panoramic image of crater lake with snow

NPS photo

A volcanic crater is the circular surface depression caused by volcanic activity, usually on the summit or flank of a volcano. Craters are built by the accumulation of lava and pyroclastic material around an open vent or pipe, or explosive ejection of lava and pyroclastics from a volcano.

Fissures may erupt from the walls or base of craters. During periods of volcanic activity, the crater floor can be a molten, seething lake of liquid lava. Mark Twain described the Kilauea crater in this way in the late 1800s.

Craters may naturally fill with water, creating a crater lake. Some crater lakes can have high temperatures and be acidic, due to continued volcanic activity.

Volcanism in Parks—Craters

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

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Hawaii Volcanoes has many features related to Kilauea, the world's most active volcano. The landscape of the park has many craters, including Halemaumau Crater, which is a large crater inside the Kilauea Caldera. Some Hawaiians believe Pele, the goddess of fire, lives inside Halemaumau.

There are active fumaroles in the crater, and sulfur deposits on its floor and walls.

Along the Chain of Craters Road in the park, many other craters are seen along the Rift Zone. Pu'u Pua'i is a pit crater near Devastation Trail.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

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Part of a series of articles titled Volcanic Features and Landforms.

Last updated: June 12, 2018