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Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site closed Monday & Tuesday as staff assess damage from wildfire

August 10, 2015

Kawaihae, HI Due to a brushfire that engulfed more than 4,650 acres in the Kawaihae area over the weekend, Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site remains closed Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 10 and 11. The park could open as early as Wednesday, once firefighters finish extinguishing smoldering hot spots in the park, and park archeologists assess any damage to cultural sites.

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, the massive stone temple where King Kamehameha the Great launched his successful quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, did not sustain any damage in the fire, nor did the older Mailekini Heiau below it. The homestead site of British sailor John Young, who served as King Kamehameha’s advisor, also appears unscathed.

The brushfire, exacerbated by strong winds and dry, hot weather, came within a few feet of the visitor center and park headquarters on Saturday, but was put out by firefighters before it reached the buildings. Although both facilities are without phone service and internet, the visitor center has water and electricity.

Heiau and scorched earth

Scorched earth below the heiau. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

“We are incredibly grateful to all the agencies and volunteers who banded together to fight this fire,” said Park Superintendent Daniel Kawaiaea. “Thankfully, there were no injuries to visitors or park staff. We also appreciate the kōkua from our sister parks, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnauanau National Historical Park, Alakahakai National Historic Trail, and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, who are providing resources and staff,” he said.

The fire burned about 90 percent of the vegetation on the park’s 80 acres, and melted temporary solar light fixtures along its main path. Large blackened swaths of ground, once covered in plants, is now exposed throughout the park. The vegetation was a mix of non-native grasses and shrubs, and native species like pili grass, pua kala (Hawaiian poppy) and ma‘o (Hawaii cotton).

dousing hot spots

NPS firefighters extinguish hotspots at Puukohola Heiau NHS on Monday. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Superintendent Kawaiaea said a decision whether the park will hold or cancel the 43rd annual Ho‘oku‘ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival, scheduled for this weekend, Aug. 15 and 16, will be made by Tuesday.

“Our biggest concern at this point is the safety for the public, our employees and the festival participants,” Kawaiaea said. “In addition to the fire damage, there is also a tropical storm expected to impact us later this week.”

Ranger and lele

Ranger George points out the lele, a wooden structure used for offerings, or ho‘okupu, at the base of the heiau, and a large pair of wooden kapu sticks that escaped the fire. Flames that charred a section of wooden gate nearby were doused before the entire gate burned. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane


August 2015 Hawaiian Cultural & After Dark in the Park Programs

July 21, 2015

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park continues its tradition of sharing Hawaiian culture and After Dark in the Park programs with the community and visitors in August. All programs are free, but park entrance fees apply. Programs are co-sponsored by the Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association, and your $2 donation helps support park programs. Mark the calendar for these upcoming events:

Kīlauea’s Night Skies: An Artist’s Perspective. Join Hawai‘i Island artist and interpretive guide Kent Olsen as he presents Kīlauea’s Night Skies: An Artist’s Perspective. Drawing on insights and perspectives developed through years of work in the medical imaging design field, as an interpretive guide at Mauna Kea Observatories and as a certified commercial guide at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Kent will present the night skies over Kīlauea in a way that is sure to provide a new perspective and may just change the way you see everything. Utilizing the current lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater as a point of reference, you will journey from the depths of the quantum realm to the edge of the cosmos. Olsen boldly attempts to describe the natural world in a way that makes the scale of the seemingly infinite something you just might be able to wrap your head around. Attendees are reminded the park is open all night for stargazing and lava glow viewing. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing After Dark in the Park series. Free.
When: Tues., Aug. 11 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium

Halemaumau aglow

Kīlauea volcano’s summit eruption from Halema‘uma‘u with Jaggar Museum and USGS HVO visible. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Nā La‘au: Important Uses of Hawaiian Plants. Park Ranger Julia Espaniola shares her knowledge and love for some of the island’s native plants and their traditional uses. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., Aug. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai

Ranger Noah's lei haku.(NPS photo/Christa Sadler)

Ranger Noah’s lei haku.(NPS photo/Christa Sadler)

