Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Pāhoehoe and Aa flows at Hawaii.jpg
Pāhoehoe and ʻaʻā lava flows
Map showing the location of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Map showing the location of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Location in the Hawaiian Islands
LocationHawaii County, Hawaii, United States
Nearest cityHilo
Coordinates19°23′N 155°12′W / 19.383°N 155.200°W / 19.383; -155.200Coordinates: 19°23′N 155°12′W / 19.383°N 155.200°W / 19.383; -155.200
Area323,431 acres (1,308.88 km2)[1]
EstablishedAugust 1, 1916
Visitors1,116,891 (in 2018)[2]
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteHawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
CriteriaNatural: viii
Inscription1987 (11th Session)

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is an American national park located in the U.S. state of Hawaii on the island of Hawaii. The park encompasses two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive shield volcano. The park provides scientists with insight into the development of the Hawaiian Islands and access for studies of volcanism. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes, glimpses of rare flora and fauna, and a view into the traditional Hawaiian culture connected to these landscapes.

The park was originally established on August 1, 1916, as Hawaii National Park, which was then split into this park and Haleakalā National Park. 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 park was depicted on the 14th quarter of the America the Beautiful Quarters series.

On May 11, 2018, the park was closed to the public in the Kīlauea volcano summit area, including the visitor center and park headquarters, due to explosions and toxic ash clouds from Halemaʻumaʻu, as well as earthquakes and road damage.[4][5] Portions of the park, including the visitor center, reopened to the public on September 22, 2018.[6][7] As of 2020, most of the park is open; however, some road segments and trails as well as the Jaggar Museum of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory remain closed to visitors.[4]

Eruptive activity, ground collapses and explosions in the park ceased in early August 2018, and the lull in eruptive activity at Kīlauea continued[8] until an eruption on December 20, 2020, at the Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Park purpose[edit]

As stated in the foundation document:[9]

The purpose of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is to protect, study, and provide access to Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world's most active volcanoes, and perpetuate endemic Hawaiian ecosystems and the traditional Hawaiian culture connected to these landscapes.


Lava erupting from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent in June 1983

The park includes 323,431 acres (505.36 sq mi; 1,308.88 km2) of land.[10] Over half of the park (130,790 acres (529 km2)) was designated the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness area in 1978, providing solitude for hiking and camping.[11] Wilderness designation covers the northwestern extension of the National Park, including Mokuaweoweo, the summit of the volcano Mauna Loa. In the southwestern portion of the park, a large chunk of wilderness includes several miles of coastline and a small portion southeast of the visitors center. The park encompasses diverse environments from sea level to the summit of the Earth's most massive active volcano, Mauna Loa, at 13,679 feet (4,169 m). Climates range from lush tropical rain forests, to the arid and barren Kaʻū Desert.

Recently eruptive sites include the main caldera of Kīlauea and a more active but remote vent called Puʻu ʻŌʻō.[12]

The main entrance to the park is from the Hawaii Belt Road. The Chain of Craters Road leads to the coast, passing several craters from historic eruptions. The road had continued to another park entrance near the town of Kalapana, but that portion is covered by a lava flow. The park's Kahuku District is accessible via Kahuku Road off Highway 11 near mile marker 70.


Climate data for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, Hawaii, 1991-2020 normals, extremes 1949-2015
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 79
Average high °F (°C) 68.3
Daily mean °F (°C) 58.8
Average low °F (°C) 49.4
Record low °F (°C) 34
Average precipitation inches (mm) 8.77
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 21.9 20.4 25.3 26.3 25.1 25.4 25.8 25.3 23.9 24.5 26.3 25.0 295.2
Source 1: NOAA[13]
Source 2: WRCC (extremes)[14]


Aerial view of Halemaʻumaʻu, September 2009

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 are still visible.[15]

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.[16]

The Volcano Art Center was the Volcano House Hotel from 1877 to 1921.

