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by Donald B. MacGowan

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Kilauea erupting at Halema'uma'u Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea lava flow from Kupaianaha Vent, Hawaii: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

Kilauea Volcano

Although it is the most active volcano on earth, many visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park standing on the very summit of Kilauea Volcano often stare and wonder “Where’s the volcano?” Nestled snugly up against Mauna Loa, and not as vertically spectacular as either this near neighbor or Mauna Kea, Kilauea doesn’t even appear to be a bump on the landscape from the usual viewpoints. Even though it doesn’t standout visually, Kilauea is one of the most intriguing and fascinating volcanoes on earth…let’s just take a quick look at some of the reasons why.

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The Kilauea eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater from Jagger Museum at night: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Comprising the entire southeastern portion of Hawaii Island, Kilauea Volcano is not only currently the world’s most active volcano, it is also the home of the fire-goddess Pele. Early geologists believed Kilauea was merely a satellite vent of Mauna Loa, as it lies directly on that mountain’s southern slopes. However, Kilauea is now recognized as its own, distinct, volcano which has its own, separate, magma source and unique plumbing.

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Looking over the shield of Kilauea, at some of the 760 billion tons of lava Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Presenting the classic “Hawaiian Shield Volcano” shape, a basic oval with low, shallow slope angles, volume-wise Kilauea is one of the the world’s most massive mountains. Standing 1240 meters (4080) above sea level, the above-ocean part of the volcano is about 80 km (50 miles) long and 32 km, (20 miles) wide, along an axis trending roughly southwest to northeast. However, like all the other Hawaiian volcanoes, the great majority of its vast bulk lies below the sea, about 5.5 km (18,000 feet) deep here, making Kilauea’s true base-to-summit height about 7 km (23,000 ft).

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A lava flow from Kilauea blocks the highway at Kalapana Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Sometimes vying with Mts. Aetna and Stromboli for the title of “most active volcano on earth”, Kilauea has been erupting continuously since January 1983; between then and June 2009, nearly 700 acres of new land was created on Hawaii Island by Kilauea lava flows. As the time scale of human lives and human tragedy are so much shorter than geologic time scales, and thus human memories of past disasters grow dim rather rapidly, this volcanic growth has come at quite a cost because people insist on building villages, towns and roads on this highly active landscape. In recent decades, the towns of Kapoho (in 1960), Kalapana (in 1990), and Kaimu (in 1990) have all been burned, buried and destroyed by Kilauea, and now are seemingly all but abandoned except by a few hardy souls. Although popularly thought to be rather tame with fairly peaceable eruptions, Kilauea in the past has had its fair share of explosive, violent, phreatomagmatic eruptions, spewing great quantities of ash as well.

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The summit of Kilauea Volcano with the much more massive Mauna Loa looming in the background, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea owes its peculiar shape to two long rift systems, the currently active East Rift and the Southwest Rift. These rifts are comprised of huge, deep fractures through the bulk of the mountain. Magma rises from deep below the volcano to a pool just below the summit caldera, then flows through internal plumbing down either rift, causing flank eruptions at vents down-rift. These flank eruptions greatly enhance Kilauea’s exaggerated elongate shape. In recent times, many more eruptions have occurred along the East Rift, than the Southwest Rift.

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A patch of sunlight illuminates the nearly 1400 feet of throw on the Holei Pali fault scarp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The orientation of these rifts is controlled by the geography of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, as well as by gravity. Because the north side of Kilauea is well buttressed by the huge mass of Mauna Loa and the unsupported south side slopes-off into the sea, the very mass of Kilauea is pulling it down slope, into the sea. Indeed, the sub-sea, southern slope of Kilauea is a vast, hummocky field of debris from enormous landslides. Above sea level, this slumping activity is evidenced by the several, sub-parallel ridges (or “Pali”, in Hawaiian) on the southern flank. With throws of much as 430 meters (1400 feet), these faults represent the massive fracturing of the volcano’s southern flank and the subsequent slumping of these giant blocks down slope. A drive down the Holei Pali along Chain of Craters Road will quickly demonstrate the magnitude of seaward movement as Kilauea erupts, slumps and grows.

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The Kilauea Iki Crater, within the much more massive Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Seaward slumping is exacerbated by the volcanic activity itself; as Kilauea fills with magma, it swells and slumps southward, producing massive earthquakes and landslides. The slumping, however, also exacerbates the volcanic activity. By opening-up new voids in Kilauea’s internal plumbing, the slumping allows injection of even more magmatic material into Kilauea, which then causes more earthquakes and more slumping. Essentially spreading under its own enormous weight, the synergy between magma injection and slumping allows Kilauea to grow both by eruption of, and intrusion of, magma.

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A pahoehoe lava flow sizzles into the sea at La'epuki on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The supply of magma to the volcano is fairly consistent at 1.8 cubic km (1.0 cubic miles) per year, however forty to fifty per cent of the melt never makes its way to the surface. Called “endogenous growth”, nearly half the growth of Kilauea can be attributed to magma cooling and solidifying below ground, in the growing voids opened by the synergistic magma injection and seaward slumping of the mountain.

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Looking out over Kilauea Caldera from the back porch of Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Conjoined on its northern flank by the vastly larger Mauna Loa, Kilauea doesn’t appear to the casual observer to have a true summit. However, the summit region, around which Crater Rim Drive circles, is comprised of a larger collapse crater (Kilauea Caldera), which contains three smaller collapse craters (Halema’uma’u, Keanakako’i and Kilauea Iki Craters). Collapse craters, such as here and those along Chain of Craters Road, are formed when magma is withdrawn from a reservoir during an eruption, and the suddenly unsupported land above simply collapses into the void. As you look out over the enormous cavity formed by Kilauea Caldera, imagine the immensity of the eruptive event that left enough of a void in the magma chamber to allow this huge crater to form.

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Offerings to the Goddess Pele at Halema'uma'u Crater in Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea’s large magma pool lies just below the summit region, somewhat south of Halema’uma’u Crater, at a depth of about 1.5-5 km (1-3 miles). Forming a magma reservoir several kilometers wide, it acts as central storage for the entire summit-rift magma plumbing system. Partial melting in the mantle at a depth of 40-60 km (52-30 miles) produces magma which rises through the earth and pools within a couple kilometers or so of the surface, and which then flows almost immediately to the site of eruption (summit or flank), having very little residence time within the volcano itself. This “open door to the mantle” feature is a fairly unique to Kilauea Volcano.

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Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

Based on eruptive patterns in recorded history, Kilauea has been observed to follow three shifting modes of eruptive behavior. The first mode involves explosive volcanism at Kilauea’s summit. This activity contributed to the formation of past and present calderas in the summit area as well as having showered Ka’u with a cover of cinder and ash. The second mode is continuous effusive eruptive activity at the summit. This mode is typified by features such as the former lava lake at the summit which was present well into historic times, and events such as voluminous outpouring of lava from several summit vents. This mode tends to fill-in summit calderas and produce a landscape of broad, coalescing shields atop the various vents. The third mode of eruption is the continuous flank eruption, as seen today on the East Rift at vents such as Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha.

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A view into the vent at Kupaianaha on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

These modes are derived from observation of the volcano’s activity only during modern times, and almost certainly Kilauea’s behavior over geologic time must be much more complex. Rather than a view of the evolution of Kilauea Volcano, these modes may serve more as template through which to view what the volcano is capable of doing. It has been observed that periods of volcanic quiescence, or of small eruptions which shift location from summit to flank, may herald a shift in these eruptive modes. Further, it has been suggested based on recent observations that large, south-flank earthquakes initiating magma intrusion can greatly alter eruptive modes.

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Kilauea eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

So, now that we understand a little of the mystery and complexity of Kilauea Volcano, where is the best place to see it from? For starters, one cannot beat the view off the back porch of Volcano House in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses much of Kilauea Caldera and Halema’uma’u Crater. Although currently closed between Jagger Museum and the intersection with Chain of Craters Road because of the ongoing eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, the portion of Crater Rim Drive which is open provides a unique view of the volcano in a scenic loop around the entire summit region. Of particular interest are the stops at Steaming Bluff, Jagger Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater (closed), Southwest Rift Zone (closed), Keanakako’i Crater (closed), and Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook.

