Portions of Thurston Lava Tube and Trail Will Close Temporarily

Portions of Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku) and its rainforest loop trail will be closed starting Sept. 5 for approximately two weeks while park maintenance workers replace the electrical conduit and lighting system.

The bridge entrance to Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) is one of the most popular, and most photographed, destinations in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo Janice Wei

During the repairs, visitors will be able to explore the open section of the lava tube, which is one of the most popular destinations in the park. Visitors are advised to bring their own light source (cell phone lights are adequate). The nearby restrooms will remain open.

The new energy-efficient lighting system will simultaneously increase visitor safety by illuminating the interior, and protect the cultural integrity of the ‘ana (cave) by inhibiting the growth of non-native plant species.

The back portion of Nāhuku will be closed first, including the stairs leading out of the lava tube and the north section of rainforest trail. Visitors will be able to access the front section of the lava tube via the bridge entrance, and return the same way. Once work is complete in the back portion, work on the front section will start and visitors can access the rear portion of Nāhuku via the north trail and stairs.

The public will be notified of any updates. The park regrets any inconvenience to the public.

Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku) and its lush rainforest trail are popular features in the park, located near the summit of Kīlauea volcano off Crater Rim Drive. The lava tube was formed by a vigorous stream of magma that erupted from Kīlauea and crusted over about 550 years ago. When the magma source was exhausted, a long, hollow tunnel was left behind. The native rainforest surrounding Nāhuku is managed by the park as a Special Ecological Area, and is home to endemic plant, bird and insect species. Visitation is heaviest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and parking is limited to 30 minutes.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Features Open as Winter Weather Continues in Hawaii

Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) and the Kahuku Unit reopened Saturday, although heavy rainfall persists at times. The snow-cloaked summit of Mauna Loa will remain closed to all day use and overnight camping until it is safe to reopen.

NPS Photo by Janice Wei

NPS Photo by Janice Wei

Nāhuku is open, but the lights are still out. Visitors must bring a flashlight to explore the 300-foot lava tube, which becomes pitch black just a few yards in without light, has uneven flooring, and a low ceiling in some sections. Rangers are stationed at the lava tube to assist visitors during peak hours, and signs are posted.

The park’s Kahuku Unit in Ka‘ū reopened Saturday morning and remained open through Sunday. The 116,000-acre Kahuku Unit is open to the public for hiking and exploring Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The Mauna Loa summit closure is in effect above the Red Hill (Pu‘u‘ula‘ula) Cabin. Hikers can still obtain a backcountry permit to hike to and stay at Red Hill Cabin, but backcountry permits to areas above 10,000 feet are suspended and day hiking is prohibited. Hikers going to Red Hill will be advised during the permit process to proceed with caution and carry appropriate gear.

“The park is open, and we remind visitors to drive with caution and aloha,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Roads are flooded in places, and visitors might encounter fog, additional rain and other inclement weather today and as the week progresses,” she said.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Announces Closures – Thurston Lava Tube Floods

Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) and the Kahuku Unit are closed due to impacts from heavy rainfall and flash flooding. The summit of Mauna Loa remains closed to all day use and overnight camping. Closures remain in effect until it is safe to reopen.

A closure sign at the entrance to Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)/NPS Photo

A closure sign at the entrance to Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)/NPS Photo

On Friday, the floor of the lava tube was flooded with rain, and water covered the electrical conduit system. The power was shut off, but visitor access is prohibited until further notice.

The floor of a dark Nāhuku flooded with rainwater Friday afternoon, with the power off./NPS Photo

The floor of a dark Nāhuku flooded with rainwater Friday afternoon, with the power off./NPS Photo

The Kahuku Unit, which is usually open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, was closed for the day on Friday morning due to flooding and a road closure on Highway 11. Staff will reassess conditions Saturday morning, and determine if Kahuku will open for the weekend.

