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Visitors Not Allowed to Use Chain of Craters Road – Puna Residents to Receive Window Decals

Significant progress has been made on the Chain of Craters Kalapana Road since work began in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on October 24. Today the contractors, working from each end, met in the middle.

Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.

Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.

This completes the rough grade of the road.
ripping 2Work will now begin on crushing excavated material for the road bed. The finished road will be a gravel surfaced 22-foot-wide two-lane road. The road is scheduled to be completed in the next 30-45 days, weather and construction conditions permitting.

Chain of Craters CrewLower Puna residents will be able to access the route after the lava has crossed Highway 130 and Railroad Avenue and the National Park Service has determined that the road is safe for vehicles. The emergency access route will not be open to the public or park visitors.  Residents will receive a free window decal for access through the park.

11/6/14 UPDATE: Volcanoes National Park Clarification on Chain of Craters Emergency Access Route


Public Comment Sought on Environmental Review of Emergency Access Route Along Chain of Craters Road

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is seeking public comment on the environmental review and decision regarding the construction and use of an emergency access route along the lava-covered section of Chain of Craters Kalapana Road. The environmental review for the emergency access route (22’ width) was completed in accordance with alternative NEPA arrangements developed by and in consultation with the Department of Interior and the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

Mayor Kenoi takes his wife to see Chain of Craters road progress.

Mayor Kenoi takes his wife to see Chain of Craters road progress.

To sustain access in and out of Pahoa, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is working in cooperation with the state of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i County and the Federal Highways Administration to construct an emergency access route between the park and Kalapana along the park’s historic Chain of Craters Kalapana Road. The environmental review considers alternatives to the emergency access route and potential adverse impacts, and includes public involvement, mitigation and monitoring commitments. As part of the alternative arrangements, the National Park Service (NPS) will continue to engage the public by soliciting comments on the project, participating in public informational meetings, responding to comments received, and publishing periodic reports on the results of monitoring commitments. In addition, the NPS will continue to consult with affected agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawai‘i State Historic Preservation Division, as necessary.  The NPS will also prepare a NEPA review to consider the future of the emergency access route after the emergency ends.

The use of the emergency access route will only last as long as there is no viable alternative route for the residents of the affected area to use to gain access to the rest of the Island of Hawai‘i.

The public is invited to review the environmental review and decision document and to submit comments via the NPS’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/havo. Select the Emergency Access Route along the Lava-Covered Section of Chain of Craters Kalapana Road link. The deadline for submitting comments in PEPC is Dec. 5, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Comments will be accepted while construction of the road is in progress (anticipated to be 30 days), and are intended to affect NPS consideration of adjustments to the proposed action and enhancement of proposed mitigation measures. The comment period will be extended if necessary. Responses to substantive comments will be subsequently posted on PEPC. Results of park monitoring of resources and road use will be posted on PEPC and the park’s website, shared at community meetings, or publicized via other means of communication periodically throughout the duration of the emergency.

The public can also submit comments in writing, addressed to Superintendent, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, P.O. Box 52, Hawaii National Park, HI 96718-0052; or via email nps_havo_planning@nps.gov . The deadline for submitting comments is Dec. 5, 2014.

Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information with your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. Although you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Governor Issues Executive Order Turning Over State-Owned Portion of Chain of Craters Road to Hawaii County

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today issued an executive order that turns over 3.68 miles of the state-owned portion of Chain of Craters Road near Kalapana to Hawaii County.

Chain of Craters

The executive order states that the land is “hereby turned over to the County of Hawaii, in fee simple, for use as a county highway, and the County of Hawaii shall hereafter be responsible for its repair and maintenance as a county highway.”

On Sept. 15, Gov. Abercrombie signed a supplemental emergency proclamation to include the repair, restorations, rebuilding, or reestablishment of Chain of Craters Road, for use as an alternate emergency route should the June 27th lava flow cross Highway 130 near Pahoa and isolate communities in lower Puna from the rest of Hawaii County. That proclamation, a supplement to the original emergency proclamation signed on Sept. 5, also extended the disaster emergency relief period through Dec. 1, 2014.

The original proclamation suspended certain laws as needed for emergency purposes, including state restrictions on reestablishing abandoned roads that may be used should lava cross Highway 130. It also activated the Major Disaster Fund set aside by the state Legislature for disaster relief and facilitates access to emergency resources at the state and federal levels.


