Cerro Prieto

Photo of this volcano
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 32.418°N
  • 115.305°W

  • 223 m
    731 ft

  • 341000
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Cerro Prieto.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Cerro Prieto.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Bulletin Reports available for Cerro Prieto.

The Global Volcanism Program is not aware of any Holocene eruptions from Cerro Prieto. If this volcano has had large eruptions (VEI >= 4) prior to 10,000 years ago, information might be found on the Cerro Prieto page in the LaMEVE (Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions) database, a part of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).

The Global Volcanism Program has no synonyms or subfeatures listed for Cerro Prieto.

Photo Gallery


The Cerro Prieto geothermal field on the Colorado River delta in NW México is the second largest producing geothermal field in North America, next only to the Geysers field in California. This view shows the Unit 1 power plant. Exploration drilling at Cerro Prieto began in 1959. By the mid-1980s more than 100 wells had been drilled to depths as great as 3.5 km. Despite the paucity of surface volcanic features at Cerro Prieto, the hydrothermal system covers an area of more than 100 sq km.

Photo by Pat Dobson, 1998 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).
See title for photo information.
Cerro Prieto lava dome is reflected in an evaporation pond of the Cerro Prieto geothermal field at the head of the Gulf of California, 35 km south of the city of Mexicali. The first geothermal power plants began operation at Cerro Prieto in 1973, and the field is now the 2nd largest in North America. Nine power plants and about 130 wells were in operation in 1997, with four more power plants under construction.

Photo by Pat Dobson, 1998 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).
See title for photo information.
Cerro Prieto ("Dark Hill"), a small, 223-m-high compound rhyodacitic lava dome, is the only surficial volcanic feature of the major Cerro Prieto geothermal field, the 2nd largest in North America. Cerro Prieto is the northernmost volcanic field in México and rises above the arid floor of the Imperial valley at the head of the Gulf of California, 35 km south of the city of Mexicali. The dome consists of rhyodacitic intrusives and lava flows and was constructed along a NE-trending fracture. A 200-m-wide crater is located at the summit of the NE-most dome.

Photo by Marshall Reed, 1959 (U.S. Department of Energy).
See title for photo information.
The small black circle at the left-center margin surrounded by a light-colored geothermal area is Cerro Prieto. This U2 photo was taken from the NE at an altitude of 60,000 feet. The Sierra de los Cucapas trend diagonally across the center of the photo above arkosic sands of the Cucapas bajada. Beyond the range is Laguna Salada. The Peninsula Ranges are in the background with clouds and fog beyond over the Pacific Ocean. Some of the foreground farmlands were condemned prior to development of the geothermal field.

Photo by U.S. Air Force (courtesy of Marshall Reed, U.S. Department of Energy).
See title for photo information.
The small, 223-m-high Cerro Prieto compound rhyodacitic lava dome is the only surficial volcanic expression of the Cerro Prieto geothermal field. A 200-m-wide crater is located at the summit of the NE-most dome. The Cerro Prieto dome was roughly estimated from paleomagnetic evidence to have formed during at least five eruptive stages, including both magmatic and phreatic activity, between about 100,000 and 10,000 years ago. Early explorers in the mid 1500s reported steam and sulfurous gases at Cerro Prieto.

Photo by Brian Hausback, 1995 (California State University, Sacramento).
See title for photo information.

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database


There are no samples for Cerro Prieto in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences Rock and Ore collection.

Affiliated Sites