Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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

In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987. In 2000 the name was changed by the Hawaiian National Park Language Correction Act of 2000 observing the Hawaiian spelling.

Environment

The park includes 505.36 square miles (1,308.9 km2) of land. Over half of the park is designated the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness area and provides unusual hiking and camping opportunities. The park encompasses diverse environments that range from sea level to the summit of the Earth's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet (4,169 m). Climates range from lush tropical rain forests, to the arid and barren Kaʻū Desert.

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

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

History

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

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

The volcano became a tourist attraction in the 1840s, and local businessmen such as Benjamin Pitman and George Lycurgus ran a series of hotels at the rim.Volcano House is the only hotel or restaurant located within the borders of the National Park. In January 2010 it was closed temporarily for renovation; as of January 2011 it had not yet re-opened.

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

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

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

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

Historic places

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

  • 1790 Footprints
  • Ainahou Ranch
  • Ainapo Trail
  • Kilauea Crater
  • Puna-Ka'u Historic District
  • Volcano House
  • Whitney Seismograph Vault No. 29
  • Wilkes Campsite
Visitor Center and museums
  • The main Visitor Center, located just within the park entrance at 19°25′46″N 155°15′25.5″W / 19.42944°N 155.257083°W / 19.42944; -155.257083, includes displays and information about the features of the park.
  • The nearby Volcano Art Center, located in the original 1877 Volcano House hotel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now houses historical displays and an art gallery.
  • The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, located a few miles west on Crater Rim Drive, features more exhibits and a close view of the Kīlauea's active vent Halemaʻumaʻu. The museum is named after scientist Thomas Jaggar, the first director of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which adjoins the museum. The observatory itself is operated by the U.S. Geological Survey and is not open to the public. Bookstores are located in the main visitor's center and the Jaggar Museum.
  • The Kilauea Military Camp provides accommodations for U.S. military personnel.

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

Recent events

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

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

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