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Looking at the trail across Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Driving across the summit dome and down to the slump-block cliffs on Hilina Pali Road takes you on a fabulous backcountry exploration from a nether-world of volcanic destruction and to lush, tropical dryland forest and savanna. Hikes along Devastation Trail, through Kilauea Iki Crater and out to the caldera overlook at Waldron Ledge give fabulous insight to Kilauea Volcano and are particularly beautiful as well as fascinating, and fairly easy for those in reasonable physical condition.

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View down the slump blocks that comprise the Hilina Pali, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Aside from the summit region, the Chain of Craters Road travels through the most interesting geography of Kilauea, including lava flows from numerous recent eruptions. Although everywhere fascinating, stops at Pauahi Crater, Mauna Ulu and Muliwai O Pele are almost mandatory. As mentioned earlier, this drive gives stark perspective on the slump blocks and the slippage of Kilauea’s south flank toward the sea. Stops at Kealakomo Overlook, Halona Kahakai, Alanui Kahiko and Holei Pali illustrate the vast nature of the slow creep of Kilauea’s southern flank down-slope. A stop to see the amazing, ancient petroglyphs at Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field provides a moving, human connection to the peoples of the past, the awe and respect they had for this Goddess and her mountain home. The end of Chain of Craters Road gives way to a playground of geological landscapes, booming sea cliffs and ancient villages, as well as providing the jumping-off point for hikes to see the flowing lava, when it is flowing within the Park boundaries.

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The eruption of Kilauea at Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A complete guide to exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can be found here; you should plan to spend the better part of a full day in the park—unless you’ve been here before, it will be the most interesting place you’ve ever been to yet. Viewing the flowing lava, the spectacle of the earth remaking herself, is one of the most moving, soul-filling, surprisingly emotional experiences you can have. The current eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, although it hasn’t yet produced any lava flows, is best viewed from the Jagger Museum; at times of peak activity, it is most spectacular when viewed after dark. Guides to Lava Viewing in the Park and at the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing platform east in Puna at Waikupanaha can be found here and here respectively. A general outline of the volcanoes of Hawaii Island is presented here, a brief discussion on the differences between a’a and pahoehoe lavas can be found here, and an overview geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands can be found here.

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A hiker watches lava from Kilauea Volcano flow into the ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Perhaps no other volcano in the world, certainly no active volcano, is so easy to explore, to touch, to experience. If you come to see Kilauea, home of the Goddess Pele, be sure to give yourself a lot of time—you’ll be more captivated than you expect; certainly you’ve never experienced anything like this before. Come, explore, enjoy, stand at her door and breath the breath of the Fire Goddess.

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The plume from littoral explosions where lava from Kilauea Volcano enters the sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of the Mauna Ulu Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The steam cloud at Waikupanaha where lava fro,m Kilauea meets the sea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Platform at Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking down into Kilauea Caldera from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers pause to look over the summit from Mauna Loa from the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii Graphic From Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A view from the summit of Hualalai to Mauna Loa Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Volcanoes of Hawaii Island

The Hawaiian Archipelago, part of the Hawaiian Island-Emperor Seamount chain, is the most isolated island group earth and is comprised entirely of volcanic islands and their fringing reefs.  The archipelago was formed as one of the Earth’s great tectonic plates, the Pacific Plate, moved steadily northwest over a stationary plume of molten material welling up from the Earth’s mantle, called a “hot spot”.

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Fumes bellow from skylights in an active lava tube on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Creating a chain of volcanic islands that, today, stretches from the Aleutian Islands to the Big Island of Hawaii, this hotspot gave rise to at least 129 separate volcanoes in the past 86 million years.  There are 19 islands and atolls, and dozens of separate islets, seamounts, reefs and shoals in the Hawaiian Island portion of this chain, stretching from Kure Atoll to Hawaii Island (please go here for a complete discussion of the geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands).

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Halema'uma'u Crater and Eruption on Kilauea, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i is the youngest island in the Archipelago and first began forming about a million years ago as volcanic vents opened above the mantle “hot spot” on the ocean bottom and molten lava began pouring onto the sea floor. Over the centuries, the making of the Big Island as we know it today eventually entailed the growth and conjoining of six separate volcanoes, building all the way up from the seafloor, some 18,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.  These volcanoes, from northwest to southeast, are named Mahukona, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and become younger as one moves north to south.

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Lava Flowing Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mahukona Volcano, just off the Big Island’s northwest coast, was the first volcano to start forming. Now submerged beneath the surface of the ocean because it is sinking into the Earth’s crust under its own vast weight, Mahukona is no longer visible.  As the Pacific Plate slowly continued moving northwestward over the hotspot, the location of the rising magma moved relatively southeastward, and through time the rest of the Big Island volcanoes formed along that path.

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Kohala Mountain from the slopes of Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

After Mahukona, Kohala Volcano, the precursor to today’s Kohala Mountain, erupted next.  As Kohala Volcano emerged from the sea and joined with Mahukona, a much larger Big Island began forming. With continued movement of the Pacific Plate, the center of volcanism migrated on to Mauna Kea and Hualalai, the middle-aged volcanoes, and finally on to Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which are the youngest volcanoes on the island.  Over the geologically short time of several hundred thousand years, these volcanoes erupted thousands of thin flows which spread over, and built upon, older flows; each volcano growing until it finally emerged from the sea. As time went on, lava flows from one volcano began to overlap flows from other, nearby volcanoes and eventually the peaks coalesced into a single island, the Big Island.

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Lava from Kilauea flows into the sea at La'epuki, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In geologically recent times, a new volcano, Lo’ihi, began forming about 18 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island.  In time, Loihi may join its mass with that of Kilauea, again changing the size and shape of the Big Island.  It is estimated that Lo’ihi, whose summit lies approximately 3,178 feet below the surface of the ocean today, will begin to protrude above the surface in about 10,000 years.

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Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Currently, the remnants of Mahukona and Kohala volcanoes are completely extinct; Hualalai and Mauna Kea are considered dormant and Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Loihi are still very active.   This means that eruptions of Mahukona and Kohala are not at all likely. Eruptions of Mauna Kea and Hualalai are probable at some time in the future, though the major phase of mountain building is over for these volcanoes.  Movement of the Pacific Plate has moved both Hualalai and Mauna Kea off the hot spot so only remnants of liquid magma reside beneath them. These late-stage, mature Hawaiian volcanoes experience violent, explosive eruptions which are spectacular but comparatively small, volume-wise.  Late-stage Hawaiian volcanic eruptions are characterized by crater-forming explosions, tephra-cone building and ash ejecting events.

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Mauna Loa from Bird Park in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mauna Loa and Kilauea are both considered active volcanoes. Although inflation and dilation events are common on the summit of Mauna Loa, it has not erupted since 1984; Mauna Loa could, however, erupt at any time.  Since 1833 when accurate records began to be kept, there have been 33 eruptions of Mauna Loa, making it one of the most active volcanoes on earth.  Its name means “long mountain”, and Mauna Loa is capable of erupting huge amounts of lava in a very short time, dwarfing the current output of Kilauea.  The most massive mountain on earth, this prolific effusion of molten rock accounts for Mauna Loa’s vast bulk.

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Kilauea eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater at night, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea, once believed to be a mere satellite vent on Mauna Loa, is known to be a separate and distinct volcano with its own, geologically separate magma chamber and subterranean plumbing. Nearly half a million years old, Kilauea’s most recent eruption has been continuous since 1983 making it currently the world’s most active volcano. Indeed, between 1983 and 2009 about 700 acres of new land were produced by lava flows from Kilauea.  Articles on how to see the active lava flows on Kilauea can be found here and here. A detailed guide to enjoying Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, featuring Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes can be found here.

