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In the 1950s a large area of land north of Taupo suddenly began to get hot and emit steam. Craters of boiling mud emerged, along with other geothermal phenomena. And so the Craters of the Moon was born.
The event was triggered by the lowering of underground water pressure by a nearby geothermal power station. Superheated water rose to the surface, escaping through any vent it could find.
Wooden walkways have been constructed to protect visitors from the heat of the soil. These are regularly moved as new vents emerge. One minute you're in clear air marveling at the eerie steam clouds, then with a shift in the breeze you're enveloped in a cloud and your sunglasses are completely fogged up.
The tracks lead to several viewing platforms on the edge of large craters. From here the relentless power of the earth's fiery core becomes truly apparent. Clouds of slightly sulphurous steam swirl all around you. There's a primeval appeal to this geothermal mayhem, and you can't resist breathing deep and pushing your face forward for more of nature's free health spa therapy.
Craters of the Moon is a public attraction and charges a small fee to keep the walkway maintained etc. The turn-off is well sign-posted on State Highway 1 north of Taupo.