Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater
ABOUT THE CRATER
The walls of the crater stand up to 35 metres high and the crater floor is more than 50 metres below the rim. The crater is thought to have been up to 120 metres deep, but wind blown sands have slowly filled the crater floor so that is now only 20 metres below the level of the surrounding plain.
The floor of the crater is flat and largely sand covered. The central area is made of porous gypsum and is pierced by a number of sink holes. These sink holes lie along two intersecting lines reflecting the position of stress fractures formed by the impact of the meteroite.
WHERE IS THE METEORITE NOW?
Travelling at 15 kilometres per second and weighing more than 50,000 tonne battleship, the meteorite punched a large hole in the ground, pulverising the underlying rocks. On impact the explosion scattered the few remaining fragments of the meteorite. They have been found about four kilometres from the crater.
PLANTS AND ANIMALS
Wolfe Creek crater is located on the margin of the Tanami Desert. The plants and animals found here have adapted to survive the dry conditions and extreme variability in rainfall. Many of the plants such as spinifex grasses, hakeas and grevilleas have needle-like or narrow leathery leaves. The low surface to volume ratio minimises moisture loss.
The central area of the crater collects rain and sediments. Evaporation concentrates the salts in the water. Only salt tolerant plants such as salt wattle (Acacia ampliceps) and the roly-poly (Salsola kali) grow there. The moisture loving paperbark (Melaleuca lasiandra) grows at the edge of the saline area.
Many birds of the arid areas are nomadic moving to where food and water are available. Honey eaters are attracted to the nectar rich flowers of grevilleras and hakeas. Major Mitchell cockatoos come to feed on the seeds of the salt wattle growing on the crater floor.
An information shelter, table and toilets are located at the carpark.
Camping is permitted only at the designated camping area. Use gas stoves for cooking. Fires are not permitted as wood is scarce and is essential for wildlife habitat. There is no water supplied in the reserve; bring sufficient water for your needs. Please take your rubbish with you as there is no rubbish collection facility.
Pets are not allowed in the reserve.
The 400 metre return walk to the top of the crater rim involves a steep, rocky climb.
This spectacular meteorite crater, measuring 850 metres across, is the second largest in the world from which fragments of a meterorite have been collected. The largest crater in the world is Meteor Crater in Arizona. The Wolfe Creek crater formed about 300,000 years ago when an iron meterorite weighing thousands of tonnes crashed to earth. It was not until 1947 that Europeans recognised the crater when it was observed by geologists during an aerial survey. Jaru and Walmajarri Aboriginal people call the crater Gandimalal and have known of its existence for thousands of years. A Jaru story tells of two rainbow snakes moving across the land to form Jurabalarn (Sturt Creek) and Ngurriny (Wolfe Creek). Gandimalal is the place where one of the snakes came out of the ground.
Between two and a half hours driving from Halls Creek. It lies on the edge of the Tanami Desert, about 100 kilometres south of Halls Creek. It can be accessed via the Tanami Road which is signposted on the Great Northern Highway, 18 kilometres west of Halls Creek. The turn-off to Wolfe Creek is 130 kilometres south along the Tanami Road. It is 22 kilometres from the Tanami Road to the crater.
The Tanami Road is gravel and only accessible to conventional vehicles during the dry season (May to November). Roads may be closed during the wet season (December to April). Check road conditions with Main Roads Western Australia (phone 1800 013 314) or the Shire of Halls Creek (phone (08) 9168 6007).