Kilauea Crater Rim Drive

The colored number circles correspond to
the links on the right side of this page.

  1. Kilauea Visitor Center
  2. Sulphur Banks
  3. Steam Vents and Steaming Bluff
  4. Kilauea Overlook
  5. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory & Jaggar Museum
  6. Southwest Rift Zone
  7. Halemaumau Overlook
  8. Keanakakoi Overlooks
  9. Puu Puai Overlook
  10. Thurston Lava Tube
  11. Kilauea Iki Overlook

Crater Rim Drive, Stop 7 - Halemaumau Overlook

A walk out to the overlook of Halemaumau Crater convinces even the strongest skeptics that Kilauea is an active volcano. The gases released at the crater make an immediate impression on one's sense of smell and taste. The high amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) are hazardous to young children, pregnant women, and the elderly and these people should avoid the area.

Adjacent to the trail are blocks thrown from Halemaumau during an explosive eruption in 1924.

The 1924 phreatic eruption was caused by a rapid drop in the level of a long-lived lava lake within Halemaumau that allowed ground water to come in contact with hot rock. After this eruption the crater was 1,345 feet (410 m) deep. Photograph from a postcard circa 1924.

Since 1924, Halemaumau has been gradually filling with lava from numerous short-lived eruptions. The longest of these eruptions lasted about eight month from 1967-1968. Photograph by R.S. Fiske, U.S. Geological Survey, December 1967.

Halemaumau is about 280 feet (85 m) deep and 3,000 feet (915 m) across. The prominent ledge about half-way up the crater wall marks the high stand of the 1967-1968 lava lake. The floor of the crater collapsed in 1971. The lava on the floor of the crater is from the 1974 eruption that was erupted on the southwest rift zone just outside of Halemaumau. Mauna Loa volcano is in the background.

Because Halemaumau is so big, it is difficult to get a feel for its size. A helicopter in this photo serves as a familiar reference (if you can find it).

Halemaumau is also the home of Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, making it a sacred place to Hawaiians. It is not unusual to see offerings to Pele, such as sacred Hawaiian plants, left on the rim of the crater.

A short walk beyond the Halemaumau Overlook is a spatter rampart produced by an eruption in April 1982.

The April 1982 eruption lasted only 19 hours. It was preceded by rapid inflation of the summit of the Kilauea and a swarm of small earthquakes that lasted 3 hours. Photography by J. P. Lockwood, U.S. Geological Survey, April 30, 1982.

Lava erupted from a fissure and produced a curtain of fire 15-30 feet (5-10 m) high. Photography by J. P. Lockwood, U.S. Geological Survey, April, 1982.

Crater Rim Drive continues east from the Halemaumau parking area and gradually climbs the southeast rim of Kilauea Caldera.

The second eruption in 1982 began on the evening of September 25 and lasted only 15 hours. Curtains of fire developed above the fissures. This was the most recent summit eruption of Kilauea volcano. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, September 25, 1982.

Two fissures formed in the southern part of Kilauea caldera (top of photo, just left of center) and sent lava flows to the northwest and south (towards the center of the photo). Photograph by Norm Banks, U.S. Geological Survey, September 26, 1982.

The northwest flow crossed Crater Rim Drive and spilled into the caldera. Volcanologists on duty during the eruption reported feeling several dozen earthquakes. Photograph by Ted Wolf, U.S. Geological Survey, September 26, 1982.

Written and Photographed by Steve Mattox except where stated.

Sources of Information

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