Hawaii Highways Road Photos -- Lava Closures (page 2 of 2)
Updated July 23, 2010

This is page 2 of a photo collection on roads and highways near the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, which are or used to be closed by that volcano's lava flows. Page 1 covered past and present lava closures of Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, as well as providing a lava closure area map and other introductory information. The photos below are of lava closures of highways east of the park (portions of state route 130, and county route 137), including some historic closure photos from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. Also included are photos of the mostly unpaved access road built over the old state highway 130 right of way, initially restricted to residents and landowners in the lava closure area, then briefly converted into a 2.6 mile long county-operated "Kalapana Safe Viewing" gravel toll road to provide a safer alternative for tourists to watch lava flows. At the bottom of this page are links to related sites, and to other parts of the Hawaii Highways road photos collection.

Many of the photos below are from a May 19, 2000 tour of active lava flows from the Kilauea volcano, near the former eastern coastal entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The tour was led by a couple living in the closure area, who drove us in a 4x4 over the then very rough access road carved into the lava, and then took us on a long hike from the northeast roughly following the old route 130 alignment to the coast, between specacular lava flows into the ocean about ¾ mile apart at Waha'ula and Kamokuna. Most of the other photos are from my November 2001 tours of the Kalapana Safe Viewing toll road, with a smoother gravel surface, over the same alignment (except past mile 2.6, where the part of the access road that had reached what little remains of the Royal Gardens subdivision was re-covered by new lava flows earlier in 2001, and as far as I know has not been rebuilt).

The old access road, while closed to the general public, was often used by hikers (and also illegally by non-resident motorists) to view lava flowing into the ocean. In response to injuries and occasional fatalities among hikers on unguided tours of the lava fields, in summer 2001 the county improved the road and opened it to the general public, along with a marked trail to guide tourists to safe lava flow viewing areas. The improved road, while still slow (10mph speed limit), was unlike the old access road safe for most cars. For a few months, the toll road and the lava flows near its end were very well-visited, and among the few bright spots in post-9/11 Big Island tourism.

In April 2002, after Kilauea's lava flows shifted several miles to the west, and hikers seeking lava views started hiking instead from the national park's Chain of Craters Road, the county closed the toll road to the general public. Access was once more restricted to local residents and landowners. However, in early 2008 the lava flows shifted back east toward the access road, and indeed cut across it at two places near its western end before the flows reached the ocean. On March 8, 2008, county officials reopened the shortened road to the general public, without tolls (for now), to a new lava-viewing area.


Notes: Some of the photos taken below came from the extensive photo archives of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory's Kilauea eruption update. Those photos have "HVO" in their captions, and are courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

In case you want more detail, clicking some of the photos below (for now, just one from my 2000 trip, more from my 2001 trip, plus most of the HVO photos) will call up enlarged, higher-quality (less .jpg compression) versions. Those alternate versions have larger file sizes, so please be patient while they download.



Page 1: introduction, and Chain of Craters Road closures within national park



Soon after the current eruption of the Kilauea volcano started in early 1983, it started wreaking havoc in the Royal Gardens subdivision, near the eastern boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the community closest to Kilauea. It took a few years longer for the lava to begin nibbling away at roads in Kalapana. Here, lava intrudes on an unidentified street intersection in the Kalapana Gardens subdivision in the southwestern part of Kalapana village. (HVO December 1986) Four-way intersection in Kalapana Gardens, with two legs of intersection covered in lava

30 mph speed limit sign, embedded in hardened pahoehoe lava almost up to bottom of sign
After the lava's initial 1986 foray into the outskirts of Kalapana village, it returned in much greater volume in 1990, in a series of flows that wiped out most of the rest of the village. One such flow left this speed limit sign (probably on either state route 130 or county route 137) embedded in lava several feet deep, surprisingly intact though also rather pointless. (HVO June 28, 1990)

Lava closure of Red Road (county route 137)
 

 
As a result of the lava flows that destroyed Kalapana village, county route 137 (the "Red Road") now ends prematurely here in Kaimu, about three miles north of its original terminus in Kalapana. During the day, there is usually a fruit stand parked in front of the sign. (October 1999)

Lava closure of state route 130

Lava closure of state route 130, with resident/landowner restricted access sign
This is how state route 130 ended as of May 2000, about 3.5 miles short of its former end at the coastal entrance to the national park. To the right is what was the very rough and difficult (even for 4-wheel-drives) access to what's left of the Royal Gardens subdivision and other properties within the closure area, carved through the lava along the highway's old alignment.

The steam rising several miles away (photo above left) marked our tour's destination, where lava was flowing strongly into the ocean near the former national park visitor center (on May 19, 2000 -- the flow patterns keep changing, and lately have moved several miles to the southwest).


