Hawaii Volcanoes National Park draws crowds for ‘dramatic’ Kilauea eruption

Thousands of visitors are making the trek to Hawaii Island to witness Kilauea’s “dramatic” eruption, according to the National Park Service.

The volcano, considered to be one of the most active in the world, began erupting Sunday afternoon “in its summit crater with multiple lava fountains feeding a lake of molten rock,” a press release by NPS said.

Although recent eruptions also occurred in the Halemaumau Crater, “this is the first eruption to also occur from an area east of the crater, called the down-dropped block (and also still within the summit caldera),” a spokesperson for the United States Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory told USA TODAY in an email. This area is part of the caldera floor that lowered during a collapse in 2018.

The eruption follows a period of unrest at the volcano’s summit starting in mid-July. Increased earthquake activity signaled that pressure was building and Kilauea was going to erupt soon, according to the U.S.G.S.

The lava is currently confined to the summit crater and there is no threat to any structures or the community.

As usual, the park has seen an uptick in visitors following the eruption. "Hawaii Volcanoes National Park staff and volunteers are working extra hours to serve the influx of visitors with safety being our top priority," said NPS spokesperson Jessica Ferracane.

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NPS Photos taken on the evening of 9/10/23 of visitors at Kīlauea Overlook
NPS Photos taken on the evening of 9/10/23 of visitors at Kīlauea Overlook

The park estimates around 5,000 people per day have come by to see the lava, she added, and many of those are local residents.

The park is asking for people to “stay safe and be respectful of the hazards and sacredness of Kilauea.” Visitors should stay on marked trails and overlooks because the earth can be unstable and dangerous.

Some parts of the park have been closed due to unsafe air quality, such as 100,000 tonnes of surfor dioxide emissions and shards of volcanic glass. These areas include the Keanakakoi viewing area and a section of old Crater Rim Drive.

The best viewing areas are Uekahuna, Kilauea Overlook and areas along Crater Rim Trail. Entry to the park starts at $30 per vehicle.

People wanting to check out the lava should expect long lines for parking at popular vantage points such as Kīlauea Overlook. Going at night can help you avoid crowds and experience the glowing lava in the dark.

Representing the home of Pele, the erupting volcano is also culturally significant to many Native Hawaiians. The park is asking visitors to give cultural practitioners space and respect as they enjoy the natural wonder.

This is the volcano’s fifth eruption since 2020 and third eruption just this year. The volcano erupted for about 12 days back in June, and over 10,000 people visited the park within the first 24 hours of erupting.

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Dramatic' Kilauea eruption draws crowds on Hawaii Island