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Kilauea buried the town of Kalapana in the early 1990s and formed Kaimu Black, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Because the time-scale of human experience is virtually instantaneous compared to the aeons-long march of geologic history, there is continuing human drama, a tension, between short-sighted humans attempting to establish roads, villages and towns, and the ongoing geologic processes of the landscapes they choose to inhabit.  In very recent decades, the towns of Kapoho, Kalapana and Kaimu have been inundated, destroyed and buried by Kilauea Volcano (please see a related article on the death and rebirth of Kalapana, here).  As more people move to Hawaii, more such drama is inevitable.

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Mauna Loa floats above the fields of Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The evolution of Hawaiian volcanoes continues even after the major phase of eruptive activity subsides. There are great differences, obvious to even the most casual observer, between the elongated, fluted ridge-like shape of Kohala Mountain and the lower angled slopes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  Likewise, steep-sided Mauna Kea has a greatly different physical aspect than does gently-sloped, shield-shaped Mauna Loa.  These differences are accounted for by the differences in their relative ages, and thus eruptive and erosive stages.

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The steeper, crater-poked slopes of Hualalai indicate it has moved on to the later stages of volcanism Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Remembering that the angle of repose of Hawaiian lava is about 6 degrees, the shield-shaped, gentle slopes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea reflect the fact that they are quite young and are still in the shield-building stage, being built-up by successive flows of highly fluid lava.  The much steeper flanks of Hualalai and Mauna Kea volcanoes are due to the late-stage, explosive eruptions, to erosion and to ashfall which piles up much more steeply than the flowing lava.  The fluted ridges of Kohala volcano result from the deep dissection of the once shield-shaped slopes of the original volcano by streams and surface flow of water.  The distinctive steep valleys and great cliffs seen on the north and east sides of Kohala Volcano result from later process of normal faulting and giant landslides (see further discussion in an article about Waipi’o Valley, here).

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Glacial cirques and moraines along the Mauna Kea summit ridge, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Another process, operative in the geologically recent past, has served to shape the slopes of the volcanoes of the Big Island, at least those which are or great height.  Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea (and possibly Mauna Loa) three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features such as cirques, u-shaped valleys and scoured bedrock; surviving into the present is a remnant rock glacier near the summit of Mauna Kea (a related article on the summit of Mauna Kea and the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, can be found here; details on exploring Mauna Kea can be found here).  Any evidence on Mauna Loa of ice-age glaciers has been covered by recent eruptions.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kohala Volcano is subsiding, cut by enormous valleys and giant cliff-forming landslides, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Simultaneously with the ongoing eruptions and island building, due to their enormous mass, the great volcanoes of the Hawaiian Chain begin to subside into the oceanic crust.  After the majority of eruptions cease, with cooling and with a great amount of time, they eventually disappear beneath the surface of the sea completely, as Mahukona Volcano already has.

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Originally carved above sea level, these 500-year old petroglyphs at Keauhou today are awash due to subsidence of Hualalai Volcano: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Today, the Big Island of Hawai’i comprises more than twice the area of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined.  It’s size is not anomalous, however, considering the geologic history of the archipelago. All the other Hawaiian Islands experienced the same pattern of volcanic eruption, growth and coalescence, as well as the gradual subsidence and submersion that Hawaii Island has, and thus at one time may have been as large as the Big Island.  Indeed, geologists have demonstrated that Maui at one time formed a single landmass, known as Maui Nui or “Big Maui”, with the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Kaho’olawe.  Continued subsidence submerged the larger landmass, leaving the four, smaller islands above the ocean surface. Ultimately, this will happen to the Big Island, as well.

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Looking from Mauna Kea summit to Mauna Loa, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The relentless movement of the Pacific Plate carries it, with the all the islands piggy-backed, inexorably northward to the Aleutian Trench, where it is subducted underneath the North American Plate, melted, and recycled as volcanic material in the Aleutian Island volcanoes.  The Emperor Seamounts are currently undergoing such destruction, and, the evolution of the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain is such that, eventually this fate also awaits the Big Island…but not for tens of millions of years.

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Magical Sunset at the lava ocean entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Given the ephemeral nature of this precious island, this geologic certainty should serve to make us love and treasure the Big Island more deeply, as well as to spur us to protect and preserve it more completely.

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Silent sunset descends upon Hawaii Island at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Near the summit of Kohala Mountain, Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Full moon over Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Visitors Watch the Halema'uma'u eruption of Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Shannon Walker

The Geologic History of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands, part of a much longer chain of oceanic islands and seamounts called the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain, is comprised of 8 principal islands and 124 islets, shoals, atolls, seamounts and banks, all volcanic in origin.  The Hawaiian Islands proper extend from Kure Atoll in the mid-Pacific, trending southeast to Hawaii Island (the Big Island) and Lo’ihi submarine volcano.  The eight major islands of the Hawaiian chain are named, from northwest to southeast, Ni’ihau, Kauai, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Kaho`olawe, Maui, and Hawai`i. Unraveling the geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands provides a fascinating glimpse into structures and process occurring deep within our Earth.  To understand how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, let’s review a bit about the nature of our planet.

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Kilauea Lava Stream, Hawaii Photo courtesy of Big Island Air

Layered like an onion, our seeming solid earth is actually a heaving mass composed of various solid, partially-molten, semi-plastic and liquid layers.  The solid crust (or lithosphere), which covers the entire surface of the earth, seems strong and robust but is, in fact, quite thin and malleable.  About the same thickness relative to the rest of the planet as an onion skin is to an onion, the Earth’s silica-rich crust more or less floats upon a much thicker, partially molten, more iron and magnesium-rich, semi-plastic layer of much hotter material called the “mantle”.  Below the mantle are the liquid outer core and the solid inner core of the Earth.

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Halema'uma'u Crater and eruption on Kilauea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Earth’s crust comes in basically two varieties, oceanic crust which is quite thin (only 5-7 km thick) and continental crust, which is much thicker than oceanic crust (up to 200 km thick).  Oceanic crust is composed almost wholly of an effusive volcanic rock type called “basalt”, its intrusive volcanic, subsurface equivalent called “gabbro” and a thin covering of sediment. The continental crust, which underlies the seven continents and the more massive islands, and upon which most human activity takes place, on the other hand, is composed not only of basalt and gabbro, but all the other rock types as well.  Continental crust is much less dense than oceanic crust, being much more silica-rich, and therefore is more buoyant on the mantle.  This, in part, accounts for its relative thickness and higher elevation compared to the denser, thinner oceanic crust.

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Lava from Kilauea flows into the sea at La'epuki, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Earth’s crust is further divided-up into various distinct pieces, called “tectonic plates”, all moving relative to each other. Plates are composed almost wholly of either oceanic or continental crustal material. These plates “float” on the semi-plastic mantle, and are carried along by currents on the mantle’s surface. Mantle currents are caused by various physical process of heat transport within the mantle.   Think of a pot of boiling soup; the point of the boil in the soup is analogous to the heat transfer in the mantle and the skim of chilled soup riding around on the surface is analogous to the moving tectonic plates carried on top of the mantle.

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Hikers pause to look over at the summit of Mauna Loa From the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Interactions along the edges of these plates, whether slipping past each other (such as along the San Andreas Fault), one riding up over another (such as beneath the Himalayan Mountains), or one being subducted beneath the other (such as along the western edge of North America), accounts for much of the earthquake, mountain-building and volcanic activity seen on the surface of the earth, and plate margins are certainly the most geologically active places on earth.

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Kilauea eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater at night Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Occasionally, exceptions to this generality occur, and the Hawaiian Islands are one such spectacular exception. To understand the forces and process which shape the Hawaiian Islands, we must look a little closer at the origin and movement of the crust and the structure of the mantle.  Happily, we need only concern ourselves with oceanic crust in general and the Pacific Plate in particular, as well as one, singular feature of the mantle.