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.[17] 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 Haleakalā and Kīlauea, including a dinner cooked over lava steam vents. In 1908, Thurston entertained Secretary of the Interior James Rudolph Garfield, and another congressional delegation the following year. 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.[18] After several attempts, the legislation introduced by delegate Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole finally passed to create the park. House Resolution 9525 was signed by Woodrow Wilson on August 1, 1916. Hawaii National Park became the eleventh national park in the United States, and the first in a territory.[19]

Within a few weeks, the National Park Service Organic Act created the National Park Service to run the system.[20] The park was officially renamed Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park after being split from Haleakalā National Park on September 22, 1961.

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, but it is closed to the general public.

Thurston lava tube in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Park map including the Kahuku District on left (click to enlarge)

In 2004, an additional 115,788 acres (468.58 km2) of the Kahuku Ranch were added to the park, the largest land acquisition in Hawaii's history. Now named the Kahuku District, the park was enlarged by 56% with the newly acquired land, which is west of the town of Waiʻōhinu and east of Ocean View. The land was purchased for $21.9 million from the estate of Samuel Mills Damon, with financing from The Nature Conservancy.[10]


National park superintendents:[21][22]

  • 1922–1922 — Albert O. Burkland
  • 1922–1926 — Thomas Boles
  • 1926–1926 — Albert O. Burkland
  • 1927–1928 — Richard T. Evans
  • 1928–1931 — Thomas J. Allen
  • 1931–1933 — Ernest P. Leavitt
  • 1933–1946 — Edward G. Wingate
  • 1946–1946 — Gunnar O. Fagerlund
  • 1946–1953 — Francis R. Oberhansley
  • 1953–1959 — John B. Wosky
  • 1959–1965 — Fred T. Johnston
  • 1965–1967 — Glen T. Bean
  • 1967–1970 — Daniel J. Tobin
  • 1970–1971 — Gene J. Balaz
  • 1971–1975 — G. Bryan Harry
  • 1975–1978 — Robert D. Barbee
  • 1979–1987 — David B. Ames
  • 1987–1987 — James F. Martin
  • 1987–1993 — Hugo H. Huntzinger
  • 1993–2004 — James F. Martin
  • 2004–2019 — Cynthia Orlando
  • from 2019 — Rhonda Loh.

Historic places[edit]

Wilkes Campsite on Mauna Loa

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

Visitor center and museums[edit]

Night view of Halemaʻumaʻu from Jaggar Museum in 2015

The main visitor center, located just within the park entrance at 19°25′46″N 155°15′25.5″W / 19.42944°N 155.257083°W / 19.42944; -155.257083, includes displays and information about the features of the park. The nearby Volcano Art Center, located in the original 1877 Volcano House hotel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and houses historical displays and an art gallery.

The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, now closed due to damage from the 2018 eruptive events, is located a few miles west on Crater Rim Drive. The museum featured more exhibits and a close view of Kīlauea's active vent Halemaʻumaʻu. The museum is named after scientist Thomas Jaggar, the first director of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which adjoins the museum. The observatory itself is operated by the U.S. Geological Survey and is not open to the public.

The Kilauea Military Camp provides accommodations for U.S. military personnel.[23] Volunteer groups also sponsor events in the park.[24]

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 visitor center from 1966 to 2005.[25] The painting was criticized for portraying the Hawaiian goddess as a Caucasian.[25]

In 2003, the Volcano Art Center announced a competition for a "more modern and culturally authentic rendering" of the goddess.[26] An anonymous judging panel of Native Hawaiian elders selected a painting by Arthur Johnsen of Puna, Hawaii from 140 entries.[27] 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.[26] In 2005, the Hitchcock was replaced with Johnsen's painting.

