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Global Hawaii

HVNP's Hilina Pali Road


Overview

Hilina Pali Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) leads 8 miles southeast from Chain of Craters Road to the Hilina Pali Overlook perched atop Hilina Pali, a 1700' extensional fault scarp accomodating the seaward gravitational collapse of Kilauea's unstable south flank. A pali, by the way, is a high cliff, a common sight throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Many palis are slump headwalls, just like Hilina.

Things I encountered here include

  • Koae Pali, a set of north-facing normal fault scarps
  • Kipukas, including the large, 1,100-year-old Kipuka Nene
  • Hilina Pali, a system of south-facing normal fault scarps
  • Lots of nenes
  • Nice views of the southeast coast from the top of the pali

To learn about the many other geologic attractions accessible from Chain of Craters Road, browse VolcanoWorld's online guide to Chain of Craters Road.


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Hilina Pali Gallery

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A fresh north-facing scarp of the extensional Koae Fault System, the major tectonic boundary separating Kilauea's summit and south flank. The northeast-trending, generally north-facing Koae faults effectively bridge the Southwest and East Rift Zones. As dikes repeatedly intrude and expand the rift zones, this arrangement allows the intervening south flank to lean out and away from the summit. The south-facing scarps of the Hilina System further downslope work to relieve the resulting gravitational instability.
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Trees still growing on blocks sliding down the scarp identify this as an active scarp. I left the car in for scale.
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The view east into the west end of the Koae fault trace leaves little doubt that this is an extensional feature. The Koae and Hilina Fault Systems together comprise an extensive network of listric normal faults carrying Kilauea's mobile south flank down and to the south into the sea. These deep-running faults all apparently plane out into the basal detachment fault separating the Big Island's volcanic pile from the underlying and much depressed oceanic crust.
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The west end of this Koae fault trace peters out here in a broad swale of deformation, allowing the road to cross. This view is to the south.
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This yellow roadside beauty (a mamale?) near the southern edge of the 1,100-year-old Kipuka Nene was well worth a stop.
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A pair of nenes (Hawaiian geese) at the Hilina Pali Outlook shelter. Signs everywhere warned not to feed the endangered Hawaiian state birds, but these two were hoping I hadn't noticed. I was disappointed to find out that "no no pupu nene" isn't even a loose Hawaiian translation of "don't feed the nenes", which is probably why they hissed at my excuse for passing them by. The cloud-covered south limb of Mauna Loa descends gradually to the sea to the left in this view to the west.
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View to the east down Hilina Pali, a 1700' south-facing normal fault scarp allowing the gravitational collapse of Kilauea's unsupported south flank. This scarp, Holei Pali, Pulama Pali and others form a giant staircase up the south flank of Kilauea's shield. Such faults are typical of Hawaiian shield volcanoes, which usually prove too weak to support their own weight despite their low aspect. Kauai, for example, lost a third of its subaerial mass to failures along such faults; its highly eroded Na Pali Coast is an enormous scarp of this type.
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View to the west down Hilina Pali, the giant slump headwall of a massive and still active submarine landslide extending 70 km offshore. The coastal plain below is the top of a down-dropped block still above water. Beyond are several more blocks already submerged.

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Please address comments and corrections to jeremy@cliffshade.com

2002 Jeremy McCreary; last updated January 21, 2006

URL http://www.cliffshade.com/hawaii/hilina/index.htm