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Skylight at Kupaianaha Vent, Kilauea Volcano Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Oceanic crust is continually created by volcanic action along giant ridges which run generally north-south down the middle of the ocean basins.  The hot liquid magma at the ridges is much less dense than the surrounding, cold crustal rocks, and so “floats” these ridges and the still hot, newly-formed oceanic crust, up above the surrounding ocean basin, thus forming the ridge.  As volcanic eruptions along these ridges add hot, new material to the edge of the oceanic plates, the mass of new material drives the older oceanic crust away from the ridge, down both sides of it.  As the new material cools and becomes less dense, it sinks and further drives the crust away from the ridges.

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Lava Flowing Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Called “Mid-Ocean Ridge Spreading”, this process can be likened to a conveyor belt where new crust is created at the mid-ocean ridge, and is driven along by buoyancy and gravity, farther and farther away from the ridge until the plate’s leading edge interacts in some way with another tectonic plate.  Thus we see that the floors of the ocean basins, all around the world, are in constant, relative motion.  The Pacific Plate, upon which the Hawaiian Islands are built, has been moving at a rate of about 3.9 inches per year to the northwest, relative to other plate motions, for about the last 42 million years.

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Sunset on Haleakala from Kiholo, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

But what causes the enormous volcanoes that comprise the Hawaiian Archipelago to form in the middle of the ocean basin?  As mentioned above, the mantle is far from uniform either compositionally, thermally or in terms of the processes controlling its internal motions.  There are places on the earth where, for a variety of reasons, hot and buoyant mantle plumes rise above the general surface of the mantle, into the crust, carrying great amounts of heat and semi-liquid material quite near the earth’s surface.  Called “Hot Spots”, extreme volcanism can result from these thermal plumes.  The volcanic fields at Yellowstone in North America are one such example of this “hot spot magmatism”; the Hawaiian Islands are yet another.

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The heavily-dissected mountains of Kauai completely obscure the original shield shape of the volcano Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Hawaiian Hot Spot has caused the creation of at least 129 volcanoes on the ocean floor, the center of volcanism on the Pacific Plate continually migrating across the plate as it travels over the hot spot. Of these 129 volcanoes, 123 are extinct, three are dormant and three are active.  At first, the trend of volcanoes was almost due north-south.  Then, somewhere between 41 and 43 million years ago the relative motion between the Pacific Plate and the hot spot changed, becoming more northwesterly; this caused a sharp bend in the line of island-forming volcanoes.

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Aerial view of Pu'u O'o vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although all were formed by the same, continuing tectono-volcanic processes, two island groups are named from this bent line of islands, atolls and seamounts.  North of the bend are the Emperor Seamounts, a long chain of islands, seamounts, atolls and reefs trending steeply southeast to northwest between Abbot Seamount in the mid-Pacific and Meiji Seamount near the Aleutian Trench.  South of the bend are the Hawaiian Islands, trending from the active volcanism at the Big Island and Loihi Volcano today, gently northwest to Kure Atoll in the mid-Pacific. Movement of the Pacific Plate over the hotspot is such that Midway and Kure Atolls were where the Big Island is now, directly over the hot spot, about 30 million years ago.

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The steep sides of Mt. Rainier in Washington result from its relatively high-silica, viscous lava Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The chemical composition of the Hawaiian magmas plays a central role in determining the physical form of the Hawaiian Islands.  All crustal rocks are formed of minerals composed of aluminum and silicon oxides with varying amounts of iron, magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium and other elements stirred in.  In lava, silica tends to polymerize and greatly increase the viscosity of the melt—thus silica-rich lavas are fairly “sticky”, forming slow moving lava flows that pile-up into steep volcanoes which are typified by explosive eruptions. Silica-poor melts, on the other hand, because they are not so polymerized, form very fluid lavas that flow quickly and easily, forming gently-sloped volcanoes typified by relatively quiescent eruptions.  Remember the key words here are: “relatively quiescent”.

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Mauna Loa floats above the fields of Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

One glance at the profile of the Hawaiian volcanoes is enough to convince us that the lavas must be very silica poor, since they are very gently-sloped and the eruptions relatively peaceable; certainly civilized enough so that the casual viewer may approach them quite closely in relative safety.  Compare these with the very steep-sided, highly explosive eruptions of volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens, which is comprised of lava much more intermediate in silica composition, or the smoking hole in the ground that is the Yellowstone volcanic field, left by a massively explosive, very silica rich (and very, very viscous) lava erupting.

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Layered basalts in Waimea Canyon on Kauai show the structure of the Island, flow upon flow: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The rocks formed when the lava from Hawaiian volcanoes hardens are called “basalt”.  Although you hear the term “lava rock” used by laymen, it is a nonsensical word geologically and the registered trademark of a commercial product.  Commonly misapplied, it makes even less sense than the equivalent of using the term “water solid” instead of “ice”. The name “basalt” denotes both the silica-poor composition, as well as the fact that it was erupted onto, and it has cooled at, the Earth’s surface.  When lavas cool within a magma chamber before being erupted onto the surface, they are called an “intrusive volcanic” rock; intrusive volcanic rocks formed from lavas of basalt-like composition are called “gabbros”.  There are a few rocks in the Hawaiian islands of differing composition and texture than basalt and gabbro, but they are unimportant to this discussion.

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The classic, low-angle shield shape of Mauna Loa seen from Hilo, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The angle of repose, which is controlled by the viscosity of the melt, is about 6 degrees for Hawaiian basalts. Melt viscosity is a function of its temperature, silica content and fluid composition.   Hawaiian basalts are very fluid because of the low silica content and high eruptive temperature (in excess of 1100 degrees C); this low viscosity accounts for low angle, “shield shape” of Hawaiian volcanoes.

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Kohala Volcano is dissected by several major fault-bounded valleys, further obscuring its original shield shape Photo by Donald B MacGowan

As soon as the Hawaiian volcano forms, other forces begin to act upon it, affecting the general “shield shape” of the volcano: tides and waves attack the edges, rivers and streams begin to dissect the shield into ridges.  As time goes on, erosion from surface water flow produces fluting along those ridges.  Great landslides produce enormous cliffs; faulting produces huge valleys and collapse produces enormous craters and calderas.  Further, the later stage of Hawaiian volcanism is typified by increasing violence, which makes deep explosion craters, steep-sided cinder cones and steeply sloped, but easily eroded, ash deposits.

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Stream erosion dissects the shield volcanoes into valley and knife-like ridges Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To look at the volcanoes of Hawaii starting in the southeast at Kilauea and Mauna Loa and moving northwest, one can see this evolution quite clearly.  Kilauea and Mauna Loa, being quite young, are still broad and shallow-sloped, basically the classic shield-shape.  Mauna Kea and Hualalai are obviously more mature, showing steeper slopes, a reflection of greater ashfall and greater erosion, as well as pocked with explosion craters and cinder cones.  Moving father along, Kohala Mountain is so deeply eroded and festooned with long, fluted ridges as well as cut by enormous canyons, that it is almost unrecognizable as a shield volcano.  And so it continues as one proceeds north through the older islands and the more highly eroded mountains; the original shield shape of the volcanoes become more and more obscured by deeper and deeper erosion.  By the time one gets to the famous and spectacular Na Pali Cliffs of Kaua’i, all that is left of the original volcano are the deeply fluted, now almost knife-like, ridges.

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Ancient Petroglyph, Keauhou Historic District, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The great mass of these volcanoes causes them to begin to sink back into the mantle.  This is evident on even relatively young volcanoes.  For instance, on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano on the Big Island, along the shore at Keauhou, numerous petroglyphs commemorating the famous victory of King Lonoikamakahiki of Hawaii over King Kamalalawalu of Maui were carved in the rock around the end of the 16th century.  Although when they were originally carved they stood above sea level, in the intervening four centuries, the island has sunk sufficiently that they are now mostly awash in the sea and submerged at high tide.

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Glacial cirque and terminal moraine on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Another process, operative in the geologically recent past, has served to shape the slopes of the Hawaiian volcanoes, at least those which are or great height.  Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea (and possibly Mauna Loa and Haleakala) three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features such as cirques, u-shaped valleys and scoured bedrock; surviving into the present is a remnant rock glacier near the summit of Mauna Kea.

