Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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  • inside the lava tube
    inside the lava tube
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  • Entrance to the lava tube
    Entrance to the lava tube
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    inside
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    Thurston Lava Tube

    by DEBBBEDB Updated Apr 7, 2013

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    Entrance to the lava tube
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    The bus stopped for us to take a walk into the Thurston Lava Tube. This lava tube was discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher. At that time the roof of the tube was covered with lava stalactites, but those soon disappeared to souvenir collectors.
    This is a tube that lava originally traveled through but it is empty now. Lava currently travels from Pu'u O'o to the ocean in a labyrinth of lava tubes much like this tube.

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    Make sure to go to the unlit lava tube!!

    by CruisingGoddess Written Oct 29, 2011

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    Thurston Lava Tube
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    When we first arrived at Thurston Lava Tube, it was filled with cars and tour buses and no parking so we went to Chain of Crater Road first. When we returned to the lava tube, there was much less people and only 1 tour bus. When you arrive at the lava tube, you’re surrounded by lush tropical rainforest and then you descend into the lava tube. There are 2 parts of the lava tube: a lighted portion and unlighted portion. The lighted portion, which is where all the tour bus people were, is very short in distance and pretty roomy. Parts of the ceiling are very high and so are just tall enough so that you don’t have to duck. It was like walking through a tunnel. It was still cool and water dripped from the ceiling. For the most part, it was not steep and very easy to walk. When we first got into the lighted portion of the lava tube, it was very crowded with tour bus people. So we quickly walked through it and did the unlit portion of the tube. When we finished the unlit portion, we returned to the lighted portion and it was completely empty. Something to keep in mind if it’s busy when you get there and you plan to do both parts of the tube.

    The unlighted portion of the tube begins where the lighted tube ends and past a gate that labels the unlit tube. You must have flashlights to go into the unlit tube because it is literally complete darkness in it. There are also many chances for you to hit your head if you don’t duck in time and near the end, you need to crawl. There was also a short drop and big boulders to navigate. It was fun because we only saw 2-3 small groups of people so most of the time, we could not see any other flashlights and it felt like we were there by ourselves! It can be dangerous if you are not careful. It took us about 15 minutes to reach the end of the tube. I’m scared of the dark so making it to the end was a huge accomplishment for me! Since we knew what to expect, it took 10 minutes on the way back out. I highly recommend bringing real flashlights, not mini-ones, or at least bring strong ones. We brought small travel flashlights to save space in our luggage and they were much too dim in the lava tube.

    NOTE: During our last visit in Sept. 2011, the unlit portion of the lava tube was closed due to volcanic activity that was causing lava rock to fall from the tube's ceiling. Check with Volcanoes National Park for up-to-date information of closures before you go: http://www.nps.gov/havo/closed_areas.htm

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    Thurston Lava Tube - Connects with hiking trails.

    by Jerelis Written Jul 6, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Relinde returing from the Thurston Lava Tube.

    A short nature trail connects the Thurston Lava Tube with other hiking trails. This nature trail goes right through a native 'Ohi'a forest. This 'Ohi'a forest contains the most interesting group of plants both in genera and in species. Most of the endemic lobeliods are inhabitants of the region. The wet forest is decidedly Indo-Malaysian in its composition of species with a few American elements. Evolution has diversified some genera of Hawaiian flora (namely Cyrtandra and Pelea) within the wet forest. It may be said that the greater the rainfall the greater the number of epiphytes, both flowering and non-flowering.

    This is an excellent place to stop and listen to the birds. Watch carefully and you may even see the red Apapane feeding among the equally red 'Ohi'a blossoms.

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    Thurston Lava Tube - Just consider this!

    by Jerelis Written Jul 6, 2006

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Relinde inside the Thurston Lava Tube.

    As you walk through the tube consider that several hundred years ago a river of red lava rushed through. And that lava currently travels from Pu'u O'o to the ocean in a labyrinth of lava tubes much like the tube you're walking through. Watch your head in the tube - there are some spots with a low ceiling.

    A short nature trail connects the Thurston Lava Tube with other hiking trails. This nature trail goes right through a native 'Ohi'a forest. This 'Ohi'a forest contains the most interesting group of plants both in genera and in species.

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    • Jungle and Rain Forest
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    Thurston Lava Tube - The wet 'Ohi'a Forest.

    by Jerelis Written Jul 5, 2006

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    The beautiful 'Ohi'a forest.

    After a 25 minute walk through the wet 'Ohi'a Forest the Thurston Lava Tube awaits you. This lava tube is a natural tunnel about 10 feet high that formed when the cooling top and sides of a lava flow hardened and the lava inside drained away. This lava tube was discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher. At that time the roof of the tube was covered with lava stalactites, but those soon disappeared to souvenir collectors.

    As you walk through the tube consider that several hundred years ago a river of red lava rushed through.

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    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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  • dlytle's Profile Photo

    Thurston Lava Tube - Worth the Walk!

    by dlytle Updated Jul 8, 2003

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    Peering out of the Thurston Lava Tube

    Take a 20 minute 1/3 mile walk though the tree fern forest and then enjoy the well lighted, prehistoric cave-like Thurston Lava Tube that awaits you.

    Sometime before the 1790 collapse of Kilauea Caldera this area was the summit of the volcano, and lava overflowing this crater poured down the mountain to Hilo Bay. The river of hot lava feeding one of these flows cooled and crusted over, but the still molten interior of the flow kept moving down slope. As the eruption slowed and stopped, the molten core continued to flow, leaving the emptied cave-like Thurston Lava Tube tunnel behind.

    Such lava tubes, sometimes many miles long, are common in Hawaii and were used by early Hawaiians as burial caves as well as for shelter or refuge.

    This particular lava tube was discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher. At that time the roof of the tube was covered with lava stalactites, but those soon disappeared to souvenir collectors.

    As you walk through the tube consider that several hundred years ago a river of red-hot lava rushed through it. And that lava currently travels from Pu'u O'o to the ocean in a labyrinth of lava tubes much like the tube you are walking through.

    Watch your head in the tube - there are some spots with a low ceiling!

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  • raraavis's Profile Photo

    Thurston Lava Tubes

    by raraavis Updated Jan 5, 2006

    3 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This is an point of interest along Crater Rim Road. The tube is partially lighted. If you want to explore the unlighted section, you will need a flashlight.

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