A new lava viewing area near the ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was opened today, two days after a park ranges closed the previous viewing area when a lava delta collapsed into the ocean.
Five visitors had been standing on the lava delta on Saturday 15 minutes before it crumbled into the water. Park rangers chased those visitors, who had ducked under a rope closing off a dangerous section, and got them back to a safe area just before the collapse.
The new viewing area at the Kamokuna ocean entry is “approximately 900 feet east of a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean, and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs. Rangers, in conjunction with United States Geological Survey 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,” park officials said in a news release. “Visitors are strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs and park rangers.”
“Visitors who do not heed warnings not only endanger themselves but the lives of others, including our park rangers, who work tirelessly to ensure a safe visitor experience,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.
Observatory scientists said most of a 26-acre lava delta is gone, including an older coastal cliff area where the former lava viewing site was located.
“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,” officials said.
The new viewing area is closer to the east entrance. “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. 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,” the news release said.