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A Dangerous Trek for Lava Lovers


Lava flow from Kilauea. This is aa (jagged, cindery chunks and blocks on surface) atop an earlier flow of pahoehoe (billowy, ropey flow). Photo by Orborne via Wikipedia.

Do you have a hankering to see the big lava flow that’s making its way into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park? Better check with park officials first.

For the first time this year, a big lava flow is making its way into the big park on the Big Island. In October, a breach in a lava tube permitted a huge amount of lava to break away from the main below-the-surface flow to the sea and flow downslope on the surface instead. That surface flow is now a mile-wide swath that has nearly reached the park. It’s only about a quarter-mile away now, and even though it’s moving slowly, it could be flowing into the park within a week.

Volcanologists continue to monitor the flow. However, when the flow enters the park, sightseers will want to see the lava flow for themselves, up close and personal. Lava flows are, after all, one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena, and the Hawaiian kind let you get pretty darn close.

But this is not a garden variety lava situation in the park. This particular lava flow is most emphatically off the beaten path. It’s so far off, in fact, that anybody who wants to see it up close will have to trek about six miles over unmarked, dangerous terrain.

Park officials will handle public access to the site in their customarily prudent way. Check with them first before you make your travel plans. And be careful out there!

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