Hālau O Mailelaulani is a Hilo-based hālau under the direction of kumu hula Mailelaulani Canario.  Kumu Mailelaulani established her hālau in the mid-1970s to perpetuate the kahiko (ancient) as well as ‘auana (modern) style of hula.  Today, her ‘auana performers participate in the annual Merrie Monarch festivities and are regular entertainers for the cruise ships through Destination Hilo. The hālau placed third in the 32nd annual Kupuna Hula Festival, Wahine Group Competition held in Kona in 2014. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ Nā Leo Manu, “Heavenly Voices” performances. Free.
When: Wed., Aug. 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center auditorium

‘Ukulele Lessons. Learn about the history of this world-famous instrument that plays a significant role in contemporary Hawaiian music.  Join rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park as they share their knowledge and love of the Hawaiian culture.  Learn how to play a simple tune on the ‘ukulele and leave with a new skill and treasured ‘ike (wisdom) to share with your hoa (friends) and ‘ohana (family). Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., Aug. 26 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai

‘Ukulele lessons

‘Ukulele lessons by Ranger Shyla NPS Photo Jay Robinson

This news release is also posted to the park website

Maui Unknown: High Altitude Streams

July 17, 2015

High-Altitude Stream Sampling at Haleakala NP… At the request of the park, the PACN recently sampled streams at high altitude in Haleakalā National Park on Maui. The team implemented the stream monitoring protocol at Palikea Stream, which is normally only sampled downstream near sea-level. The park was interested in what fish, snails, and shrimp might live in reaches far upstream.

This sampling trip was a true expedition into the wilderness, and required a lot of preparation. The team had to get trained on helicopter operations and safety. We prepared our normal stream sampling equipment, including a water quality sonde, flow meter, water sampling filter tower, and snorkeling gear.

Haleakala Entrance

A four-person, five-day trip to sample streams required two “sling-loads” of supplies. After arriving at the landing zone near the Kīpahulu Visitor center, we spread out two giant nets made of heavy rope. We arranged all our coolers, backpacks, and other supplies into the centers of the nets. Then the nets were closed around the supplies and fastened with heavy gauge steel cables.

The helicopter, bright orange with stripes, with a small bubble for a passenger and high skids, swooped in overhead and landed in the middle of the field. I was escorted to the door. I climbed in, put my harness on, and plugged my headset in. Or rather, I had help doing all these things, since it was my first heli-op. It was so noisy I couldn’t speak to anyone. Once my escort climbed in and got settled, up we went.

We soared over the rainforest climbing high into Kīpahulu Valley. There are no roads, no trails, and no real landmarks besides the streams and topography of the land itself. The flight only took about five minutes. We landed in a small patch of high grass among ‘ōhi‘a trees. My partner led me away  from under the spinning rotors to the tree line.  Once the rest of the team joined me, we made our way through the dense forest, climbing over roots and branches to our home for the next five days… Delta Camp. It’s a shack (photo on right) built in the forest with a single small room and a tank for catching rainwater.

Twenty minutes later, we heard the helicopter approaching, and it hovered directly over the camp. The rotor wash drowned out all other sounds and everything shook in the artificial wind. A sling load was lowered out of the sky onto the ground right next to the camp. The cable separated, and the ship flew away. We move all the supplies out of the way, and a second sling load arrived. As the ship left it toggled its siren to say farewell. The sound of rotors fades away.

The only realistic way to access the remote areas of the park is by helicopter.

The only realistic way to access the remote areas of the park is by helicopter.

We were there to survey Palikea Stream at an altitude of 4,000 feet. Between our location and the famous pools at ‘Ohe‘o several miles away are literally dozens of waterfalls; some several hundred feet high. But it was possible that fish were there, as some can configure their ventral fins to form a kind of suction cup, and literally scale vertical rock walls under waterfalls. We scouted the stream nearby, and decided it was suitable to sample. The next day we would scout another location downstream.

This place is cold and wet. The dense forest surrounded us with ‘ōhi‘a trees, hāpu’u, shrubs with wide succulent leaves, and stands of small climbing ferns. Bird songs abound, but it was difficult to spot them.

