Black Butte Crater Lava Field

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 43.183°N
  • 114.352°W

  • 1478 m
    4848 ft

  • 324010
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

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Volcano Types


Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Basalt / Picro-Basalt


Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km

Geological Summary

The Black Butte Crater lava field (formerly Shoshone lava field) is the westernmost of the young lava fields of the Eastern Snake River Plain. It lies north of Twin Falls, Idaho and created an L-shaped lava flow 2-to-5 km in width that extends 60 km south and then west. A single radiocarbon age of 10,130 +/- 350 years was obtained for lava flows from the field (Kuntz et al. 1986). Black Butte Crater caps a lava shield that lies at the NE end of the flow field. The vent area contains a complex lava lake that forms a six-part flower-petal like depression with steep-sided walls up to 30 m high that covers an area of 2 sq km. A lava tube and channel system extends 5 km SE of the crater and displays both roofed and collapsed portions. The Big Wood and Little Wood rivers follow the northern and southern margins of the distal part of the lava flow, respectively. The voluminous flow diverted the river channels so that they now join 40 km west of their former confluence.

Eruptive History

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
8400 BCE ± 300 years Unknown Confirmed 0 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Shoshone Lava Field


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Black Butte Crater Shield volcano 1478 m 43° 11' 0" N 114° 21' 0" W
Blanche Crater Pyroclastic cone 43° 3' 0" N 114° 55' 0" W
Mckinney Butte Cone 43° 1' 0" N 114° 48' 0" W
Notch Butte Cone 42° 53' 0" N 114° 25' 0" W

Photo Gallery

One of a series of interlocking craters forming the complex summit of Black Butte, the vent of the Shoshone lava field, is seen here from the summit of the butte. The broad, low Shoshone shield volcano fed voluminous lava flows that traveled a small distance north towards the Mount Bennett Hills in the background, but the bulk of the flows traveled initially south and then west for a total distance of 60 km. The Shoshone lava field, erupted about 10,000 years ago, is the westernmost of the young volcanic fields of the Snake River Plain.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 2002 (Smithsonian Institution).


The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Greeley R, King J S (eds), 1977. Volcanism of the eastern Snake River Plain, Idaho: a comparative planetary geology guidebook. NASA (Washington, DC), CR-154621: 1-308.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Kuntz M A, Covington H R, Schorr L J, 1992. An overview of basaltic volcanism of the eastern Snake River Plain. In: Link P K, Kuntz M A, Platt L B (eds), {Regional Geology of Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming}, Geol Soc Amer Mem, 179: 227-267.

Kuntz M A, Spiker E C, Rubin M, Champion D E, Lefebvre R H, 1986. Radiocarbon studies of latest Pleistocene and Holocene lava flows of the Snake River Plain, Idaho: data, lessons, interpretations. Quat Res, 25: 163-176.

Malde H E, Powers H A, Marshall C H, 1963. Reconnaissance geologic map of west-central Snake River Plain, Idaho.. U S Geol Surv Map, I-373, 1:125,000.

Stearns H T, Crandall L, Steward W G, 1938. Geology and ground-water resources of the Snake River Plain in southeastern Idaho. U S Geol Surv Water Supply Pap, 774: 1-268.

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Black Butte Crater Lava Field Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.