'The END of the LINE' chalked onto pavement in front of barricade
An unofficial pavement marking, in front of the barricade shown above. (October 1999)

Wide view of tollbooth for lava viewing road, with trailer on left and sawhorses and orange cones narrowing two lanes of pavement to one approaching booth

Closeup of sign on barricade in front of tollbooth trailer: 'Lava viewing area | Open from | 12:00pm to 8:15pm | Entry prohibited after 8:15pm | Gate will be locked after 10:00pm'
The end of state route 130, while the Kalapana Safe Viewing toll road was in operation. The "mobile command post" provided tolltakers a little office space, a place to store the brochures they handed out to visitors, and shade from the hot sun. While the hours changed during the several months the toll road was open, it generally stayed open each day long enough to allow lava watchers their optimal sunset viewing times, and then a chance to hike back to their cars in time to clear out of the area. The sign above right notwithstanding, the residents and landowners in the lava closure area who previously had been allowed to use the road, could continue using it toll-free 24 hours a day. (Both photos November 2001)

Two signs at beginning of lava viewing road: on sawhorse in foreground, 'Entry fee | Vehicles $5 | Commercial vans $20'; on barricade in background, 'Danger | Volcano fumes are | dangerous to your | health and may be | life threatening | Do not enter this area if | you are a person at risk | Respiratory problems | Heart problems | Pregnant | Infant-young children and elderly'

Entry sign on barricade, next to trash can: 'Danger | Volcano fumes are | dangerous to your | health and may be | life threatening | Do not enter this area if | you are a person at risk | Respiratory problems | Heart problems | Pregnant | Infant-young children and elderly'
Right after paying the entry fee ($5 for cars, $20 for tour vans), motorists drove onto the new gravel surface of the toll road (much kinder to tires and suspensions than the old path carved through the lava, which was a hard ride even for 4x4s), but not before starting through the gauntlet of warning signs with the one shown in more detail above right. (Both photos November 2001)

At end of pavement, open yellow gate at entrance to narrow gravel road, lined my multiple warning signs

Warning sign: 'Caution | Stay on | roadway | Beware of | loose rocks, | earth cracks, | and drop-offs'    Warning sign: 'Warning | Extreme | Danger | Avoid the steam | plume - It is | hazardous to your | health and may be | life-threatening | The steam plume, created when | lava enters the ocean, contains | hydrochloric acid and volcanic | glass particles which can | severly irritate eyes and skin | and can cause respiratory | distress'
An overview of the rest of the warning signs, plus the 10mph speed limit for the entire road (under an "Enter At Your Own Risk" sign). (November 2001) The first two signs. (Both photos November 2001)

Set of three warning signs: in foreground, 'Caution | Be aware of | pedestrians'; in background, 'Caution | Hazardous and | closed area | ahead | Obey all signs' and 'No alcoholic | beverages | allowed'

 
The motorists in this truck, not discouraged by all the warnings, drive by the last two signs at the road entrance. (November 2001)

 
At mile 0.9 past the end of state route 130, one of the homes still remaining in the area cut off by the lava flows that truncated the state highway. These and other residents along the access road have unrestricted use of the road, notwithstanding the past and present restrictions for the general public. (November 2001)

House in background at end of red dirt road through black lava field, behind 'No Trespassing' sign next to road

One-lane gravel road through field of pahoehoe lava
At mile 1.3, there's just bleak lava fields on either side of the road. In this area, the lava is mainly "pahoehoe," relatively smooth (compared to the other kind, jagged a'a lava), but can still really cut you up if you fall on it. (November 2001)

Cutoff stretch of old route 130, with temporary access road

Cutoff stretch of old route 130, with lava encroaching on eastbound lane
  These three photos show some of old route 130's four "kipuka" within the lava closure area (short stretches surviving the lava flows, but cut off from the rest of the road), in May 2000 before the rough path of the restricted access road (photo above left, starting at the right side of the pavement break) was covered with smoother gravel for the toll road. These kipuka are at mile 0.3-0.6, 0.6-0.8, 1.6-1.8, and 2.0-2.2. The kipuka allowed toll road travelers to briefly zoom over smooth pavement, before slowing back down to a crawl for the longer gravel stretches. Unlike the Chain of Craters Road kipuka shown on Lava Closures page 1, volcano goddess Madame Pele has not yet come back to complete her unfinished business here, but she's starting on it, with lava starting to flow into the westernmost kipuka (shown below) on March 12, 2008, and later flows apparently obliterating the rest of that kipula in October 2009. Cutoff stretch of old route 130, was wide and smooth

At mile 1.7, the third kipuka includes an intersection with a side road, which might have been the coastal "Red Road" (county route 137), closed by lava flows at Kaimu about three miles to the north. A stub of that road survived the lava flows, and was used for overflow parking while the toll road was operating. (November 2001) NOTE: New lava flows covered this intersection in July 2010.
Paved segment of access road, at intersection with paved side road with two cars parked on it

