the same octahedrite meteor shower. Although the area is of great importance, the filling by sediment has left the crater barely recognizable, and the various excavations over recent years have interrupted what little symmetry remained. Nearby construction, including oil pumpjacks, picnic shelters, fences and railings, also intrudes on the scene. Not too many people seem to visit, despite the nearby interstate highway.


A few miles northeast, Odessa has a good selection of hotels.

Highlights: A large meteor crater, 600 feet wide, though the hole is almost completely filled in, and overgrown. A National Natural Landmark, with a good visitor center; the place is free to enter and quick to view
Nearest city with hotels: Odessa, 10 miles
Management: Ector County, Texas
Location: 31.756, -102.479
Seasons: All Year
Flowering bush
Nearby places Similar places

Monahans Sandhills State Park (25 miles) - scenic dunes of golden white sand
Nearby places Similar places

Meteor Crater, Arizona - the world's best known meteor crater

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah - circular sandstone formation thought to result from meteoric impact


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