Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Pāhoehoe and Aa flows at Hawaii.jpg
Pāhoehoe Lava and ʻAʻā flows
Map showing the location of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Map showing the location of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Location Hawaii County, Hawaii, USA
Nearest city Hilo
Coordinates 19°23′0″N 155°12′0″W / 19.38333°N 155.20000°W / 19.38333; -155.20000Coordinates: 19°23′0″N 155°12′0″W / 19.38333°N 155.20000°W / 19.38333; -155.20000
Area 323,431 acres (130,888 ha)[1]
Established August 1, 1916
Visitors 1,693,005 (in 2014)[2]
Governing body National Park Service
Website Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Official name Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Type Natural
Criteria viii
Designated 1987 (11th session)
Reference no. 409
State Party  United States
Region Europe and North America

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, is a United States National Park located in the U.S. State of Hawaii on the island of Hawaii. It encompasses two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive subaerial volcano. The park gives scientists insight into the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and ongoing studies into the processes of vulcanism. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna.

In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987.[3] In 2012 the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park was honored on the 14th quarter of the America the Beautiful Quarters series.


The park includes 323,431 acres (505.36 sq mi; 1,308.88 km2) of land.[4] Over half of the park is designated the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness area and provides unusual hiking and camping opportunities. The park encompasses diverse environments that range from sea level to the summit of the Earth's most massive active volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet (4,169 m). Climates range from lush tropical rain forests, to the arid and barren Kaʻū Desert.

Active eruptive sites include the main caldera of Kīlauea and a more active but remote vent called Puʻu ʻŌʻō.[5]

The main entrance to the park is from the Hawaii Belt Road. The Chain of Craters Road, as the name implies, leads past several craters from historic eruptions to the coast. It used to continue to another entrance to the park near the town of Kalapana, but that portion is now covered by a lava flow.


Kīlauea and its Halemaʻumaʻu caldera were traditionally considered the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess. In 1790, a party of warriors (along with women and children who were in the area) were caught in an unusually violent eruption. Many were killed and others left footprints in the lava that can still be seen today.[6]

The first western visitors to the site, English missionary William Ellis and American Asa Thurston, went to Kīlauea in 1823. Ellis wrote of his reaction to the first sight of the erupting volcano:

A spectacle, sublime and even appalling, presented itself before us. 'We stopped and trembled.' Astonishment and awe for some moments rendered us mute, and, like statues, we stood fixed to the spot, with our eyes riveted on the abyss below.[7]

The volcano became a tourist attraction in the 1840s, and local businessmen such as Benjamin Pitman and George Lycurgus ran a series of hotels at the rim.[8] Volcano House is the only hotel or restaurant located within the borders of the National Park.

Lorrin A. Thurston, grandson of the American missionary Asa Thurston, was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the park after investing in the hotel from 1891 to 1904. William R. Castle first proposed the idea in 1903. Thurston, who then owned the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, printed editorials in favor of the park idea. In 1907, the territory of Hawaii paid for fifty members of Congress and their wives to visit Haleakala and Kīlauea. It included a dinner cooked over lava steam vents. In 1908 Thurston entertained Secretary of the Interior James Rudolph Garfield, and in 1909 another congressional delegation. Governor Walter F. Frear proposed a draft bill in 1911 to create "Kilauea National Park" for $50,000. Thurston and local landowner William Herbert Shipman proposed boundaries, but ran into some opposition from ranchers. Thurston printed endorsements from John Muir, Henry Cabot Lodge, and former President Theodore Roosevelt.[9] After several attempts, the legislation introduced by delegate Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana'ole finally passed to create the park. House Resolution 9525 was signed by Woodrow Wilson on August 1, 1916. It was the 11th National Park in the United States, and the first in a Territory.[10]

Within a few weeks, the National Park Service Organic Act would create the National Park Service to run the system.[11] Originally called "Hawaii National Park", it was split from the Haleakalā National Park on September 22, 1960.

An easily accessible lava tube was named for the Thurston family. An undeveloped stretch of the Thurston Lava Tube extends an additional 1,100 ft (340 m) beyond the developed area and dead-ends into the hillside. Though it is blocked by a chain link fence to keep unwary visitors from entering, the easily traversed stretch is in fact open to the public and accessible through a gate in the fence.

Park map
Park map including Kahuku on left

In 2004, an additional 115,788 acres (468.58 km2) of Kahuku Ranch were added to the park, making it 56% larger. This was an area west of the town of Waiʻōhinu and east of Ocean View, the largest land acquisition in Hawaii's history. The land was bought for US$21.9 million from the Samuel Mills Damon Estate, with financing from the Nature Conservancy.[4]

Geologic History: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the island of Hawaii, at the young end of the 1700-mile stretch of islands. The islands are fairly young, from less than 1 million years at the youngest to nearly 6 million at the oldest; new formations continue to be formed today. The islands are located on the top of the Pacific plate, the largest tectonic plate on earth. Due to sea floor spreading, the plate continues to expand which has directly influenced the growth of the islands. The two main active volcanoes in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Loa has an elevation of 13,680 feet (4,170 m) and a 70-mile (110 km) long, 30-mile (48 km) wide shield-shaped dome. It is the world's largest active volcano, encompassing 10,000 cubic miles.[12] Similarly, Kilauea also has a shield shaped dome, which is 50 miles (80 km) long and 14 miles (23 km) wide. Both volcanoes release more fluid and less gaseous eruptions, which produce “fiery fountains and rivers of molten lava”,[12] Due to these eruptions, a desert-like volcanic landscape has resulted amidst the National Park.