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Valleys and Ridges of the Famous Na Pali Coast, Kauai Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The complex interaction of volcano growth, coalescing of various volcanoes forming a single island and the eventual subsidence of the volcanoes into the crust determines the shape and size of the individual Hawaiian Islands through time.  Today, the youngest islands are largest and the oldest islands, generally, are the smallest…this trend continues throughout the Hawaii Island/Emperor Seamount chain.

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Lava flows from Kilauea to the sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In the case of the Big Island, even though the first volcano to form, Mahukona, has completely subsided below sea level, the Big Island still comprises more than twice the area of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined, due to the large number of volcanic peaks forming it. However, through their history, all the Hawaiian Islands will experience the same pattern of growth, coalescence, subsidence and submersion, and so may have been much larger at one time.

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Haleakala from Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Maui, today comprised only of the remnant peaks of Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains, at one time formed a single giant landmass with the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Kaho’olawe.  As the continual northwest movement of the Pacific Plate carried Maui away from the Hawaiian hot spot, continued subsidence submerged the larger landmass, known as Maui Nui, or “Big Maui”, into the oceanic crust, leaving only these four, very much smaller, islands above the surface today.

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Superstition to Science, Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In fact, Kaua’i, Ni’ihau and O’ahu all represent the tiny remnants of once much larger landmasses that are actively subsiding into the oceanic crust.  Tracing the Hawaiian Archipelago to the northwest, and thus to very much older islands, we see this evolution continue as the great volcanoes are completely submerged below the surface leaving only the fringing coral reefs and a tiny remnant island above sea level, such as we see at Laysan Atoll and Midway Island. Continuing along through the chain to the Emperor Seamounts, not even that much is left as all traces of these islands, once proud and beautiful like the Hawaiian Islands today, become totally submerged beneath the surface of the ocean.

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Alpen Glow on Hualalai Volcano and Sunset on Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Add to this mental picture the fact that the Pacific Plate relentlessly drives northwestward, carrying all the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain with it, northward to the Aleutian Trench, where it is subducted and destroyed beneath the North American Plate.  Eventually, in the far-distant future, this fate awaits all these beautiful, precious islands.  Such is the ephemeral nature of the Hawaiian Islands, and this vision of their very delicate and temporary nature should make us respect and wonder at their splendor and beauty, all the more.  And increase our desire to protect and preserve them.

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The steeper, crater-poked slopes of Hualalai indicate it has moved on to the later stages of volcanism Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Watching Lava Pour Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts   the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and   WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or   www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava ocean entry, Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava flows at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hale'ma'uma'u eruption from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo By Donald B MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place. The Park comprises a land of great contrasts and contradictions ranging from dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; from frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches and rivers of flowing lava. Easily the most captivating part of any trip to The Big Island, most people don’t think to schedule enough time to explore this amazing place and wind-up hurrying through, wishing they’d saved more time to see all the wonders of the goddess’s home. Established in 1916, the Park is almost half a million acres in area, about the size of O’ahu, but lots more interesting.

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Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still steaming. In places it’s so fresh it’s still flowing.

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As if someone left the door to Hades ajar, Halema'uma'u as seen from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you can tour by car, take a commercial bus tour, explore by bike, hike the most amazing and finest trails on the island over cinder cones, calderas and deserts on 140 miles of spectacularly diverse trails, wander the smoking lava fields, stand in the rain in a kipuka fern forest or climb to icy heights of a volcanic summit. You can even sit back, relax and just enjoy the view or you can peruse the best collection of art for sale in the entire state at the world-renowned Volcano Art Center.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hiking to the lava flows, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Seeing the eruptions, the flowing lava, the mystery and magic of the Earth remaking herself before your very eyes, is the first thing most visitor’s think about when they contemplate visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Although the Park is about much more than just the current eruptions, seeing the flowing lava is certainly the most dramatic and memorable part of any visit. Currently, Kilauea Volcano is undergoing two eruptions, one in Halema’uma’u Crater in the Kilauea Caldera and one along its East Rift.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u Crater, Jagger Museum Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Halema’uma’u eruption involves the formation of a lava lake within the crater itself, although the lake is covered by a roof of hardened rock and is not visible to the visitor. The eruption has produced a lot of gas, steam and some ash that form a magnificent eruption cloud over the crater, best viewed from the Jagger museum. The eruption cloud has a magnificent orange glow at night, from the molten rock below, which is best seen after dark from Jagger Museum. Due to toxic gas emissions and the danger from the eruption itself, Crater Rim Drive has been closed around the south and east sections of Kilauea Caldera from Jagger Museum to the junction with Chain of Craters Road.

 New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

The east rift eruption is the one which produces the magnificent lava streams and fantastic explosions where the lava enters the ocean. Over the years, the lava flows wander back and forth across a lava plain of about nine miles breadth. Where lava is currently flowing makes a difference in how you approach it and where you see it; to get details on current eruptive and flow activity, you may call the National Park Eruption Hotline at 808.985.6000 or the County of Hawaii Eruption Information hotline at 808.961.8093. When lava flows enter the sea within the Park, it is possible to hike directly to them and observe them. Detailed information on seeing the lava flows from within the park can be found here. When lava is flowing on County of Hawaii land north and east of the Park, you must drive to Waikupanaha, outside Kalapana, and see it from the Hawaii County Lava Viewing Area; detailed information about seeing the lava at this location is here.

 New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sea arches, cliffs and wild ocean at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Park Entrance is above 4000 feet altitude and frequently chilly and wet; bring warm clothes and a rain jacket. Remember this if you’re tired of roasting on the beach, a day in the cool mist of the mountain fern forests may be just the thing to put the zing back in your Hawai’i vacation!

 New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Summer Rainbow at Kealakomo, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

If you’ve never been here before, you’ve certainly never seen anything like this…and you may never get another chance. Be sure to allow plenty of time to see this fabulous, beautiful, mysterious place.   A good introduction to the geologic history of the Hawaii Islands in general can be found here, and the volcanoes of Hawaii Island, in particular, can be found here.

 New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Anthropomorphic couple, Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

General Information: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pu'u Pua'i from across Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Within the Park, two main roads serve as scenic drives showcasing the wide variety of climates, vegetation, landforms and other wonders; Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road.

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Inside Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Crater Rim Drive circumnavigates Kilauea Caldera (as well as Halema’uma’u Crater, home of the Goddess Pele) in 11 intriguing miles. Although the drive can be made in less than 40 minutes, one is urged to schedule at least three hours to adequately cover the wonders and marvels along its path. Individual sites along Crater Rim Drive are described in detail elsewhere, but this incredible road, which serves as a great introduction to the Park, runs through and connects the Volcano House, the newly remodeled Kilauea Visitor’s Center, the Volcano Art Center, Sulfur Banks and Steaming Bluff, the informative and well-done Jagger Museum and Hawaii Volcano Observatory, numerous caldera overlook points including overlooks of Halema’uma’u Crater, Devastation Trail, Pu’u Pua’i, Kilauea Iki Crater which has perhaps the finest hiking trail in the Park trail and the justly famous Thurston Lava Tube.

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A remnant of the Naulu Forest remains inside the 1972 flows from Mauna Ulu at Alanui Kahiko, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The other scenic drive, Chain of Craters Road, takes off from Crater Rim Drive near the Devastation Trail and swoops down the volcano over 4000 feet to the ocean. In about twenty miles it dead-ends where lava flowed over the road in 2004. The road roughly parallels the active East Rift Zone (hence all those craters) and winds steeply down the Holei Pali through alternating basalt desert and thick ohi’a, fern and orchid forests, giving staggering vistas of the coastline below.

