Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 4:35 PM
WETUMPKA "CRATER TOURS" - IMPACT GEOLOGY AND EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH IN THE FIELD
Wetumpka impact structure, 7.6 km in diameter, consists of a broad crystalline rim, which forms a 270-degree arc that encloses an intra-structure terrain comprised of broken Upper Cretaceous formations and impactite sands of mixed sedimentary origin. After a hiatus in research activity at Wetumpka impact structure (Alabama) between 1973 and 1997, investigations were resumed with the goal of drilling the structure to look for impact breccias, shocked minerals, and imbued meteoritic components. From the outset of the renewed research effort, the city of Wetumpka, Alabama, was a partner with investigators, for example, city officials acted to facilitate land access for drilling sites. After shocked materials were discovered in drill core and the structure was on its way to international acceptance as a bona fide impact feature, the city of Wetumpka, working with a local outdoors club, the Trail of Legends, began to lay plans for an annual celebration of this unique natural feature. Since 1999, annual crater tours have been conducted for the general public as part of this annual event. This year, the tours will be conducted by a city-county crater commission, which is a six-member body established to advise city and count officials on the preservation and best use of this local natural feature. Annual crater tours have been organized on a Saturday during late February or early March. The structure is heavily vegetated, therefore this timing allows for better visibility of crater features during the field trips (i.e., crater tours). Participants on the crater tours say that they did not fully appreciate the size of the structure and many say that they are amazed that they have seen the hills of the crater rim for years and not appreciated what they represented. This experience helps put them in touch with this kind of work. The crater tours and associated public lectures have introduced Wetumpka impact structure and the science of impact geology to hundreds of persons who otherwise would not have had any exposure to this new aspect of planetary science. The annual event usually generates many requests for classroom visits by impact geology researchers and graduate students from Auburn University. Wetumpka impact crater, above all other natural features in Alabama, has educated a large number of citizens about planetary geology.