Public viewing site of hardened Kilauea lava flow opens in Pahoa

The lava viewing area at the Pahoa Transfer Station.
The lava viewing area at the Pahoa Transfer Station. Photo Credit: Courtesy of United States Geological Survey

Travelers visiting the Big Island of Hawaii can take a firsthand look at a now-hardened stretch of the June 27 Kilauea lava flow that stalled last month on the outskirts of the small rural community of Pahoa.

According to Hawaii County Civil Defense officials, about 1,000 people stopped by the new designated viewing area at the Pahoa Transfer Station on Dec. 17, the first day the location was open to the general public.

No molten red lava is visible at the site, but the venue offers a chance for the public to get reasonably close to the black pahoehoe lava rock along with access to University of Hawaii geology experts available at the site to answer questions and discuss the recent volcanic activity.

Meanwhile, a new arm of the June 27 Kilauea lava flow has separated from the main track and is now threatening the small town’s Pahoa Marketplace, moving east-northeast “approximately 0.8 miles upslope of the Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection,” Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said in a Dec. 18 update.

The advance of the June 27 flow’s new front, which traveled only about 50 yards in 10 hours Dec. 18, could mean officials will have to shut down the recently opened viewing area at the Pahoa Transfer Center.

“We’re certainly keeping an eye on the current flow,” said John Drummond, the administrative officer for Hawaii Civil Defense. “If it gets to a point where we have a hazard in the [Pahoa Marketplace] area, or around there, we may have to concentrate our efforts on dealing with the current flow rather than continuing the lava viewing. We have a relatively small staff.”

Still, tourism officials continue to remind travelers that Pahoa is a predominantly rural community on the destination’s east coast, where there is no major tourism infrastructure, and there is no reason for visitors already on, or headed to, the island to alter their vacation plans.

Free to the public, the Pahoa Transfer Station viewing site is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily — except Christmas and New Year’s — and parking is available along Apaa Street, where volunteers are waiting to help drivers with questions. 

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