Ramon Crater (Mahktesh Ramon in Hebrew) is the largest erosion crater in the world, a spectacular geological phenomenon extending from the feet of the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon. The length of the crater is about 40 km and a maximum width of 9 km. Ramon Crater is varied and interesting especially since over a relatively small area you can see different landscapes and an impressive variety of geologicaloccurrences that were created in the deep underground and were exposed in front of our eyes following the formation of the crater.
The Crater formation process
Ramon Crater was created in the weathering and erosion process at the center of Arch Ramon that began 56 million years ago. Nahal Ramon sought in the cracks the top layers of Arch Ramon that were made from hard rock layers made of limestone and dolomite. The inner layers were made of layers of soft sandstone and those were easily washed away by the river Ramon until the layers of limestone and dolomite collapsed above them and also swept with the river stream thus formed the crater in the process that continue to this day.
Every Ramon Crater site be can visited for a full day in a tour that combines driving and short walks by foot in a variety of spectacular geological occurrences:
Ramon Crater Visitors Center
We’ll start our tour from the visitor center observation in Mitzpe Ramon, from which we can easily distinguished the steep cliff that builds the upper part of the crater walls. At the visitor center we can watch and audio-visual and understand closely the crater formation process.
The Sawmill (The Prizma)
The Sawmill is a hill with a layer of elongated stones size 10-20 cm, fragments of thousands of quartz pillars that melted by the molten rocky material found beneath the earth’s crust – the hot magma.
Ammonite Wall On the southern ridge of the Ramon Crater we visit the Ammonite Wall where fossil of Ammonites are embedded, giant shells of marine invertebrates who lived in the Tethys Sea that flooded the land of Israel, which was followed by the creation of rocky chalk layers, limestone and dolomite which are now fossils from different periods. The Ammonites lived 200 million years ago up until 65 million years ago, when they were extinct along with the dinosaurs.
The sighting from Ardon Mountain that is in the North East to the crater is one of the most spectacular in the Negev. To get to the Mountain, we go down south from Mitzpe Ramon on highway 40, and just past the 86th km, there is a clear orange sign turning us left to Ein Saharonim and Be’erot parking lot. This is a road marked in red, beautiful and clear, good for all vehicles. After three km we reach the Be’erot parking lot, a cluster of Bedouin tents where you can also stay the night, also enjoy the facilities of organized parking are just stop for a cup of coffee. Here turn left onto the road marked in black, and in less than one km we reach a crossroad again. We will continue riding on the black road and along with the signs we get to Ardon Mountain. It is a short walk with one difficult yet not long climb that would lead us to the summit of the mountain from which there is a very beautiful view to the eastern part of the Ramon Crater. The view from here is one of the most beautiful in the Negev: You see the Ardon Valley, the Edom Mountains, the spectacular variety of colors and types of rocks in the crater. From here there is a hiking route, marked in blue, to Ein Saharonim.
The dyke in Ardon River
The dyke in Ardon River At the feet of Mount Ardon, in the eastern part of the crater Ardon River passes and connects to Nekarot River which drains the crater. At Ardon River’s walls dykes can be seen. This is hot magma that erupted through cracks into the rock layers above it and looks like a vertical pillar in the rock layers arranged horizontally one above the other.
Ein Saharonim is a spring from a streambed of Ramon River which arise from groundwater, followed by lots of plants and desert animals are that attracted to available water, including mountain goats, golden jackal, gray wolf, striped hyena, red fox, Negev fox, Negev deer and a really small number of tigers which it is not known they are still at the fields of the crater.
To reach the road of Ein Saharonim we walk from Ardon Mountain to the track marked in blue or go back to the trail junction from which we came to Ardon Mountain and from there to the way marked in red we get to the parking lot at the foot of Ein Saharonim. It is an ancient fortress dating to the Nabatean period, its reconstruction gives an idea of the lives of traders, this point was a campsite for their caravans. At the bottom of the fortress there is an emanation of the spring, a lot of reeds around, and this is also a good starting point to a nearly circular, light and pleasant road three km long and the length of the visit is three hours: The track is horseshoe shaped, that’s why it’s called “horseshoe caverns”, like the name of a large stream it part of. We go from Saharonim fortress to the road marked in blue, go to the beautiful and shadowed canyon, on our way we pass by a fortress water pool beautiful and finish slightly uphill back to the starting point, in a beautiful gradual piece rated of the “Spice Route “, the route in which the Nabateans transported their goods from Petra towards the Mediterranean Sea.