Volcanoes are monuments to earth's origin, evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.
Volcanoes are also prodigious land builders (they have created the Hawaiian Island chain). Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world's most active volcanoes, are still adding land to the island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is the most massive mountain on earth, occupying an area of 10,000 cubic miles. Measured from its base on the seafloor, it rises 30,000 feet, more than a thousand feet higher than Mount Everest. In contrast to the explosive continental volcanoes, the more fluid and less gaseous eruptions of Kilauea and Mauna Loa produce fiery fountains and rivers of molten lava.
These flows, added layer upon layer, produced a barren volcanic landscape that served as a foundation for life. Hundreds of species of plants and animals found their way across the vast Pacific on wind, water, and the wings of birds. A few survived, adapted, and prospered during this time of isolation. The arrival of humans, first Polynesians, then Europeans, and the plants and animals they brought with them drastically altered this evolutionary showcase, this grand natural experiment.
Today Hawaii Volcanoes National Park displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution - processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with complex and unique ecosystems and a distinct human culture. Created to preserve the natural setting of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, the park is also a refuge for the islands native plants and animals and a link to its human past. Park managers work to protect the resources and promote understanding and appreciation of the park by visitors. Research by scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has made Kilauea one of the best understood volcanoes in the world, shedding light of the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and the beginning of planet Earth.
The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.
A general photo album for this park can be found here.For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.
Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.
Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout
The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!
Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.
For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.
The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.
A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.
NPS Geology and Soils PartnersAssociation of American State Geologists
Geological Society of America
Natural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
U.S. Geological Survey
Currently, we do not have a listing for any park-specific geology education programs or activities.
General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.