Santa Fe Shatter Cones

Welcome to the Atlas Obscura Community discussion of Santa Fe Shatter Cones in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ask questions or share travel tips, experiences, pictures, or general comments with the community. For the story behind this place, check out the Atlas Obscura entry:

I see rock formations like this all the time in my mountain hiking. Is that what formed them? If so, why is this place more special than the other ones, that it deserves its own entry?

Very Cool.

I agree. I would make a horrible anthropologist ,meteoricist , geologist…aw heck, scientist in general. I look at those rocks and see rocks. Now if you threw in some dinosaur tracks…


As the person who posted this, it fits in the Atlas because it is rather obscure. Most people will look at the rocks and just see rocks. Hundreds to thousands of people did so given that they were hiding in plain sight until 2004.

Impact structures like the shatter cones aren’t that common but their formation signifies a significant event. These cones rival the largest ones around…those on Slate Island which are about 10m high (Slate Islands (Ontario) - Wikipedia).

There is a more technical description of the impact structures at Santa Fe Impact Structure, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Thank you for the reference link. To a casual observer, how would you advise they look at the rocks to notice the impact of a meteor? I see rocks like this a lot but doubt they were created by meteors, so there has to be something different about these that I wouldn’t notice otherwise. Thanks.

As I said above, they are difficult to notice. The ones in Santa Fe are the only ones I’ve ever seen. Even professional geologists may have trouble identifying them unless that is an area of study for them. They are confirmed by using a microscope to look for shockwaves left in the crystals of the rock.

What’s interesting (and cool) about the Santa Fe shatter cones is their size and their age. These would have been rocks that were buried very deep a billion years ago. The meteor didn’t physically punch into these rocks but the shock wave of the impact changed their character.

One final point, you can occasionally find very small versions of this phenomena around blast holes. Usually, the blast removes all the material or the material is removed via mining but occasionally, you can see pattern in road side cuts around blast holes. But you have to look closely as they are fairly small…6” would be a large one.

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