Upper east rift zone, Kilauea Volcano

Surface Features

Map of upper east rift zone, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

Map showing location of main features along the upper east rift zone, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i. The upper east rift zone is between Puhimau and Napau Craters. Click on map to see a larger-sized version.

  Lua Manu Crater
  Lua Manu Lava Trees
  Puhimau Crater
  Puhimau Thermal Area
  Devil's Throat
  Pre-`Aila`au spatter cone
  Koa`e fault system
  Pu`u Huluhulu
  Kipuka Kahali`i Forest
  Muliwai a Pele Lava Channel

More about upper erz

| middle east rift zone | lower east rift zone | Puna Ridge |

Photo of Lua Manu Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Lua Manu Crater (bird pit)
This small pit crater (100 m diameter) was forested and almost invisible until an eruption in July 1974 sent lava into the shallow crater. Lava partly filled the crater to a depth of 15 m, but about two-thirds of this lava later drained back into a fissure that cut its east crater wall. The high-lava mark is clearly visible on the crater walls.

This view is toward the south from atop the 1974 lava flow.

Lua Mau Crater is generally considered to be the uppermost crater along the Chain of Craters in the upper east rift zone. Technically, however, Lua Manu is within Kilauea's caldera, the outermost boundary of which is a fault between Lua Manu and Puhimau. Moreover, Keanakako`i Crater, generally considered to be within the caldera, is directly along an extension of the Chain of Craters and could be considered part of the upper east rift zone. It is good to remember the old adage that only humans and pigeons make pigeon holes.


Lava trees near Lua Manu Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Lua Manu lava trees (bird pit)
Superb examples of lava trees and molds are found in the July 1974 lava flow northwest of Lua Manu Crater. The lava moved through a forest of `ohi`a trees and submerged the lower 3-5 m of the tough, moist trunks. As the peak flow passed through the area, the surface of the flow subsided, leaving the trunks standing above the new ground surface but coated with a rind of solidified lava.

Aerial photo of Puhimau Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Puhimau Crater (ever smoking)
Puhimau pit crater is about 160 m deep. The crater probably formed between the mid-15th century and A.D. 1800. No eruptions have occurred from Puhimau Crater, and no lava flows from historical eruptions have poured into the crater. Dense forest surrounds the crater, but a small thermal area lies just north of the crater. Steam often can be seen low on the northwest wall.

This view is southward from the public viewing area.


Photo of the Puhimau thermal area, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Aerial photo of the Puhimau thermal area, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Puhimau thermal area (ever smoking)
When first noticed in 1938, during a large earthquake swarm in the upper east rift zone, this area of dead trees was only about 6 hectares in extent. The ground was noticeably warmer than in the surrounding live forest with a maximum temperature of 83 degrees C. The discoverers of this area, then well off the beaten track, thought that the tree kill had probably started about two years earlier. The area remained about the same size until the late 1960s, when it started to expand. Today, the dead trees and grassy areas encompass about 12 hectares, and the area is actively expanding eastward across the Chain of Craters Road.

Scientists suspect the thermal area is related to episodes of shallow intrusion beneath the area, beginning in about 1935-36. The Puhimau thermal area is an ecologically fragile area with one endangered plant species, and it is a culturally sensitive site used by Native Hawaiians. Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park has closed the area to visitors, owing to the presence of a fragile substrate and extremely sensitive ecosystem, as well as the cultural use. Many pit craters in the Chain of Craters are adjacent to hot or once-hot ground; whether a crater will eventually form beneath the Puhimau thermal area is an open question. See more about the history of the Puhimau thermal area.


Aerial photo of Devil's Throat pit crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Devil's Throat
When this 50-m-wide pit crater was first explored in detail in 1923, it was only 10 m wide at its top. It had the shape of an inverted funnel—at a depth of 80 m, the crater floor was 6-7 times wider than the diameter of the small crater opening. Since then, the roof of Devil's Throat has fallen in, leaving a cylindrical crater about 50 m in diameter. Today, the walls are vertical, and numerous cracks around the rim indicate still unstable ground. Details about the descent into Devil's Throat.

Spatter cone along Chain of Craters Road, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Spatter cone, predating the `Aila`au eruption
This spatter cone formed along a fissure more than 600 years ago. The cone is exposed along the Chain of Craters Road, and its strongly oxidized interior is laid open.

The location of this spatter cone is shown in the aerial photograph of Devil's Throat (above).


Aerial photo of the Koa`e fault scarp, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Koa`e fault system (tropic bird)
This fault system intersects the east rift zone near Hi`iaka and Pauahi Craters, where the rift zone bends sharply from a southeast trend to an east-northeast trend. The scarp shown in the photo is part of the Koa`e fault system, which extends 12 km from the east rift zone to the southwest rift zone near Mauna Iki. The fault system is about 2 km wide and consists of thousands of cracks and spectacular normal faults with displacement generally down toward the caldera (north) but including several south-down faults. During an intense earthquake swarm in December 1965, the southernmost fault in the system, Kulanaokuaiki Pali, moved more than 2.4 m vertically (see Volcano Watch article, Forgotten Faults).

Some scientists interpret the Koa`e fault system as a "break-away" structure resulting from the southward displacement of Kilauea's south flank. The south flank of the volcano moves southward in response to the forceful injection of dikes into the rift zones and the gravitational forces acting on the magma bodies within the rift zone.

This view is toward the southwest.


Photo of Pu`u Huluhulu, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Pu`u Huluhulu (shaggy hill)
A popular destination for hikers, this cinder and spatter cone offers striking views of the Mauna Ulu shield and the distant Pu`u `O`o vent. The 60-m-tall cone was built by eruptions about 300-400 years ago. The cone dominated the area before the growth of Mauna Ulu. A lush forest grows in the deep summit crater.

This view is toward the north-northeast; Mauna Ulu is just to the right of the image (out of view).


Kipuka Kahali`i forest, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Kipuka Kahali`i forest
Falling pumice and scoria from the high lava fountains erupted at Mauna Ulu defoliated the forest in 1969. Today, new and recovered vegetation sprouts from the old, dead trees. The name refers to the cover of the Mauna Ulu deposits.

Muliwai a Pele lava channel, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

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Muliwai a Pele lava channel (a river of Pele)
This lava channel developed in 1974 during the eruption of Mauna Ulu (the low shield in top center). Pahoehoe lava spilling over the summit crater of Mauna Ulu passed down this 8-km-long channel to the base of Poliokeawe Pali. The sides of the channel (levees) were built by overflows of surging pahoehoe lava. Where the channel crosses the Chain of Craters Road, the channel is floored with `a`a, which formed during the final phase of the pahoehoe stream as it cooled and continued to flow.

View is toward the north-northwest from along the Chain of Craters Road.


Hazlett, R.W., 1993, Geological field guide, Kilauea Volcano: Hawaii Natural History Association, 123 p..

Duffield, A.W., 1975, Structure and origin of the Koae fault system, Kilauea volcano, Hawaii: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 856, p. 12.