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Sunset at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, with Mauna Ulu in the background Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Along this road, in addition to numerous craters and pits, is the turn-off to Hilina Pali Road, a five mile drive to one of the most spectacular views in the State of Hawaii. Mauna Ulu, which last erupted in 1976, is along this road and the hike up this cone is one of the most amazing, and awe inspiring, anywhere. Kealakomo Overlook has incredible views out over the lava plain and coast below the Holei Pali and, after descending the Pali in long swooping curves, the road passes the parking area for Pu’u Loa Petroglyph field, the greatest concentration of petroglyphs in Polynesia. The road then heads along the sea cliffs, with waves booming and billowing over them, to Holei Sea Arch and its dead end in the recent lava flow. At the end of Chain of Craters Road are other activities that many visors miss, such as mountain biking, hiking, fabulous bird watching among other; more information can be found here.

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Hiking to the lava, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Even when several miles away, from the end of Chain of Craters Road the lava flows look invitingly close and one is tempted to dash out and look at this wonder of nature…but the march is over rough terrain, dry and hot and likely much farther than it looks. Before venturing out to the lava flows, absolutely review the information on lava viewing here…it may save your life; it will certainly ensure your hike is much more enjoyable.

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Mauna Loa from Mauna Loa Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Two subsidiary roads, Mauna Loa Road and Hilina Pali Road, allow the visitor access so some of the less-traveled, fabulous backcountry of the park. West of the Main Entrance, Mauna Loa Road travels uphill through forest and grass land on the slopes of the world’s largest mountain, Mauna Loa; more information can be found here.

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Looking southwest from the Hilina Pali, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Hilina Pali Road takes off from Chain of Craters road and penetrates nine miles into the volcanic wilderness just below the summit of Kilauea Volcano to amazing coastal views on top of the Hilina Pali. More information on Hilina Pali Road can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Volcano General Store, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Remember that the only gas available near the Park is in the village of Volcano immediately east of the Park’s main entrance. It is wise to fill-up before entering the Park. No matter what your plans may be, you are likely to spend more time and use more gas in the Park than you had originally intended. Yes, it’s that good.

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Halema'uma'u Crater from the back door of Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Food is generally only available in the Park at Volcano House, but there are a number of restaurants and shops in Volcano Village to buy food and drinks…best to do this when you get gas. Occasionally, Volcano House operates a small sundries and snack wagon at the end of Chain of Craters Road, but it is best not to count on this being open

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers on Kilauea Iki Crater Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Fees: Access fees for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for hikers, bikers and motorcyclists are $5.00; vehicles are charged $10.00. This charge entitles the payer to 5 days unlimited access to the Park. One can also buy a Hawaii National Park Pass for $20.00 good for one year at all National Park sites on the Big Island and Maui. For $50.00 one can buy a Golden Eagle National Park Pass, good for one year at any National Park in the country. U.S. citizens over 62 years of age can purchase a Golden Age Passport for $10.00 that entitles them to free access to all National Parks for life. Disabled U.S. citizens may obtain a free, lifetime Golden Access Pass good at all National Parks in the country.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Dawn lights up the Mauna Kea Summit Observatories from Kilauea Crater Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Parking: parking is clearly marked in various areas of interest; do not park along the side of the road, on trails or other unmarked places.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Wildflowers at Volcano Village, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Public toilets: facilities exist at the Visitor’s Center, Volcano House, Volcano Art Center, Jagger Museum, Thurston Lava Tube and Namakani Paio Campground. Water is generally available to tourists at only these locations as well. Pit toilets (but no water) are available at Kipuka Puaulu on Mauna Loa Road, Kilauea Overlook, Mauna Ulu, Hilina Pali Overlook and Kulanaokuaiki Campground on the Hilina Pali Road and at the end of Chain of Craters Road. In the backcountry, water is available in catchment basins at some of the shelters and huts, but you should check with Backcountry Rangers on availability first. There are no lakes or streams in the National Park whatsoever.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Young vulcanologist and his umbrella, Puna Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Climate: The climate at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is, to say the least, variable in the extreme. From the icy alpine summit of Mauna Loa at almost 14,000 feet to the tropical coastline of La’epuki and Halape at sea level, to tropical fern forests at Nahuku, to the dusty, ash and lava covered scrub of the Ka’u Desert. One may enter the Park at 4,200 feet near the summit of Kilauea in a driving sleet storm or freezing fog only to find oneself in the baking tropic desert of Holei forty minutes later. Expect rain, warm and cold; expect sun, warm and cold, and bring the appropriate clothing for all

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/what-sunglasses-should-i-buy-to-go-to-hawaii/

Don't forget your camera! Puna, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In addition to weather and temperature that is unpredictable, changeable and baffling, remember our intense tropical sunlight is made only more intense at altitude. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a sun hat are mandatory…in fact, it is so important we have written separate articles on the use of sunscreen in Hawaii and on sunglasses in Hawaii. Too many visitors ignore warning about our fierce tropical sun and wind-up with a vacation-ruining sunburn or headaches and eye-burn from the intense light; please review that information.

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/what-sunglasses-should-i-buy-to-go-to-hawaii/

The Devastation Trail Path and Pu'u Pua'i, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Disabled Access: Special attention has been paid to access by disabled persons to many of the less easily seen wonders in the Park at all levels. Handrails and ropes line trails to the Steam Vents and Halema’uma’u trails. Others, such as Devastation Trail and Crater Rim Trail along Waldron Ledge and some of the shorter trails are wheelchair accessible. The Visitor Center, Jagger Museum, Volcano House and Volcano Art Center are all fully handicap accessible. Unfortunately, the flowing lava can only be seen by a long hike or from the air.

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kulanaokuaiki-campground/

Camping at Namakani Paio Campground, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Camping: Camping cabins are available for a nominal fee at Namakani Paio Campground just west of the Park Entrance. Free tent camping is available at both there and at Kulanaokuaiki Campground on Hilina Pali Road inside the Park; however, no water and only pit toilets are available at the latter. There are numerous hike-in campgrounds requiring permits along the many trails in the Park; for locations, permits, availability and regulations, contact the Backcountry Office at 808.985.6017.

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts  the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and  WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or  www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Lava ocean entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts  the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and  WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or  www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava ocean entry, Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A remnant of the Naulu Forest remains inside the flows from Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Chain of Craters Road

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Coastal Plain along Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Following along Kilauea’s East Rift Zone, Chain of Craters Road passes through an amazing array of rift volcanoes, pit craters, lava trenches and flow fields. Leaving Crater Rim Drive at the Devastation Trail parking lot, Chain of Craters Road traverses and opens-up some of the most wild and beautiful landscapes seen anywhere, terminating near the active lava flows from Kilauea Volcano.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava stream flowing into the ocean at La'epuki, past the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Perhaps nowhere else on earth are the elements high mountains, wild seascapes and active volcanoes and their lava flows more dramatically displayed. Crazily switching-back repeatedly down the Holei Pali, Chain of Craters Road finally reaches the untamed and scenically wild coastline, where giant waves spray and spume over sea cliffs dozens of feet high. Towering steam plumes in the distance at the end of the road mark where unimaginably hot liquid rock pours into the wild, wild sea.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Chain of Craters Road Rainbow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A place of mystery, a place of power, a place of wonder.

Altogether, Chain of Craters Road is a singular and essential addition to any visit to the Island of Hawai’i.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

View of the coastal explosion plume from the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Once connecting Volcano Village through the Park to Puna and State Routes 130 and 137 at Kalapana, Chain of Craters Road has repeatedly been badly damaged by earthquake, buried in lava, re-routed and re-built and broken up and buried again. The current eruption, which began in 1983, has buried a significant portion of the currently-closed nine miles of road between its temporary end inside the Park at Holei Sea Arch (the 19 mile marker) and the eastern closure outside the town of Kalapana, beyond the eastern edge of the Park.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pauahi Crater at Sunset, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Collapse features, such as the numerous “pit craters” found along the Chain of Craters Road (see Puhimau Crater, Pauahi Crater and Devil’s Throat), form when lava drains out of subterranean chambers, causing the ground surface to collapse. Notice how all the debris seems to point downward into the bottom of the crater; there are no materials around the rim of the crater that are suggestive of eruptive or explosive events. On the walls of the crater, one can see numerous, inter-layered, pre-collapse lava flows and airfall beds that were truncated by the collapse and exposed.