Landslide Closes Part of Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was closed past Kealakomo today due to large landslide:

Photo via NPS.

Photo via NPS.

Wordless Wednesday – When the Road Ends

Mother Goose Killed in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park urges motorists to slow down and watch out for the endemic and federally endangered nēnē while driving on park roadways.

On Tuesday evening, a female Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis) died after being struck by a vehicle on Chain of Craters Road near Pauahi Crater. Her mate of 13 years escaped harm, but remains in the area.

Although nēnē can fly, they are often seen on the ground near roadways in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

The female, known as Green DU, was a consistent breeder, and successfully raised 24 goslings. She was hatched in captivity in the park in December 1991 and was released in March 1992.  Green DU was what wildlife biologists call a rare “double-clutch” breeder, who once reared two goslings to fledglings, then re-nested and raised an additional four goslings in a single breeding season.

“It is a shame that a nēnē with such a long and productive life had to die so tragically,” said Dr. Rhonda Loh, the park’s chief of resource management.

Nēnē is the Hawai‘i state bird.  About 200 nēnē thrive within Hawai‘i Volcanoes, and there are an estimated 2,000 birds statewide. It’s not unusual to encounter nēnē in the park during their nesting season, which runs from October through March, and they are frequently spotted along roadsides throughout the year. But geese can be anywhere, from sea level to the slopes of Mauna Loa.

Nēnē Crossing signs are posted along park roadsides in places nēnē frequent most, and information on the Hawai‘i’s largest native land animal can be found in the park’s visitor centers.

Nēnē are quite active in the late evening and early morning, and their grayish coloring makes them difficult to see during those hours. Park officials also caution visitors not to feed the geese because birds seeking handouts fall prey to oncoming vehicles. The equation is simple, sad, and all too often true: a fed nēnē equals a dead nēnē.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Reopens Keanakāko‘i Crater to Hikers

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park has reopened the section of Crater Rim Drive near the Devastation Trail parking lot to Keanakāko‘i Crater, and a portion of Crater Rim Trail that leads from Chain of Craters Road to the south side of Keanakāko‘i, to hikers.

Keanakako’i from the south shows plume of Halema’uma’u Crater
to the left and Mauna Loa. Photo NPS

Approximately 0.8 miles of Crater Rim Drive is now open to hikers, and visitors can enjoy an easy roundtrip walk through koa and ōhi‘a forest on pavement all the way to the Keanakāko‘i Crater overlook. Across the road, another overlook provides panoramic views of Halema‘uma‘u Crater and Mauna Loa.

The park has also reopened about 0.7 miles of Crater Rim Trail from Chain of Craters Road just north of Lua Manu Crater. This section of trail winds through native forest, along the flows of 1974, and culminates at the south side of Keanakāko‘i Crater. Both routes offer an abundance of diverse and breathtaking views.

People at Keanakako’i Overlook off Crater Rim Drive. Photo NPS

Keanakāko‘i Crater likely formed during the 1400s, during Kīlauea’s great summit collapses. Until 1877, Hawaiian kahuna kāko‘i (carving experts) sought the crater’s superior and rare basaltic rock for making ko‘i, or adze heads. Bound to a sturdy ‘au ko‘i (wooden handle), this valuable tool was used to carve vital objects like canoes and houses. But the famous adze quarry was covered by lava, first in 1877, then again during the fissure eruption in July 1974. Today, the crater floor is 115 feet deep.

The park closed Crater Rim Drive from Jaggar Museum to Chain of Craters Road and portions of Crater Rim Trail for public safety after Halema‘uma‘u began to erupt in March 2008 and volcanic fumes caused poor air quality. Halema‘uma‘u continues to erupt, and Crater Rim Drive remains closed from Keanakāko‘i to Jaggar Museum.

“Thanks to a new sulfur dioxide monitoring network, and an increase in air quality monitoring tools at our fingertips, we can effectively evaluate air quality conditions,” said Park Ranger and Chief of Interpretation Jim Gale. “We encourage park visitors to take advantage of the newly opened section of road and trail,” he said.

