Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 10:11 EDT

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is located in the United States on the island of Hawaiʻi. The park contains 323,431 acres of land, of which half is designated as Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness, and the distinctive Mauna Loa and Kīlauea volcanoes. Mauna Loa is the world’s largest volcano and Kīlauea is among the world’s most active. The first American visitor to the park was Asa Thurston and the first English visitor was a missionary named William Ellis, both of whom traveled to the island in 1823. In the 1840’s, the island and the area around the volcanoes became a popular tourist destination. Hotels and restaurants were built to serve tourists at the time, but the only remaining hotel and restaurant today is the Volcano House, which is not yet opened after recent renovations.

The establishment of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is due largely to Lorrin A. Thurston, the grandson of Asa Thurston, a missionary and the first American visitor to the area. The idea of establishing the park was first suggested by William R. Castle in 1903, and Thurston, who was a writer at the time, produced many articles in Honolulu Advertiser supporting the idea. Fifty members of Congress, and their wives, were invited to visit the volcanoes in 1907, funded by the territory of Hawaii. Thurston entertained James Rudolph Garfield, Secretary of the Interior in 1909, further pushing for the establishment of the park to the government. After many attempted bills were proposed in Congress, House Resolution 9525 was enacted and signed by President Woodrow Wilson, establishing Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park in 1916. The park originally held the land that is now encompassed by Haleakalā National Park, but these parks were separated in 1960.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park holds many types of habitats and environments that range from arid conditions to tropical conditions. The park can be accessed by the Hawaii Belt Road, which is the main entrance to the park. The park offers many activities including hiking, camping, and sightseeing. The Chain of Craters Road offer visitors a view of many craters that occurred in past eruptions and once led to another entrance that is now covered in a lava flow. There is a visitor center located near the entrance of the park that offers information and displays about the park’s natural features and an art museum known as Volcano Art Center that displays art as well as historical exhibitions. The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, named after Thomas Jaggar who was the first to manage the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, also offers historical displays as well as a bookstore and an up-close view of Halemaʻumaʻu, an active vent of Kīlauea. The park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1987 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980.

Image Caption: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Credit: Hike395/Wikipedia

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park