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Looking towards Keauhou and Halape from Hilina Pali Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Known for its fine mountain biking, hiking and bird-watching, the Hilina Pali Road turns off Chain of Craters Road at the 2.2 Mile Marker and leads to an expansive area just below the summit caldera of Kilauea Volcano. Besides some of the best views of Mauna Loa in the park, this is an area of massive faults, twisted lava flow fields and amazing scenery culminating in wild views of the coastline from the Hilina Pali Overlook (literally meaning “Cliffs of Faith”). To learn more about the Hilina Pali Road, please go here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunset at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, with Mauna Ulu in the background Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mauna Ulu, the Growing Mountain, is a fabulous, recent volcanic cone that dominates the central portion of the Chain of Craters Road and warrants some special attention. Numerous short walks and hikes explore the Mauna Ulu region; to see more about Mauna Ulu, go here. Massive flow fields from both Kilauea and Mauna Ulu cross, re-cross and parallel the road, spilling over Holei Pali in a spectacular display of just how the Island of Hawaii was built and grew. To learn more about this portion of Chain of Craters road, please see the sections on Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, Muliwai a Pele, Alanui Kahiko, Kealakomo Overlook and Holei Pali.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Petroglyph figures at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Below the Holei Pali there area a number of interesting stops along Chain of Craters Road, including the Holei Lava Tube, the largest petroglyph field in Polynesia, Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field, Holei Sea Arch and the end of road. Mountain biking, hiking, bird-watching are favorite activities in this part of the Park. For more information about the end of Chain of Craters Road, please go here. If lava is flowing from Kilauea within the National Park boundaries, this is where you will park to begin the hike to see it; for information about hiking to see the lava, please go here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A patch of sunlight on the Holei Pali, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

If a car ride back up from the end of the road can be arranged, riding bicycles round Crater Rim Drive and down Chain of Craters road can be a momentous and fun excursion. Starting slightly above 4200 feet in elevation and ending at virtually sea level, this 22 mile drop from misty mountain cloud forest, running through tropical rain forest into tropical desert and onto desolate volcanic barrens is invigorating physically, stunning visually and makes a wonderfully memorable addition to any visit to the Island of Hawai’i. However, if you decide to pedal the 4200 feet elevation gain and 22 miles back up Chain of Craters Road to Kilauea Summit in the heat of day (highly not recommended), this will also ensure a quite memorable, though far less pleasant, addition to your visit.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Summer Rainbow at Kealakomo, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Other than pit toilets, there are no services, water, food or gasoline available along the length of Chain of Craters Road. Occasionally Volcano House opens their small snack wagon at the end of the road, but do not count on it being open when you are there. Do not underestimate the draw of this area on your imagination and your spirit; you WILL spend more time here than you think. Plan ahead, get food, water and gas before venturing down the road. Remember, after dark on the South side of Hawai’i Island, it is virtually impossible to find gasoline or food for sale along the southern highway between Hilo and Kona.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Eruptions In Mirror Are Closer Than They APPEAR, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html.

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.
For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Honu petroglyph at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u eruption from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic Photo By Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Crater Rim Drive

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A fine introduction to the wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Crater Rim Drive circles the summit caldera of Kilauea Volcano, including Halema’uma’u Crater, the home of Madame Pele. The drive runs 11 fabulous and amazing miles through arid, barren volcanic desert, ohi’a forest and grassland and lush fern jungle. The most interesting sites along the drive are the Visitor’s Center, Jagger Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater, Kilauea Iki Crater, Devastation Trail and Thurston Lava Tube.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Currently, because of the eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, Chain of Craters Road is closed from Jagger Museum, south past Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook to the junction with Chain of Craters Road at Devastation Trail. This means that you cannot drive through the interior of Kilauea Caldera and will miss such sites as Southwest Rift, Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook and Keanakako’i Crater, as well as many of the more interesting recent lava flows and ash fall surfaces. However, this allows you to concentrate more fully on other sites.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u Crater from Kilauea Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

We recommend that, after entering the park at the Main Gate, you stop and get oriented at the Visitor’s Center, then drive to Jagger Museum through the amazing high-altitude, Ka’u Desert scrubland. Many people find the volcanic barrens disturbingly empty and void of life, but if you look closely, this starkly beautiful desert is quickly being re-colonized by plants. After visiting the Museum, turn around and come back down Crater Rim Drive toward the main gate. Along this section of road are several fascinating stops, such as Steaming Bluffs/Sulfur Banks, Kilauea Crater Overlook, the Volcano Art Center, Volcano House and the hike to Waldron Ledge.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Halema'uma'u eruption in Kilauea Caldera at night, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Be sure to return to Jagger Museum after dark if you have the opportunity to watch the Hadean glow of the Halema’uma’u Eruption…it is as if someone left the door to the Fires of Hell ajar and you can glimpse inside.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A misty day on Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Continuing on Chain of Craters Road as it passes the Main Gate, you dive into the wet side of Kilauea Caldera and the two-tiered ohi’a/tree-fern forest, a dense and a seeming impenetrable jungle that teams with flowers, birds and exotic plants. Along this salient of roadway are several not-to-be-missed stops such as the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook, Kilauea Iki Hiking Trail, Thurston Lava Tube, Pu’u Pua’i and the Devastation Trail. In addition to the beautiful and startling scenery, this part of the drive allows you to get a better idea of how Hawaii’s amazing volcano are born, evolve, and what their inner plumbing looks like. We highly recommend both the walk through Thurston Lava Tube and the hike through Kilauea Iki Crater.

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Kilauea Iki Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This tour along Chain of Craters Road can be made in under 40 minutes. However, one should allow at least three hours (more if you are hiking any of the delightful trails) to explore this fantastic place; if you have never been here before, you certainly have never seen anything like it.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Devastation Trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Many people who plan to rush through the Park find themselves utterly engrossed, wind up spending much more time (and gas) than they planned here. In fact, many extemporaneously change their plans and cut time from some other attraction. Best plan to spend sufficient time here in the first place.

No services are available along Crater Rim Drive.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Maus Family Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Uncle Donnie MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Crater Rim Drive is closed at Jagger Museum due to the Halema'uma'u eruption, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The two-tiered forest along Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunset lights-up Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Mauna Ulu

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunset and alpenglow at Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mauna Ulu, or “growing mountain” is a still steaming, tall, shield-shaped hill formed by numerous eruptions along the rift between 1969 and 1974. Mauna Ulu is best seen by walking beyond the parking lot to where the end of road is covered in fresh lava flows. At Mauna Ulu, visitors can get an intimate look at both pahoehoe and a’a lava flow types.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Ulu Crater from the air, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pahoehoe, the less viscous and generally hotter liquid flow, moves fluidly like a river or glacier, the surface folding and molding, like poured taffy, into a ropey structure. Pahoehoe forms generally flat, fairly smooth, hard surfaces. A’a, on the other hand, is much cooler and has exolved much of its dissolved gas, so it is much more viscous, causing the upper surface to fracture into clinker-like boulders and fragments. Flowing a’a sounds and looks like a moving pile of hot glass shards; when it cools, it leaves behind rubbly piles of sharp fragments. Fields of pahoehoe and a’a make a landscape that look as if Madame Pele has bulldozed her land to flat surfaces, but left these acres of boulder piles here and there.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Barren slopes of Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The hike to the summit of Mauna Ulu is fabulous and rewarding. However, it is a long, dry, serious hike with some dangers (rock fall, crater collapse, scalding steam and others) and should only be undertaken by those in good physical condition and experienced at hiking cross-country across broken and hazardous ground.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pu’u Huluhulu (“shaggy hill”) is a 150 foot tall cinder cone formed in pre-contact times between Mauna Ulu and Pauahi Crater. There is a fascinating 3 mile round trip hike from the Mauna Ulu parking lot to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu that is marked by cairns (or “ahu”). The round trip hike from Mauna Ulu Parking lot to Pu’u Huluhulu and return takes about an hour and a half to two hours. From the vantage point of Pu’u Huluhulu’s summit are fine views of Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Mauna Kea, the coastline and the very interesting, active cinder cone, Pu’u O’o (hill of the bird”), about 5 miles away.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial View of Pu'u O'o Vent, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pu’u O’o was built by the fire-fountains erupting along Kilauea’s rift zone between 1983 and 1986. Since 1986, the center of eruption has moved about 2 miles further down the rift to a vent called “Kupaianaha”, or ”mysterious” in Hawai’ian. However, within the maw of Pu’u O’o is an active lava lake, which serves as a window into the plumbing of the eruptive rift system.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