Specifically, Mauna Loa has come to be the largest mountain on earth because of the multiple formations that took place during the Pleistocene Epoch. The Ninole Formation, which has left the oldest exposed lavas make up the core of the mountain. As a result, there are deep canyons that were made by lavas during the erosional period preceding the Kahuki Formation . During this second stage of formations, lava partially filled the canyons and built up the slopes of Mauna Loa. The third formation, Ka’u, created younger lavas that covered the older lavas. Through these three formation periods, Mauna Loa reached its current height at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.

The development of the Hawaii islands is due to the five shield volcanoes that erupted during the Pleistocene Period. They are part of a volcanic chain located along the crest of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. Similarly, glaciation and changes in sea level have affected the geologic formation of the Volcanoes in the National Park. A small icecap that once existed on the volcano of Mauna Kea during the Pleistocene Epoch that resulted in glaciers, and has led to snow falls on both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Additionally, changes in the sea level have resulted in land submergence and shorelines decreasing.

Tree on fire near Royal Gardens subdivision in late January 2007

Historic places[edit]

Several of the National Register of Historic Places listings on the island of Hawaii are located within the park:

Visitor center and museums[edit]

Jaggar Museum

As of 2008 the superintendent was Cindy Orlando.[4] Volunteer groups also sponsor events in the park.[15]

Painting of Pele[edit]

About 1929, D. Howard Hitchcock made an oil painting of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes. In 1966, the artist's son, Harvey, donated the painting to the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, where it was displayed in the visitors' center from 1966 to 2005.[16] The painting was criticized for portraying the Hawaiian goddess as a Caucasian.[16]

Arthur Johnsen's Pele

In 2003, the Volcano Art Center announced a competition for a "more modern and culturally authentic rendering" of the goddess.[17] An anonymous judging panel of Native Hawaiian elders selected a painting by Arthur Johnsen of Pahoa, Hawaii from 140 entries. In Johnsen's painting, the goddess has distinctly Polynesian features. She is holding a digging stick (ʻōʻō) in her left hand and the egg that gave birth to her younger sister Hiʻiaka in her right hand.[17] In 2005, the Hitchcock was replaced with Johnsen's painting.

Recent events[edit]

Lava erupting from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent
For more details on this topic, see Halema`uma`u crater.

On March 19, 2008, there was a small explosion in Halemaʻumaʻu crater, the first explosive event since 1924 and the first eruption in the Kīlauea caldera since September 1982. Debris from the explosion was scattered over an area of 74 acres (300,000 m2). A small amount of ash was also reported at a nearby community. The explosion covered part of Crater Rim Drive and damaged Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook. The explosion did not release any lava, which suggests to scientists that it was driven by hydrothermal or gas sources.[18]

This explosion event followed the opening of a major sulfur dioxide gas vent, greatly increasing levels emitted from the Halemaʻumaʻu crater. The dangerous increase of sulfur dioxide gas has prompted closures of Crater Rim Drive between the Jaggar Museum south/southeast to Chain of Craters Road, Crater Rim Trail from Kīlauea Military Camp south/southeast to Chain of Craters Road, and all trails leading to Halemaʻumaʻu crater, including those from Byron Ledge, ʻIliahi (Sandalwood) Trail, and Kaʻū Desert Trail.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-06-28. 
  3. ^ "Hawai'i's Only World Heritage Site". Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park web site. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  4. ^ a b c "2008 Business Plan" (PDF). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  5. ^ "Kilauea Status Page". HVO. USGS. 
  6. ^ Nakamura, Jadelyn (2003). "Keonehelelei – the falling sands" (PDF). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Archaeological Inventory of the Footprints Area. 
  7. ^ "Early Kilauea Explorations". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Retrieved 2000-12-01.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. ^ "The Volcano House". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Retrieved 2000-12-01.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ "The Park Idea". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Retrieved 2000-12-01.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ "The Final Thrust". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Retrieved 2000-12-01.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ "The National Park Service Organic Act". statutes of the 64th United States Congress. National Park Service. August 25, 1916. Retrieved 2000-12-01.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  12. ^ a b "Hawaii Volcanoes National Park". Geology Field Notes. National Park Service. 
  13. ^ "Hawai'i Natural History Association". official web site. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  14. ^ "Kilauea Military Camp at Kilauea Volcano, a Joint Services Recreation Center". official web site. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  15. ^ "Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park". official web site. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  16. ^ a b Rod Thompson (July 13, 2003). "Rendering Pele: Artists gather paints and canvas in effort to be chosen as Pele's portrait maker". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  17. ^ a b Thompson, Rod (August 15, 2003). "Winning Vision of Pele, an Unusual Take". Honolulu Star Bulletin. p. A3. 
  18. ^ "Explosive eruption in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Kilauea Volcano". HVO. USGS. Archived from the original on 2008-03-23. 
  19. ^ "Closed Areas". Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park web site. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 

External links[edit]