Meteorite Crater – Duckwater, Nevada - Atlas Obscura

Meteorite Crater

Duckwater, Nevada

Despite the name, it's unclear if this small depression in northern Nye County was actually caused by falling space debris. 


A 1951 article in Popular Astronomy suggested that this enigmatic depression might be a meteorite crater, and a report of a local Native American legend about “a ball of fire rushing from the sky” lent some support. The feature has even given its name (“Meteorite Crater”) to the USGS 7.5’ topographic quadrangle map. However, the feature is not mentioned in the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 99A on the geology of northern Nye County.

The depression has been partly filled in with sediment, which could have concealed evidence of its origin. However, no magnetic material has been found in the sediment, and no magnetic anomaly is associated with the depression. The crater has no obvious raised rim, either, which is typical of a high-velocity impact. Of course, an impacting object might be iron-poor and have relatively low velocity due to atmospheric braking.

One obvious alternative interpretation is a limestone sinkhole, as there is limestone bedrock in the vicinity. Resolving the origin definitely would require considerably more expensive investigation, such as by drilling.


Know Before You Go

The crater is reached on unimproved dirt roads off US-6 in northern Nye County. At a junction at 38.614269 N, 115.680802 W on US 6, 14.9 miles west of the junction of State Route 379 at Duckwater, turn north. Go 2.6 miles to an intersection at 38.644106, 115.710457 W, where you make a shallow right. In less than 100 yards a road will make a shallow left; do NOT turn there but keep going straight. In about 5.9 miles you will reach a junction (38.720921 N, 115.665954 W) where an unimproved track goes to the left. Turn left here and proceed 0.6 miles; the crater will show up on the right. The location of the crater is roughly 38.720019 N, 115.677197 W. These roads will require high clearance and 4wd will be desirable, particularly on the last stretch to the crater. Google Maps labels the feature as "Meteorite Crater", presumably following the USGS quadrangle map.

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August 11, 2022

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