Our first survey revealed no fish in the stream. In fact there were no snails, no shrimp, and almost no algae growing on the rocks. It appeared as if the gravel and rocks in this area are repeatedly scoured, preventing biofilm from developing. We did find rare ferns along the bank, and a small aquatic beetle. This stretch of the stream ends in a tall waterfall. Perhaps the geomorphology of the stream is such that the water is concentrated in a small area, creating high turbulence that rolls the rocks and scours them clean.

The next day we moved downstream through the forest. It was slow going. We frequently had to crawl under brush and take detours around thick vegetation. We were headed for a spot on the map that looked to be safe access to the stream. When we arrived we looked down on the stream from the tops of cliffs. There was no safe place to access the stream, let alone sample, so we had to abandon this area. Another slog through the rainforest and  we arrived back at camp. Fog rolled in, obscuring the surrounding mountains. We discussed our options and decided to try a different stream that runs parallel to Palikea, nicknamed ‘Ōpae Stream. Judging by the name we thought there ought to be shrimp. To get there we’d have to cross Palikea. It was a concern because if the water rose, we could be trapped on the other side. Had there been heavy rain overnight, and the Palikea was high, we wouldn’t have attempted it. By morning the weather stayed clear, and Palikea was flowing normally. We crossed and found ‘Ōpae Stream.

This stream is remarkably different. It flows through a flatter, more open area with trees. Moss covers rocks. There is algae growing on most surfaces. We did find shrimp, but no fish. Is there one particular waterfall that they can’t overcome somewhere downstream?

We explored upstream until we got to another several hundred foot waterfall. One biologist, who has worked in the area many times over the past twenty years removing invasive plants, had never been to the end of this particular stream. I wonder if the ancient Hawaiians pushed this far into the forest. We might be the first people to see this particular place in 500 years, or ever.

The information we gathered will help to characterize water quality, the physical habitat, and spatial distributions of animals populations in Kīpahulu Valley in areas never before surveyed. In future trips we will survey downstream to try and determine how far upstream stream animal populations extend.

The next day we broke camp, packed up, and carried every cooler and bag through the forest to the landing zone. It was time to head back. We were thoroughly tired, and thoroughly inspired.

–D. Raikow, NPS PACN Aquatic Ecologist

Meet our volunteer, Cabel Patterson!

June 30, 2015
Caleb holding a nēnē. NPS

Caleb holding a nēnē. NPS

What drew you to volunteer at Haleakalā National Park, Why have you come back for repeat seasons? I was drawn to volunteer at Haleakalā National Park because I wanted to gain work experience in the field of nature conservation and resource management. My position of wildlife management intern enabled me to do this while helping out with conservation projects that are important to me. The unique environment of Haleakalā appealed to me as well.

What type of work or projects have you done for the park and how did they help the park achieve their mission/goals? As a wildlife management intern, I primarily worked on controlling introduced predators that prey on endangered nēnē and ‘ua‘u. I also monitored nēnē and ‘ua‘u for nesting and reproductive activity. While doing this work I was able to spend a lot of time outdoors checking predator traps, looking for signs of ‘ua‘u nesting activity among the cliffs, and surveying the park for nēnē. This helped the park achieve its goals of protecting endangered species and controlling non-native pests. DSC00100 Why would you recommend people to volunteer here at Haleakalā National Park? Volunteering at Haleakalā was a great experience for me. Some of the work was not glamorous, but it was meaningful and supported the cause of nature conservation, so I was happy to do it. I spent most of my days working outdoors in a beautiful, unique environment. The different settings in the park, such as the cliffs around the summit, the floor of the crater, and the historical non-native forest, kept things interesting. I worked with several highly experienced wildlife biologists who were happy to share their knowledge about all aspects of wildlife management and the paths they took to get to where they are in their careers. I also met dozens of dedicated, professional people from all career backgrounds who work for the park or some of its affiliates. Learning about the inner workings and structure of the NPS was a great benefit for someone like me who is considering pursuing a career with a federal conservation agency. IMG_1755 Any other things you would like to add in to share with the public about yourself, volunteer service work, work experience? Helping to protect endangered species is meaningful work that any nature lover will appreciate. I am proud to have done this at Haleakalā and I hope to somehow support this cause again in the future. Volunteering at Haleakalā was an excellent way for me to learn more about the different types of positions within the NPS and more about nature conservation work in general. I am grateful for the experience and I believe that no matter what career path I end up choosing for myself, I will be better prepared for it because of the time I spent at Haleakalā. If you are interested in volunteering opportunities here at Haleakalā National Park, please visit for more information.

