It can be difficult to remember that the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve actually encompasses a 1.25 million year-old dormant volcanic caldera.
The keyword is dormant – not extinct. The magma chamber beneath the surface produces a number of geothermal features both within and outside the preserve’s boundaries, including hot springs, warm springs, acid pools and fumaroles.
Because of the wealth of geothermal resources, the National Park Service has nominated the preserve to the Geothermal Steam Act list of “significant thermal features” within the national park system. If the Department of the Interior approves the nomination, Valles Caldera would be one of only 18 parks units within the 400-plus national park system with that designation.
According to Bob Parmenter, the preserve’s division chief for science and resource stewardship, the designation would serve two purposes: protection and an added level of distinction for the park.
“It adds to the diversity of the national park system as a volcano and certainly accentuates the geologic resource that provided the geothermal aspect to this,” Parmenter said.