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San Francisco volcanic field


San Francisco volcanic field

USGS Digital elevation model of the San Francisco volcanic field
SP Crater in the field is a cinder cone with a basalt lava flow that extends for 4 miles (6 km).

The San Francisco volcanic field is an area of volcanoes in northern Arizona, north of Flagstaff, USA. The field covers 1,800 square miles (4,700 km²) of the southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau. The field contains 600 volcanoes ranging in age from nearly 6 million years old to less than 1,000 years (Miocene to Holocene), of which Sunset Crater is the youngest.[1] The highest peak in the field is Humphreys Peak, at Flagstaff's northern perimeter: the peak is Arizona's highest at 12,633 feet (3,851 m) and is a part of the San Francisco Peaks, an extinct stratovolcano complex.


  • Description 1
  • Visitation and usage 2
  • Notable vents 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The volcanic field seems to have formed from a geological hotspot, a hot area in the mantle. As the North American plate moves over the spot, new volcanoes appear. Thus, the newest volcanoes are at the east side of the field. Most of the volcanoes are basalt cinder cones, but there are also large lava domes consisting of rhyolite and dacite.

Given that Sunset Crater is such a young volcanic feature of this area and that eruptions have occurred every several thousands of years in frequency, it is likely that there will be a future eruption in the San Francisco Volcanic field. However, it is impossible to predict when and exactly where a new eruption might occur. The United States Geological Survey does say that a future eruption would likely be in the eastern side of the volcanic field, where the most recent volcanic activity has occurred. Such an eruption is likely to be small and pose little hazard due to the remoteness of the area.

Visitation and usage

Popular tourist and hiking destinations in the volcanic field include the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness, 20 miles northwest of Flagstaff; and Sunset Crater, which is particularly popular because it is easily accessible and has interesting horizontal lava flows at the base of the crater.

Areas of the volcanic field have been used by NASA for testing techniques for exploration in a simulated extraterrestrial terrain environment.[2] NASA has also conducted the Desert Research and Technology Studies (DRATS) tests here.

Notable vents

Black Point lava flow in the San Francisco volcanic field. Little Colorado River at lower right. Astronaut photo from the International Space Station, 2009.
Name Elevation Location Last eruption
meters feet Coordinates
Bill Williams Mountain[3] 2,821 9,256 - 2.8 million years ago
Crater 160[4] 1,900 6,232 -
Double Crater[5] 2,426 7,959 -
Kendrick Peak[3] 3,175 10,418 - 1.4 million years ago
O'Leary Peak[3] 2,718 8,916 Pleistocene
San Francisco Peaks 3,851 12,633 -
Mount Elden 2,835 9,300 -
Sitgreaves Mountain[3] - - - 1.9 million years ago
SP Crater (SP Mountain)[6] 2,140 7,021 71,000 years ago
Strawberry Crater -
Sunset Crater[3][7] 2,446 8,026 950 ± 40 years
Sugarloaf[3] - - - 220,000 years ago

See also


  1. ^ Holm, R. F., and Moore, R. B., Holocene scoria cone and lava flows at Sunset Crater, northern Arizona, Geological Society of America Centennial Field Guide, 1987. pp. 393-7.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f Wood, Charles A.; Jűrgen Kienle (1993). Volcanoes of North America.  
  4. ^ "Crater 160, Arizona". Volcano World. Retrieved 7 May 2007. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "SP Mountain, Arizona". Volcano World. Retrieved 7 May 2007. 
  7. ^ "Sunset Crater". Global Volcanism Program.  
  • USGS fact sheet about the San Francisco volcanic field

External links

  • Satellite view of San Francisco Volcanic Field
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