Do Your Part!

June 23, 2015


Last Friday, all of the national park staff picked-up trash along the road and harbor near the visitor center and headquarters. It’s part of our continued efforts to help keep American Samoa beautiful and to educate about the importance of putting trash in bins. Trash not only looks bad, but it also harms wildlife and coral reefs.

Before and after photos show our efforts to clean-up a stream. Do your part, wherever you live, to keep your special places trash free!

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park July 2015 Hawaiian Cultural & After Dark in the Park Programs

June 20, 2015

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park continues its tradition of sharing Hawaiian culture and After Dark in the Park programs with the community and visitors in July. All programs are free, but park entrance fees apply. Programs are co-sponsored by the Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association, and your $2 donation helps support park programs.  Mark the calendar for these upcoming events:

‘Ohe Kāpala. Learn to craft beautiful designs on a bamboo stamp to embellish cloth. Join staff from Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association who will share the traditional art of ‘ohe kāpala, bamboo stamping. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., July 8 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai

Ranger Rebecca helps keiki learn about ohe kapala, or bamboo stamp art. NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

Ranger Rebecca helps keiki learn about ohe kapala, or bamboo stamp art. NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

How Do We View Kīlauea? Join us for a deliberative discussion with Kumu Hula Manaiakalani Kalua and historian Philip K. Wilson, on Kīlauea’s place in Hawaiian culture and the history of science, and where the two perspectives intersect and encounter one another. Manaiakalani Kalua is a kumu hula, and a faculty member of the I Ola Haloa, Center for Hawai‘i Life Styles, Hawai‘i Community College. Philip K. Wilson is professor of History at East Tennessee State University, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.  One of his interests is in Hawaiian history, comparing the significance of the volcano Kīlauea during the 19th century from the perspectives of naturalists, missionaries, and native Hawaiians. This program is co-sponsored by Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities, and University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and funded in part by the Sidney Stern Memorial Trust. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing After Dark in the Park series. Free.
When: Tues., July 14 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium

Halemaumau aglow

Kīlauea volcano’s summit eruption from Halema‘uma‘u with Jaggar Museum and USGS HVO. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Hawaiian Ethnobotany.  Learn about the uses and cultural importance of native plants and introduced Polynesian plants in Hawai‘i.  Join rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park as they share their knowledge and love of Hawaiian culture. Engage in this hands-on event and leave with treasured ‘ike (wisdom) and a handmade Hawaiian craft of your own.
When: Wed., July 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai

weaving lauhala

Lauahla weaving, one of many uses of native and indigenous plants in Hawai‘i. NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

Halema‘uma‘u Lava Lake of Old

June 19, 2015

Volcano Watch ( is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey`s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

The dramatic opening of the Overlook crater within Halema‘uma‘u Crater on March 19, 2008, heralded a new period of activity for long time Kīlauea Volcano watchers.

Halema‘uma‘u in 2008.

Halema‘uma‘u in 2008. Photo/Charlene Meyers

Over the next several years, nearly continuous eruptive activity formed an active lava lake in the new crater. An active lava lake is one that overlies its vent, which constantly supplies lava to the lake and drains lava from the lake. This circulation keeps lava in the lake hot and also generally keeps it from spilling from the crater. An active lava lake contrasts with a “passive” lava lake, which is simply a pool of lava formed when lava flows into a depression.