The Keanakāko‘i area may still experience high levels of volcanic fumes with changing wind conditions. Should this happen, the park will temporarily close the site to visitation. Interpretive signage in the area features a QR code for smart phones, which connects to the national award-winning Hawaii SO2 Network website, www.hawaiiSO2Network.com.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Providing Access to Lava Pouring Into the Ocean

Lava from Kīlauea’s remote Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent has again reached the ocean within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park boundaries, at a spot scientists have named the West Ka‘ili‘ili ocean entry.

The arduous hike to West Ka‘ili‘ili from the bottom of Chain of Craters Road is approximately four miles one-way across an uneven flow field. Currently, several streams of lava are pouring into the ocean, providing dramatic views. Visitors who stay after dark can also see channels of lava flowing down the pali and across the flow field, but conditions can change at any time.

Hikers need to heed all warning signs and ranger advisories, and be aware of earth cracks and crevices, sharp terrain and rain-slick pāhoehoe lava and other hazards. Steam plumes produced by lava entering the sea contain fine lava fragments and acid droplets that can be harmful.  Scientists also confirmed that a lava delta is being formed at the base of a sea cliff at West Ka‘ili‘ili, and are monitoring the area closely. Lava deltas can collapse with little warning, produce hot rock falls inland, and generate large local waves.

“While we are thrilled to be able to provide public access to the new ocean entry site, it is imperative that visitors obey park rangers and all warning signs in the area,” said Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Hikers must be adequately prepared with plenty of drinking water, dressed for rain or sunshine, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes, carry a flashlight and spare batteries, and be in good physical shape for this hike.”


Once the wet weather subsides, park rangers will stick reflective trail markers along the rough coastal trail that begins shortly after the end of Chain of Craters Road and leads to a viewing area about a quarter of a mile away.

The West Ka‘ili‘ili ocean entry site is located near the park’s eastern border, and is the first time lava has entered the ocean within park boundaries since 2007. Recent ocean entries have occurred outside the park to the east, through private land and areas within County of Hawai‘i jurisdiction.

Visitors who do not want to hike out to the ocean entry can observe the wispy plume of the ocean entry from the end of Chain of Craters Road, near the ranger station. After sunset, flowing lava from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō has been visible from the turnout on the hairpin curve on Chain of Craters Road, weather permitting.

Controlled Burn Planned to Help Regenerate Growth of Native Plants in Volcanoes National Park

The fire management team at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is planning a controlled burn at Kealakomowaena on Fri., Aug. 19, near the bottom of Chain of Craters Road.

The 130-acre burn will regenerate the growth of native pili grass and other indigenous plant species, as well as maintain a cultural landscape once occupied by families living in the Kealakomo ahupuaa. There are no closures planned, and park visitors and normal park activities will not be impacted.

Kealakomowaena is an island of vegetation, or kīpuka, spared by recent lava flows in the middle of the Kealakomo ahupua‘a. Hawaiians thrived in this coastal lowland area, growing sweet potatoes, harvesting fish and drying salt. House sites, trails, lava rock walls and agricultural plots are found throughout Kealakomowaena. The controlled burn will be done in a manner to help maintain the traditional landscape of the area.

Controlled burning is part of a comprehensive restoration plan for the coastal lowland ecosystem at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Historically, controlled fire in this area has proved beneficial in reducing the dominant alien woody plant and grass species, allowing park resource managers to plant seeds of native species and reintroduce the pili grassland system.

An eight-person fire crew will administer the controlled burn, expected to last all day Friday. There will be a pullout along Chain of Craters Road at the top of the Hōlei Pali where park visitors may stop and watch the controlled burn taking place throughout the day.

“These types of prescribed burns are beneficial as they fortify the cultural landscape by stimulating the growth of native vegetation,” said Fire Management Officer Joe Molhoek.

Construction Begins on Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

A series of projects to reconstruct park roads will begin on Mon., July 11 at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Work will start on Crater Rim Drive at Jaggar Museum and work back to the park entrance at Highway 11. Parking lots at Jaggar Museum, Steam Vents, Kīlauea Visitor Center and Volcano House are also targeted to receive improved surfaces. One lane of traffic will remain open with 15-minute delays anticipated Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Simultaneously, pavement reconstruction will also occur on the first two miles of Mauna Loa Road, including roadways within Tree Molds and Kipukapuaulu picnic area. The construction project was awarded to Jas. W Glover, Ltd. of Hilo.

