Kaʻū Desert

Kaʻū Desert

The Kaokinaū Desert is a leeward desert in the district of "'Kaokinaū, the sourthernmost district on the Big Island of Hawaii, and is made up mostly of dried lava remnants, sand and gravel. The desert covers an area of the Kīlauea Volcano along the Southwest rift zone. The area lacks any vegetation, mainly due to acid rainfall.


Kaokinaū desert is in the rain shadow of Kīlauea volcano and receives very little rain (about 150 mm/yr or 6 inch/yr). Its barrenness also has very much to do with sulfur dioxide escaping the vents in the crater and blowing downwind. Sulfur dioxide combines with water to form sulfuric acid which falls as acid rain which creates a harsh, acidic environment.

Leisure and tourism

The Kaokinaū Desert is popular for walking and hiking tours. You can get to the desert if you follow Highway 11 counterclockwise from Kona to the Volcano, As you traverse the desert, you cross the Great Crack and the Southwest Rift Zone, a major fault zone that looks like a giant groove in the earth, before you reach Kīlauea Volcano.

The 1790 eruption

In 1790 occurred one of most devastating explosions in Hawaiian history. The eruption produced accretionary lapilli tuff, which is fine volcanic ash that into forms tiny balls as a result of eruptions that involve water. At that time Chief Keoua was traveling around Kīlauea to Kaokinaū to oppose the dominant chief, Kamehameha. At least 80 Hawaiian warriors suffocated from volcanic ash getting into their lungs. The footprints of these warriors are preserved in the ash.

External links

* [http://www.kilaueaadventure.com/kau-desert.php General description of Kaokinaū Desert]

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