While the National Park Service kicks off the August centennial celebration, this week we honor one park in particular. On August 1, 2016 Hawaii Volcanoes turns 100 years old and we have much to celebrate. Visitors from all over the world traveled to celebrate the anniversary this year. Many came to see the orange glow of lava. Others came to hike sacred Hawaiian ground. Whether or not you can plan your own Hawaiian trip, we’re taking an anniversary trip through some of what makes this park such a special place.
History of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Unlike other volcanoes, the land around the lava vents of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is relatively stable and accessible. For thousands of years native Hawaiians traveled to the orange glow of Kilauea. Hawaiians recognize it as the sacred home of the goddess Pele. Many still come to for spiritual celebrations and remembrance.
When the first white missionaries arrived in the mid-1800’s, they felt the same power and magic of the land. Tourism boomed as travelers flocked to see the volcano eruptions. Tour companies and business sprang up to service the site. In 1840 the buildings of the famous Volcano House restaurant and hotel appeared along the Kilauea Crater Rim.
Before the founding of the National Park Service and before Hawaii became a state, visitors wanted the land protected from the rapid development. A formal campaign to protect Hawaii Volcanoes began in 1906. Two men spearheaded the effort: Lorrin Thurston, a grandson of one of the early missionaries and Dr. Thomas Jaggar who studied the volcanoes in the area. Both men now have sites named after them in the park.
Finally, on August 1, 1916 their efforts were rewarded when President Woodrow Wilson designated Hawaii National Park. It became our country’s 13th National Park. At the time, Hawaii National Park looked much different than today. Only the summit areas of Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii were included, along with the summit area of Haleakala on Maui. During the next 100 years, more land was protected including the Kilauea caldera and the Kalapana archaeological area.
Then in September 1960, Haleakala was split off to form Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park. Both parks celebrate their 100th anniversary on August 1, 2016.
Hawaii Volcanoes Turns 100
Anniversary celebrations have been ongoing in 2016. A centennial logo was released which captures the culture, biology, and unique geology of the park. Other events include special historical presentations, artists in residence, ranger-led hikes and tours of the park, and extra conservation projects. In particular, visitors love the “After Dark in the Park” series held at the Jaggar Overlook area. Rangers hold special late night viewing parties of the Kilauea caldera, showcasing the yellow-orange glow of the lava only visible at night.
Perhaps most exciting for visitors was Pele’s own celebration of the centennial in July 2016. For the first time in 3 years, lava began flowing into the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast. Not only do tourists get to see the dramatic steam and spray, it also means the park is growing again. As the molten rock tumbles into the ocean, it hardens and forms more island. Just as it has for thousands of years in Hawaii.
Plan Your Next Trip
If lava viewing lives on your bucket list, there’s no better time to plan a vacation then when Hawaii Volcanoes turns 100. Try our tips to help in planning your trip:
- Check the lava flows before you go. During Park Chasers’ visit in 2014 the lava flowed out of the park boundary on private land. The closest viewing areas were accessible only by helicopter. While lava continues to flow into the ocean there are boat tours available. However the flows are unpredictable and can change at any time. Check with a ranger for the best place to see the volcano in action.
- See the park at night. Nighttime boasts some spectacular views of the Kilauea caldera, when the yellow-orange lava can be seen glowing off the clouds and steam. Plan ahead and bring a tripod for the best night photos.
- Take a hike. Hawaii Volcanoes has some of the island’s best hiking trails. The adventurous can spend a night on Mauna Loa. Other day hiking can be found along Chain of Craters Road and Crater Rim Drive. Park Chasers recommends: The Kilauea Iki Trail and the Thurston Lava Tube.
- While you are planning a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes, don’t forget the rest of the parks in the area. Big Island is home to several national park service units including Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park and Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site. Check out our guide to visiting all the national park service sites in Hawaii for a complete list.