The National Weather Service extended the flash flood warning for Hawai‘i Island Friday afternoon through 5:15 p.m. HST.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the summit of Mauna Loa that remains in effect. Heavy rain and high winds pummeled the 13,677-foot summit, and abundant snow was visible on webcams and at sunset Thursday.

Rainwater ponding along the rainforest trail at Nāhuku. NPS Photo

Rainwater ponding along the rainforest trail at Nāhuku. NPS Photo

The summit closure is in effect above the Red Hill (Pu‘u‘ula‘ula) Cabin. Hikers can still obtain a backcountry permit to hike to and stay at Red Hill Cabin, but backcountry permits to areas above 10,000 feet are suspended and day hiking is prohibited. Hikers going to Red Hill will be advised during the permit process to proceed with caution and carry appropriate gear.

“Park rangers will constantly monitor the roads and destinations within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park during this storm, and additional closures may be warranted,” said Chief Ranger John Broward.

Japan Visitor Dies in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

A 71-year-old male visitor from Japan died yesterday after suffering an apparent heart attack at Thurston Lava Tube in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
Thurston Lava Tube

Acting Chief Ranger John Broward reported that the man was hiking out of the lava tube with a tour group, at approximately 1 p.m. After walking up the steepest section of the trail, the visitor felt fatigued, was short of breath, and sat down to rest.

Shortly after sitting down, he collapsed, lost consciousness, and stopped breathing. Several visiting nurses and a tour operator performed CPR until park rangers arrived with an automated external defibrillator, or AED. Rangers went through three cycles of CPR and AED analysis but the man’s heart was not in a rhythm the machine could detect.

County of Hawai‘i Medic 19 arrived and assumed care. After county medics completed their protocols, a doctor from the Hilo Medical Center pronounced the visitor dead through online medical control.

The name of the victim is being withheld pending further notification of his family.

Finally Getting a “Nerds Eye View” of Things… Via Hawaii National Volcanoes Park

So as most of my readers probably know… I love twitter and have met some pretty cool people because of twitter.

It's @Nerdseyeview without a Ukulele!

This past weekend, I had the chance to meet one of the coolest “Tweeters” and most importantly someone from my old neck of the woods the Pacific Northwest… Pam Mandel, otherwise known as the person behind “Nerd’s Eye View“.

@nerdseyeview talks with guide Warren Costa from Native Guide Hawaii

I was invited with a group of media folks to cruise Hawaii Volcanoes National park with them!

Our first stop was the Volcano Art Museum which I blogged about earlier, then we proceed to tour the Thurston Lava tube which i blogged about previously and then we went on to other parts of the park.

After we toured Thurston Lava Tube, Mr. Costa treated us to a great lunch overlooking one of the craters that consisted of locally grown products.

After lunch we cruised down the Chain of Crater Roads and then pulled off the road for a bit of off trail hiking which lead us to this lava field that was full of “Lava Trees”.

I’m pretty slammed with stuff so I’ll just post the pictures and say mahalo to Warren Costa of Native Guide Hawaii for taking us on this tour with some other folks from the mainland.

You can click on some of the pictures above for a larger picture

Spelunking Thurston Lava Tube

I’ve mentioned a few times that I got to explore Volcanoes National Park with a few media folks the other day.

Here are some pictures of us exploring Thurston Lava Tube.

Our guide Warren Costa leads the way.

Sherie Char, of Hawaii Magazine carefully steps into the cave.

We let our eyes adjust to the lighting before proceeding

Warren explains that these roots grow from the trees above and they are vital to the ecosystem of the cave as the cave insects feed off of them

Mr. Costa was kind enough to provide us each with flashlights

We stopped off at a few places along the cave and Warren explained how the cave was formed and what they were used for

There were all sorts of weird formations in the cave.

This was actually “Roof Collapse” which kind of got me to thinking what in the heck was I doing in there!

The cave is sealed off by park officials if there is any concern about the air quality.

It was a great trip and I can’t believe that I have never been there before!