The active lava lake in Overlook crater is now the second largest lava lake on Earth, about 170 m by 220 m (560 ft by 720 ft) across. The lake is more than 100 m (328 ft) deep and Overlook crater itself deepened by 8 m (26 ft) in late April and early May 2015, when overflows onto the floor of Halema‘uma‘u built the rim higher.

Visitors to the summit of Kīlauea are now accustomed to the spectacular nighttime glow above the lake as it rises and falls in concert with summit inflation and deflation, as well as with expansion and episodic escape of gas bubbles.

Although relatively new to most of us, churning lava lakes are certainly not new to Halema‘uma‘u Crater. Indeed, from 1823 through 1924, a lava lake (or lakes) was nearly always present in the caldera, generally inside Halema‘uma‘u. Short-lived lava lakes played in Halema‘uma‘u several times between 1924 and 1968. Much of the time, however, visitors witnessed a scene quite different from today.

Halema‘uma‘u lava lake, circa 1918

Looking southwest across the surface of Halema‘uma‘u lava lake on January 23, 1918. Jagged “crags” of stranded, solidified lava rise as much as 30 m (100 ft) above the surface of the lake. A natural levee separates the smooth surface of the active lava lake from overflows of pāhoehoe in foreground. Photo by Thomas A. Jaggar, Jr.

As one example, this nearly century-old print shows Halema‘uma‘u when much more of its floor was covered by a lava lake compared to today. Towering bodies of solidified lava called “crags” rise above the lake surface like battleships on the sea. At times these crags were so high that they could be seen by spectators at the old Volcano House nearly 3 km (2 mi) away. Visitors could sometimes view lava fountaining and hear noises of splashing lava from the hotel. Today, the clatter of breaking and falling rocks is, with favorable wind, audible outside Jaggar Museum, and the overflows in April–May were visible from many caldera vantage points.

In the early 1900s, the lava lake inside Halema‘uma‘u resembled a dynamic body of water in many ways. Thomas A. Jaggar, founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, used terms such as cove, bay, and inlet to describe lava pools and other features in the lake. The lava lake was typically impounded by levees made by overflows of lava from the lake, just as overflows of silt-laden water create levees along the Mississippi River.

This photograph shows what was known as the Southeast Crag, an 11-m- (36-ft-) high peak of solidified lava that had been twisted and tilted upward. As of yet, we’ve not seen any similar features developed in the current lava lake within Overlook crater. This may be because the present lake is impounded by the walls of Overlook crater, not by its own natural levees, which can change configuration and location with time. If such self-impoundment should develop in the Overlook lava lake, we may once again see crags, bays, and inlets.

We will share more of the rich photographic record of Halema‘uma‘u lava lakes from the last century in future Volcano Watch columns.  Although they lack the vivid and mesmerizing colors of modern photographs, there is a stark beauty in these crisp, black and white scenes of lava in its myriad forms that we find equally compelling.

Halema‘uma‘u at night from Jaggar Museum

The evening glow of the lava lake from Jaggar Museum observation deck. Lava overfilled the vent rim in Spring 2015, and spilled onto the floor of Halema‘uma‘u Crater. This photo was taken May 14, 2015. Photo/Alex Werjefelt

Kīlauea Activity Update
Kīlauea’s summit lava lake level fluctuated over the past week with changes in summit inflation and deflation, but remained well below the rim of the Overlook crater. During the past week the lake ranged between 40 and 65 m (130–210 ft) below the current floor of Halema‘uma‘u.

Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone lava flow continues to feed widespread breakouts northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Active flows remain within about 8 km (5 mi) of Puʻu ʻŌʻō.

One felt earthquake was reported on the Island of Hawai‘i in the past week. On Friday, June 12, 2015, at 1:07 p.m., HST, a magnitude-2.3 earthquake occurred 8.0 km (5.0 mi) east of Waimea at a depth of 13.0 km (8.1 mi).

Please visit the HVO website ( for past Volcano Watch articles, Kīlauea daily eruption updates and other volcano status reports, current volcano photos, recent earthquakes, and more; call (808) 967-8862 for a Kīlauea summary update; email questions to


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