Last stop before the Canning Stock Route
Wolfe Creek meteorite crater was formed about 300,000 years ago when a meteorite crashed to earth. Travelling at 15 km/sec, and weighing more than 50,000 tonnes, the collision pulverised the underlying rocks while the resulting explosion of energy vaporised most of the meteorite. The remaining fragments were thrown about 4 km from the crater by the massive explosion.
Averaging 875 mm in diameter it is 60 metres from the rim to the crater floor. The crater was probably up to 120 metres deep when formed but now wind blown sands have slowly filled the crater floor.
Aborigines have long known of the presence of the crater and called it Kandimalal, incorporating it into their Dreamtime stories. One story describes the crater as a place where a rainbow snake emerged from the ground.
However, Europeans have only known of the crater after it was spotted from the air during an aerial survey in 1947. The crater was named after a nearby creek, which was named for Robert Wolfe, who was a prospector and storekeeper during the gold rush in the area of Old Halls Creek.
Despite its age the Wolfe Creek Crater is well preserved and mostly undeformed by erosion, so it can claim to be the second largest and second most obvious crater known on Earth.
Our Canning Stock Route trip began at Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater accessed from the Tanami Road, 150 km south of Halls Creek. Some of the group had met at Alice Springs and travelled up the Tanami Road together.
From the Tanami road, the access road travels through private property. There are gates along here that might be closed, but warning signs, in true outback format, are placed strategically. The gates, of course, always must be left as you find them.
The meteorite crater is now protected and known as Wolfe Creek Crater National Park. We met up with the other members of our group at the park campground – a pleasant treed area that features cleared sites and toilets with the crater wall as scenic backdrop.
Exploring Wolfe Creek Crater
The crater access is at the day visitor area, just a short walk, or drive, from the camping ground. A 200 metre return walk involves a steep rocky climb to the top of the rim, but rewards those keen enough, with fine views of the crater and surrounding landscape.
Care should be used when exploring around the top of the rim as the terrain is rocky and uneven. Venturing down into the crater is not permitted as the way is very steep down the loose rocky slope.
Major Mitchell cockatoos can be seen hunting for seeds among the wattles and paperbarks that vegetate the interior of the crater, where a grassy outer ring surrounds a central circle of sand. Flowering shrubs decorate the crater walls.
The crater was bathed in the early morning light when we visited. John was keen to try out his new drone and was pleased with the results of his efforts. Some of these can be seen in the video Eagle’s Eye View.
But now it was time to move on so we headed down the road to Billiluna where we all fuelled up before heading off for our adventure on the Canning Stock Route.