Crater Rim

Superintendent Cindy Orlando stated her appreciation for driver patience adding, “A lot of noise from heavy equipment is expected yet we wanted to be sure to time these projects to avoid interfering with the nesting schedule of the endangered Nēnē. Visitors are advised to be mindful of slow-moving equipment on the roads and to use caution. Safety is of the highest priority to us.”

Roads included in pavement preservation projects include Mauna Loa Road above Kipukapuaulu, extending about two miles up to the first cattle guard as well as the section of Crater Rim Drive that extends from the park entrance to Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku) and all of Chain of Craters Road extending from the Devastation Trail parking area to the coast as well as Hilina Pali Road. These projects are being funded by the Federal Highways Administration and are expected to last 10 months.

Kilauea’s Latest Eruption Has All Eyes on Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Media Release:

Kīlauea volcano’s new eruption site, which suddenly cracked open on Sat., Mar., 5, continues to spew lava through fissures on its east rift zone, following the dramatic collapse of Pu’u ō’ō crater’s floor.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

Fiery curtains of orange lava some as high as 80 feet have been captured on video and in photographs the last few days, shooting up from fissures that extend more than a mile between Nāpau and Pu’u ō’ō craters. The eruption is in a remote area of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and is not accessible to the public.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

While the park and most of its popular overlooks remain open, HVNP has closed Chain of Craters Road, all east rift and coastal trails, and Kulanaokuaiki Campground for public safety. Park rangers are sharing the latest real-time videos, photos and information at Kīlauea Visitors Center and Jaggar Museum, much to the delight of visitors to Hawai’i’s largest national park.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

The Federal Aviation Administration reduced the temporary flight restriction (TFR) above the newly active fissure area on Mon., Mar. 7, making it easier for flight-seeing passengers to get a bird’s eye view of the molten lava from 1,500 feet above.

Residents in neighboring towns like Mountain View reported seeing a reflective red glow from the lava in the clouds on Sunday night.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

“It’s definitely an exciting time to visit Hawai’i Island and our World Heritage Site. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park has always been a must-see experience for visitors,” said George Applegate, Executive Director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “It’s a perfectly safe experience to enjoy our changing volcanic action if visitors heed Park and Civil Defense officials,” he said.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

Pu’u ō’ō is not the only crater on Kīlauea to “bottom out” recently. At Halema’uma’u crater, the previously rising lava lake within the vent suddenly dropped over the weekend. A brilliant red glow is sometimes visible after dark, and rocks continue to cascade down crater walls, creating occasional-to-frequent loud rumblings audible from the overlook at Jaggar Museum.

“Park visitors are very happy,” said HVNP Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “There’s a steady stream of cars coming in, and they absolutely love the real-time action our rangers are sharing with them.”

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

Orlando said that park visitation is up, but that it’s difficult to attribute the increase to one specific source, such as the recent volcanic events, an improving economy, or the start of a vigorous Spring Break season.

Outside of HVNP boundaries and down near sea level at the County of Hawai’i’s Kalapana Lava Viewing Area, the flow has temporarily halted its march across the surface towards the ocean. On the evening of Sat., Mar. 5, molten lava was very visible on the pali (cliffs) and coastal plain, tantalizing onlookers as it disappeared and reappeared through an underground network of lava tubes. County officials reported there was very little if any molten lava visible from Kalapana on Sunday and Monday. However, a significant red glow from the new fissure activity was illuminating the clouds after dark.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

Conditions near the viewing area can change at any time depending on the direction and volume of the lava flows. That’s part of the thrill – this isn’t Disneyland. The area will be closed if visitors’ safety is ever in doubt. When conditions are right, the popular Kalapana viewing area boasts not only stunning vistas of the planet birthing, but also convenient parking and port-a-potties. And admission is free.

Currently, viewing and parking hours at the Kalapana overlook are 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Visitors must be parked by 8 p.m.

Image Courtesy of Hawaii Volcano Observatory http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov (Click Picture for larger view)

For the latest conditions at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visit www.nps.gov/havo or call (808) 985-6000. The latest information for the County of Hawai’i Kalapana viewing area is available on the Lava Hotline: (808) 961-8093. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s Kīlauea status updates can be found at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/activity/kilaueastatus.php and live webcams at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/cams/.