An a'a lava flow piled up on a pahoehoe flow in front of Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The rubble slopes of Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Ohi'a blossom and Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.
New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunset and alpenglow at Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The strange landscape of Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, with the Halema'uma'u eruption and the summit of Mauna Loa in the background, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

At Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, flows from Mauna Ulu have crossed and re-crossed the roadway, causing it to need rebuilding a number of times. Notice the shiny glaze of the fresh lava surface, seeming impervious to the forces of nature. Yet nearby, in cracks where seeds lodge and water collects, ferns and lichens have begun to colonize these flows, some as recent as 1974.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunset at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, with Mauna Ulu in the background Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

After ferns and lichens, o’hia and other woody plants come. Here at the Park, one can see the immense role water plays in the re-vegetation of the volcanic landscape. At Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, where it is relatively dry, re-vegetation is slow and may take half a millennium or more to cover a lava flow. Higher up, along Crater Rim Drive, you observe flows as young as a hundred years completely reclaimed by the voracious rain forest where water is abundant.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Basalt at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu has a very shiny surface, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Between 1969 and 1974 Mauna Ulu erupted almost 760 billion pounds of lava, covering an area of almost 17 square miles in an average depth of 25 feet.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu Sign, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

760 billion pounds of lava at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu erupted from Mauna Ulu Volcano in the background, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hale'ma'uma'u eruption from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic Photo By Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Main Entrance

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Fee-Station at the Entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The main entrance to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park lies along the Hawai’i Belt Road between Volcano Village on the East and Mauna Loa Road on the west. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; the access fee is charged only during daylight hours. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava enters the ocean a La'epuki, near the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Stop at the main gate to pay entrance fees and obtain a map and the latest information updates. Access fees for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for hikers, bikers and motorcyclists are $5.00; vehicles are charged $10.00. This charge entitles the payer to 5 days unlimited access to the Park. One can also buy a Hawaii National Park Pass for $20.00 good for one year at all National Park sites on the Big Island and Maui. For $50.00 one can buy a Golden Eagle National Park Pass, good for one year at any National Park in the country. U.S. citizens over 62 years of age can purchase a Golden Age Passport for $10.00 that entitles them to free access to all National Parks for life. Disabled U.S. citizens may obtain a free, lifetime Golden Access Pass good at all National Parks in the country.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Mauna Loa Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is about 4200 feet elevation and one may enter in a driving sleet storm or freezing fog only to find oneself in the baking tropic desert of Holei at the end of Chain of Craters Road only forty minutes later. Expect rain, warm and cold; expect sun, warm and cold, and bring appropriate clothing and use it.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sea arches, cliffs and wild ocean at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Food is only available in the Park at Volcano House, and occasionally at the end of Chain of Craters Road at a small concession stand. There are a number of restaurants and shops in Volcano Village to buy food and drinks, where the only gas near the Park also is available. It is wise to fill-up the gas tank and the food cooler before entering the Park. No matter what your plans may be, you are likely to spend more time and use more gas in the Park than you had originally intended.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u eruption from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Mauna Loa Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sea arches, cliffs and wild ocean at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

What’s at the End of Chain of Craters Road?

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava stream flowing into the ocean at La'epuki, past the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The end of the Chain of Craters Road is currently around Mile Marker 19, just at the Holei Sea Arch and about ½ mile from the National Park eruption viewing station. Good, if distant, viewing of the eruption, displays about the volcano and natural history of the area, as well as a wealth of information on hiking to, and viewing, the lava, are available here. In addition, numerous sea arches, sea caves, fabulous bird watching, indescribable ocean views and some pretty good biking are to be found here. Even if the lava flows are too far away to be easily hiked to, the hike along the new land, twisted lava forms and endless basalt landscape is well worth the drive to the end of the road.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Coastal explosion plume from the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Over the months and years, the lava river issuing from Pu’u O’o winds its way back and forth across the lava plain of about 8 miles breadth, usually flowing into the sea within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but sometimes outside the eastern margin of the Park on County of Hawaii land at Waikupanaha, sometimes ponding behind the low lava hills for weeks at a time without entering the ocean at all. Check with the rangers about flow conditions; they can tell you the best way to approach these flows. Current eruption updates are available from the National Park Service by calling 808.985.600. Listen to their advice, heed their warnings, especially if you plan to hike all the way to the lava flows.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Watching the lava flow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

When the lava flows outside the Park onto Hawaii County land, you can see it from the Puna side at the County of Hawaii Viewing area at Waikupanaha; for further information on hiking to see the lava at Waikupanaha, please go here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Volcanic fumes, end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

When the flows are within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the best approach is to drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road in the Park and then hike in. This hike can be of a few minutes, or a few hours, duration, depending upon how far away the lava ocean entry is. The hike is over an uneven, rough surface, hot during the day even when it rains, cold at night and navigation can sometimes be counter-intuitive. The trail at first is marked with cairns and reflectors, but after the viewing station located at a few hundred meters, you are on your own to navigate the basalt wilderness. The good news is, even if the hike is a couple hours duration, when the lava flow is in the National Park, you are allowed to walk right up to it; this is not true if the lava is flowing onto County of Hawaii land at Waikupanaha.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

When the lava is flowing, rangers are generally present at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The End of the Road is the second busiest area in the Park when the lava is flowing. Rangers try to be available here to talk to visitors through most of the day and into the evening. The Rangers will have the most up-to-date information about hiking to, and viewing, the eruption. Due to the popularity of this area, it is not uncommon to have to park as much as ¾ of a mile or more from the end of the road.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hiking to the lava flows, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

You should bring at least 2 quarts of water, a flashlight for hiking out in the dark, camera, food, first aid kit, sun screen and a rain jacket; wear a sun hat, sturdy hiking shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt–those rocks are sharp! Over the years, we have found a stout hiking stick and an umbrella to be of good use as well. Since photos and video are most spectacular at night, it is wise to bring a camera tripod.Remember: you will be hiking out at night; plan and pack accordingly.  There will likely be no food or gasoline available for purchase after dark  until you reach Hilo or Kailua Kona.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers going to see the flowing lava past the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade are available anywhere along the hike.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Glowing lava near the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The molten lava itself is mortally dangerous, although slow-moving and easy to outpace. However, the incautious and inattentive can find themselves surrounded and cut off as flows advance whilst they are looking elsewhere. It is a good idea to use a sturdy walking stick or ski pole to probe in front of you, as you approach the active flows. Although it may appear dark and solid—especially in the bright daylight—much of what you will be walking on is still extremely hot and may not be completely hardened—best to probe it first before walking out on it. You only have to have your running shoes catch fire once to learn the wisdom of wearing sturdy boots here. Don’t be tempted to touch, spit on, sprinkle water on, poke, kick, throw rocks into or interrupt or molest the molten lava flow in anyway—the results will be blindingly fast, inexplicably unpredictable and agonizingly painful.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Streaming lava at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remember that you are hiking on a highly active volcano, if flowing streams of lava strand you, no rescue is practical or possible; plan, take care and pay strict attention accordingly. The section on Lava Viewing has a great deal of important information regarding hiking on this active volcano; be sure to review it so that you may approach the home of the goddess with respect, knowledge and awe, and return unscathed.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Rainbow at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Going to see the lava flow and the eruption of a living volcano may well be the adventure of your lifetime; please be careful and pay attention to these warnings to make sure this is not the FINAL adventure of your lifetime.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Frank Burgess and a car full of toys, end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of lava flowing into the ocean near the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan