After we visited Thurston Lava Tube, we had time to get to just one more overlook, to another crater. It still had plumes, too.
From the Crater Rim Drive, we stopped at the Puu Puai Overlook. Puʻu Puaʻi means gushing hill. You can see down into the Kīlauea Iki Crater. It was really windy and raining off and on.
Kilauea Iki Eruptions
Obscured from view at the base of the cinder and spatter cone of Puu Puai (eruption Hill), is the main vent of the 1959 eruption. Fountains reached great heights (1,900 feet once), built this cone, and created the Devastated Area out of a rain forest. Once, a great fountain showered the opposite wall, veneering it with a mantle of black lava.
Vast amounts of lava were liberated, filling Kilauea Iki with a lake 414 feet deep. Intermittent backflow down the vent lowered the lake’s level, and left a high lava mark around the crater walls.
Lava also flooded part of Byron’s Ledge (left of Puu Puai) in 1832 and covered the floor of Kilauea Iki in 1868.
You can hike down in there on the Kīlauea Iki Trail. It is a pretty difficult 4 mile loop that takes 2 or 3 hours. You walk through the giant fern, then down to walk on the lava lake. The lake is still warm under your feet. You can even look down into the vent that was exploding lava back in 1959. It was erupting up to 1900 feet high.
If you want to hike it, you can start at the Kīlauea Iki parking lot on Crater Rim Drive or at the Thurston Lava Tube parking lot. There are signs. We didn’t hike it. I was cold and wet.
It was hard to get photos. The surface of the volcano lake is still warm enough to turn the rain into steam.
The Devastation Trail is a paved path through the area devastated in 1959 when Kīlauea Iki erupted. It looks down on the Puʻu Puaʻi cinder cone.
A cinder cone is created when hot lava pumice cinders weld together to create what looks like a mini-volcano. It is called a spatter cone.