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Kilauea Volcano Trail Reopens After Fume-Related Closure

Keanak?ko?i Crater
Keanak?ko?i Crater viewed from Crater Rim Trail. (Image credit: NPS Photo/Jessica Ferracane)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has reopened a section of trail next to Keanak?ko'i Crater, which used to be a source of rocks for expert carvers, after volcanic fumes kept it closed for four years.

The reopened sections include a stretch from Crater Rim Drive near the Devastation Trail parking lot to Keanak?ko'i Crater, and a portion of Crater Rim Trail that leads from Chain of Craters Road to the south side of Keanak?ko'i. It had been closed due to dangerous levels of volcanic fumes  after another crater, Halema?uma?u, began to erupt in March 2008.

Part of the trail winds through native forest, along lava flows from a 1974 eruption and culminates at the south side of Keanak?ko?i Crater.

Keanak?ko'i Crater likely formed during the 1400s, during one of the great summit collapses of Kilauea, according to a statement from the National Park Service. Until 1877, Hawaiian kahuna k?ko'i (carving experts) sought the crater's superior and rare basaltic rock for making ko'i, or adze heads. Bound to a sturdy 'au ko'i (wooden handle), this important tool was used to carve vital objects like canoes and houses. But the famous adze quarry was covered by lava, first in 1877, then again in 1974. Today, the crater floor is 115 feet (35 meters) deep.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses both Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the most massive volcano in the world. Kilauea has been erupting continuously for 29 years.

The Keanak?ko'i area could still experience high levels of volcanic fumes with changing wind conditions, the park service cautioned. Should this happen, the park will temporarily close the site to visitation again. Signs in the area feature a QR code for smartphones, which connects to the SO2 Network website, where visitors can get information about air quality.  

"Thanks to a new sulfur dioxide monitoring network, and an increase in air quality monitoring tools at our fingertips, we can effectively evaluate air quality conditions," said park ranger and chief of interpretation Jim Gale in a statement. "We encourage park visitors to take advantage of the newly opened section of road and trail."

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Live Science Staff
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