New coastal lava viewing area opens at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Park rangers opened a newly established lava viewing area at the Kamokuna ocean entry in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tuesday, following a two-day closure caused by a large lava delta collapse on New Year’s Eve.

Video taken Tuesday by Janice Wei and released by the National Park Service shows a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean. Officials say this activity is a new cascade that appeared after the collapse.

The new viewing area is approximately 900 feet east of the cascade and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs. Rangers, in conjunction with USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists, thoroughly assessed the area, and established the new viewing site with white rope lines and numerous signs that clearly mark hazardous closed areas.

Visitors are strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs and park rangers.

The collapse on New Year’s Eve started in the afternoon and lasted several hours, creating blasts of volcanic rock and a series of damaging waves, in addition to a thick, dark plume of debris and gas. HVO scientists estimate that nearly all of the 26-acre lava delta is now gone, along with more than four acres of older coastal cliff area, which included the former lava viewing site.

It is closer from the east entrance to reach the new lava viewing area within the park. From the east, or Kalapana/County of Hawaii side, visitors must hike about 4.2 miles one way along the gravel emergency access road. This entrance is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“There were probably more than 3,000 people that hiked out yesterday from one side or the other. Their reward is this beautiful stream of lava flowing into the ocean. Who know how long that particular cascade of lava is going to last, but it’s a pretty nice reward for a very long hike,” said Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

From the park, or west side, visitors can hike out from the Coastal Ranger Station at the end of Chain of Craters Road, about five miles one-way. About one mile of the hike goes inland of the gas plume over hardened, uneven lava flows.

The park entrance is open 24 hours a day.

Hikers need to be prepared for a long trek. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes or boots, gloves to protect the hands, and long pants to protect against lava rock abrasions. Carry plenty of water (three to four quart/liters per person). Wear sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. Visitors who plan to stay after dark need a flashlight and/or headlight with extra batteries.

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