Booth and portable toilet at end of pavement, with one-lane gravel road continuing past sawhorses; multiple signs, including 'Road Closed', 'Lava viewing area | Open from | 12:00pm | Entry prohibited after 8:45pm | Gate will be locked after 10:00pm', 'Caution | Secure windows and | doors of your vehicle | during your visit here | Do not leave possessions unattended', and other signs shown earlier, with additional signs in background
At mile 2.2, at the end of the last kipuka (which was also the main parking area for lava watchers), the remaining 0.4 miles of the road remained closed to most vehicle traffic, and used mainly by hikers to reach the lava view trailhead. Many of the warning signs at the road entrance were repeated here, and/or at the trailhead. In March 2008, lava started flowing into this last kipuka, so it will be smaller and look different now if it survives at all. (November 2001)

Southwest end of lava access road in Sept. 2001, crossing silvery finger of recent lava flow, ending in turnaround area, with marked trail to lower right
An aerial view from the southwest of the west end of the access road, soon after it was converted into the Kalapana Safe Viewing toll road. This photo was taken only a few days after the newly-opened road was briefly closed by a wayward finger of fresh lava (the slender silvery patch near the top of the photograph), then reopened after county engineers added a new layer of gravel on top of the lava as it cooled. The "turnaround" was normally reserved for use as a helipad, to evacuate injured hikers. There began the trail to lava viewing areas near the ocean about a mile away. Some of the trail markers are visible in the lower right corner of the above photo. (HVO September 6, 2001)

Overview of lava cutting through Royal Gardens street network, with Prince Avenue on the left, Royal Avenue on the right, Orchid Street across the bottom, and Paradise Street across the center; white house still survives near Prince-Paradise intersection

Lava flowing down Royal Avenue, after covering the intersection with Paradise Street, with the stop sign there still visible
  In late February 2008, lava started flowing again through the mostly-abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision northwest of Kalapana, covering some of its narrow paved streets. Above left is an overview of the damage, with lava flowing into the intersection of Royal Avenue and Orchid Street. Above right is the lava flowing down Royal Avenue, after blowing through the stop sign at the intersection with Paradise Street. Below right is a closeup of the flow of jagged a'a lava, crossing Orchid Street. (All photos HVO February 28, 2008)
 
Jagged a'a lava flow crossing Orchid Street
Pahoehoe lava cuts across the old gravel access road After working its way through Royal Gardens, the lava (now taking the form of smooth pahoehoe) cut across the Kalapana Safe Viewing access road in two places near its western end, before one branch reached the ocean later that day. About 2.2 miles of the road remained (apparently including all of the kipuka shown above), and was reopened to the public with restrictions on March 8, 2008 now that lava is flowing into the ocean a short distance from the road. (HVO March 5, 2008)

Overhead view from northeast  of west end of access road, showing lava flowing over last unpaved segment; third and fourth paved segments; and unpaved segment with pullout and parked car linking those two paved segments
Here is a new aerial overview from the northeast of the west end of the access road, including the part now covered by solidified lava. This view includes parts of two of the remnants of old highway 130 pavement, connected by a narrower gravel segment with a pullout. (HVO March 11, 2008)
 

A few days later, lava started flowing down the westernmost remnant of access road pavement. (HVO March 14, 2008)
Overhead view from northwest of lava flowing over pavement at west end of access road

Overhead view from northeast  of new west end of access road, showing solidified lava covering part of last unpaved segment; steam plumes indicate where lava is flowing into the ocean
The lava has, for now, stopped covering the access road, as shown in this aerial photo of the new west end of the road. The steam plumes indicate where lava is now flowing directly to the ocean, through underground tubes, rather than causing further havoc on the surface. (HVO May 7, 2008)


Mark Furqueron's Hawaii road photos page has some lava closure photos.

See also the Hawaii County lava information site for updates on lava flows and the status of the county's lava viewing access road.



Page 1: introduction, and Chain of Craters Road closures within national park

or go to the previous or next parts of the Hawaii Highways road photos collection:

Link to go back to Observatories Roads (Big Island part 2)
to Observatories Roads (Big Island part 2)
Link to continue to Red Road (Big Island part 4)
to Red Road (Big Island part 4)

or directly to other parts:

Overview · Introduction · Interstate H-3 · Interstate H-1 · Other Freeways
Other Oahu South · Other Oahu West · Other Oahu East · Kuhio Highway
Other Kauai · Hana Highway · Piilani Highway · Kahekili Highway
Other Maui · Lanai/Molokai · Kalawao County · Saddle Road
Waipio Valley · Other Big Island

or to other sections of the Hawaii Highways site:

Link to Hawaii Highways main page Link to Hawaii Highways, Big Island route list


Comments, etc.? Please e-mail me.

© 1999-2003, 2008-10 Oscar Voss (no copyright claimed on HVO photos, which are in the public domain).

Last updated July 23, 2010 (note on obliteration of old route 130-route 137 intersection within fragment of old route 130).