• Capulin Volcano National Monument by J. Unruh

    Capulin Volcano

    National Monument New Mexico

Volcano Formation

Volcano Diagram
Cinder cones are the simplest form of volcano.  They are built from particles and blobs of congealed lava ejected from a single vent.  As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders around the vent to form a circular or oval cone.  Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and rarely rise more than a thousand feet or so above their surroundings.
NPS L. Cartmell
 

Between 56,000 and 62,000 years ago, just yesterday on the clock of geologic time, the scene near Capulin would have been one of fire, ash, glowing lava, and ear-shattering explosions.

Capulin Volcano formed during the most recent period of activity in the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. The cone rises more than 1,000 feet above the plains to 8,182 feet above sea level and consists chiefly of loose cinders, ash, and other rock debris. These materials were ejected during successive eruptions and fell back upon the vent, piling up to form the conical mountain. The symmetry of Capulin Volcano was preserved because lava did not flow from the main crater but from secondary vents located at the western base of the cone.

Evidence of the other episodes of activity can be seen in nearly 100 nearby volcanic peaks and lava capped mesas. The largest of these volcanic peaks is the Sierra Grande, an extinct volcano rising some 2,200 feet above the surrounding plain, about 10 miles to the southeast. The largest lava flow is Johnson Mesa, 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, to the west of Capulin.

Did You Know?

Blue Grama

Capulin Volcano is a meeting place for the prairie of the Great Plains and the forests of the Rocky Mountains making it home to the state grass of New Mexico, Blue Grama grass, and the state tree, the Piñon pine.