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HVNP Sees Surge in Visitors Coming to See New Kīlauea Eruption

December 23, 2020, 8:30 AM HST
* Updated December 23, 6:16 AM
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New eruption at Kīlauea volcano. (PC: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park)

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park has temporarily closed the backcountry to overnight use due to a surge in visitors coming to see the new eruption at Kīlauea volcano.

“The spike in visitation requires the full attention of staff to manage safe access to viewing areas at the summit of Kīlauea volcano,” HVNP officials say.

The park will reopen overnight backcountry use once additional National Park Service staff are brought in to help manage the evolving eruption. All existing backcountry permits are canceled, and rain checks will be issued. Day use of backcountry areas is still allowed, and the frontcountry Kulanaokuaiki Campground remains open on a first-come-first-served basis.

“Safety is our first priority, and the unexpected increase in visitors limits our capacity to manage and respond to incidents in remote backcountry areas of the park,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “We are in the process of mobilizing additional staff from other parks in the region to assist us, and hope to reopen overnight backcountry use soon.”

The eruption began Sunday night and is currently contained within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at the summit of Kīlauea volcano. Park rangers are managing large volumes of traffic and parking overflow day and night. Several thousand people gathered at Kīlauea Overlook throughout Monday night to watch lava deep within the crater illuminate towering plumes of gas and steam. Many visitors disregarded closure signs and post-and-cable barriers to get a closer look from the crater’s edge, putting themselves at great risk.

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The COVID-19 pandemic adds to the complexity of ensuring safe viewing of the eruption. Despite the crowding at Kīlauea Overlook and other locations, many visitors were not wearing masks and were less than six feet from others.

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Visitors are urged to stay informed, follow safety guidelines (https://go.nps.gov/8hadvk), avoid crowding, and mālama ʻāina (care for the land). Less crowded vantage points to view the new eruption include Keanakākoʻi, Waldron Ledge and Volcano House.

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