Indiana’s Own Big Bang

The Kentland Crater: What Happens When Big Things Smack Earth

Let me start at the beginning…

Roughly 100 million years ago, a hunk of interplanetary rock tumbled through space—

Uh, maybe not that far back. 

Years ago, I worked a vending route that streaked between Newton, Jasper and White Counties. A lot of driving, a lot of farmland and a lot of empty space. During that time, I always added an extra 15 minutes to my drive home by taking US 24 and US 41, instead of the faster (but congested) I-65.

Part of that came from my hatred of traffic and freewheeling haulers, but most came because of a landmark near Kentland I loved to pass. A rock quarry. But not just any rock quarries; Indiana has lots of those.

Even a quick glance from a car window revealed this rock quarry wasn’t just a rock quarry; it was the Kentland impact crater.  Tangible evidence of the Earth’s chaotic formation. The procession of space and planetary formation is fascinating.  When you can see the evidence of such processes firsthand, it’s simply awe-inspiring.

What’s more surprising is how few people have ever heard of the Kentland Crater. Being an impact crater is a big deal, but even among impact craters, the Kentland carter is a stand-out. Among geologists and planetary scientists, the it holds the unique distinction as being both a relatively young example of impact tectonics (how big things from space make big things on Earth move), and a geologic enigma.

The date of impact is only roughly known, from approx. 100 MYA to 300 MYA. The size of the impact is unknown. Really big, is the technical term. Big enough to turn miles of horizontal, sedimentary rock layers into sloping and vertical rock layers. Much of the mystery surrounding the Kentland carter has resulted from the effects of glacial geology.

As glaciers receded across Indiana, they acted like the world’s largest cheese grater, flattening northern Indiana and eroding much of the surface features of the Kentland Crater, scraping away evidence over thousands of years. Most evidence, but not all.

If you have the time and desire, drive by the Kentland Crater. US 24 is a fairly peaceful road and there’s plenty of shoulder-space for cars (watch those haulers though). Even from the road, you can see the dramatic central uplift and its nearly-90 degree tilt.

Anyone interested in the earth science or astronomy would be thrilled. The crater is located about halfway between Kentland and Goodland on US 24 in Newton County.

No rush though. I promise you, the Kentland Crater isn’t going anywhere.

Want to Know More?

Read crater explorer Charles O’Dale’s experience climbing and combing the Kentland Crater on his aptly-named blog ‘Crater Explorer’

Check out IU’s article on Indiana Glacial Boundaries and how they shaped the Hoosier state.