Recent events[edit]

On March 19, 2008, there was a small explosion in Halemaʻumaʻu, 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.[28]

Sulfur dioxide emissions from the Halemaʻumaʻu vent, April 2008

This explosion event followed the opening of a major sulfur dioxide gas vent, greatly increasing levels emitted from Halemaʻumaʻu. The dangerous increase of sulfur dioxide gas 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, including those from Byron Ledge, ʻIliahi (Sandalwood) Trail, and Kaʻū Desert Trail.[29]

In mid-May 2018, the Kīlauea District of the park was closed due to explosive eruptions at Halemaʻumaʻu, though the Kahuku District remained open. The Kīlauea District, including the visitor center, reopened to the public on September 22, 2018.[6][7] Eruptive activity, ground collapses and explosions in the park had ceased in early August. At the summit, seismicity and deformation are negligible. Sulfur dioxide emission rates at both the summit and the Lower East Rift Zone are drastically reduced; the combined rate is lower than at any time since late 2007. Earthquake and deformation data show no net accumulation, withdrawal, or significant movement of subsurface magma or pressurization as would be expected if the system was building toward a resumption of activity.[8]

As of 2020, the lull in eruptive activity at Kīlauea continues and most of the park is open; however, some road segments and trails remain closed to visitors, while the Jaggar Museum of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is closed indefinitely.[4] The Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku) was reopened to the public on February 21, 2020. Several large rockfalls were cleared and sensors were installed to monitor new cracks, along with improvements to water drainage and parking. The rockfalls and cracks had been caused by some of the 60,000 earthquakes recorded during the Kīlauea eruption.[30]

A small water pond appeared in Halemaʻumaʻu in the summer of 2019. The pond deepened and enlarged into a small lake since it was first observed, measuring 160 feet (49 m) deep as of December 1, 2020. An eruption in the crater that began on December 20, 2020, boiled away the water lake completely and began to partially refill the crater with lava.[31]

Panorama of lava and ocean
Panoramic view of the lava at the end of the Chain of Craters Road

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011" (PDF). Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  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 "Area Closures, Advisories, Drones/Unmanned Aircraft & Other Policies". nps.gov. National Park Service. March 8, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  5. ^ "Volcano park closed for record stretch due to Kilauea eruption". 2018-05-28.
  6. ^ a b "Volcanoes park reopening good news for Big Island". 2018-08-23.
  7. ^ a b "Visitors flock to reopened Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park". 2018-09-23.
  8. ^ a b "Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Weekly Update". volcanoes.usgs.gov. U.S. Geological Survey. March 5, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  9. ^ "Foundation Document Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park" (PDF). National Park Service. January 2017. p. 5. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  10. ^ a b "2008 Business Plan" (PDF). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  11. ^ "Wilderness Connect". wilderness.net. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  12. ^ "Kilauea Status Page". HVO. USGS.
  13. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  14. ^ "HAWAII VOL NP HQ 54, HAWAII (511303)". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  15. ^ Nakamura, Jadelyn (2003). "Keonehelelei – the falling sands" (PDF). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Archaeological Inventory of the Footprints Area.
  16. ^ "Early Kilauea Explorations". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23.
  17. ^ "The Volcano House". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23.
  18. ^ "The Park Idea". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23.
  19. ^ "The Final Thrust". Hawaii Nature Notes number 2. National Park Service. November 1953.
  20. ^ "The National Park Service Organic Act". statutes of the 64th United States Congress. National Park Service. August 25, 1916.
  21. ^ Historic Listing of National Park Service Officials: Superintendents of National Park System Areas, Hawaii. Last Modified: 2000.
  22. ^ New Superintendent Named For Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. National Park Service Press Release: Jan. 5, 2004.
  23. ^ "Kilauea Military Camp at Kilauea Volcano, a Joint Services Recreation Center". official web site. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  24. ^ "Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park". official web site. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ a b Thompson, Rod (August 15, 2003). "Winning Vision of Pele, an Unusual Take". Honolulu Star Bulletin. p. A3.
  27. ^ "Fresh face put on volcano park | the Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper".
  28. ^ "Explosive eruption in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Kilauea Volcano". HVO. USGS. Archived from the original on 2008-03-23.
  29. ^ "Closed Areas". Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park web site. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  30. ^ "Popular lava tube is open". nps.gov. National Park Service. 2020-02-21. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  31. ^ Bernardo, Rosemarie (December 21, 2020). "No threat to public as Kilauea volcano eruption inside Halemaumau Crater stabilizes". Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

External links[edit]