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Kipuka Kanohina Cave Management Plan

Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i    kanohina.doc

Rev N/C

May 15, 2003










Figure 1-Location of the Kipuka Kanohina System


The Kipuka Kanohina Cave System is situated on the west coast of the island of Hawai`i, in the desert of Ka`u.  It is located near the community of Ocean View, about 45 miles south of Kailua-Kona and about 30 miles north of South Point (the southern most point in the US).  The cave system is developed within an elevation range of 800 to 1400 feet.  Over 15.5 miles of continuous cave passage has been explored within the system, with a vertical extent of 670 feet.  The cave is currently listed as the second longest lava tube in the world, one of only three to pass 15 miles in length.  It is highly braided and mazy, with multiple levels and confusing passages.  The cave contains several Hawaiian artifacts and evidence of ancient habitation.  It also contains soda straw stalactites, numerous large lava balls, many significant gypsum deposits, an unstudied biological population, and paleontological specimens. 

Purpose and Need

The Ocean View area has experienced slow but steady population growth.  Continued development will bring several threats to the cave system that are associated with increased commerce and habitation.  Individuals living close to the cave will eventually bring Kipuka Kanohina to public knowledge.  This can bring uncontrolled visitation to the caves, causing destruction through overuse and vandalism.  Many sections of the Kanohina Cave system are sensitive or fragile.  Several stalactites have already been broken off in one of the entrance areas.  There is also a possibility of looting of the many artifacts contained in the caves.  Surface bulldozing has caused structural collapse of several sections of cave.  The new entrances can cause changes in the meteorology of the caves, and changes in moisture.  This alters the local cave biology.  Pesticides used in farming may cause neurological damage or even death to cave dwelling arthropods.  Increased surface development can also introduce exotic and pest species to the area.  These species can compete with the native flora and fauna, destroying the local ecosystem.  Surface development can also bring improperly constructed septic systems, which can dump raw sewage into the caves.  Sinkholes have also become a location for illegal dumping.  Several tons of scrap metal has been discarded into the Maelstrom entrance of the cave. 

By managing the land surrounding the caves, the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i (CCH) can ensure that surface development has minimal impact to the cave system.  The conservancy also has access to cave scientists and cave management specialists that can provide expert analysis and help in protecting the cave.  The conservancy can provide other services such as access control, liability protection, and educational seminars. The known cave runs under approximately 240 acres.  By obtaining rights to just a few lots, the CCH can ensure that the Kipuka Kanohina Cave System gets the study and protection that it needs.


The Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i created the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee to manage the Kipuka Kanohina cave system.  The goal of the committee is to protect the system from development threats, and eventually acquire rights to as much of the land overlying significant cave passages as possible.  This will be accomplished via conservation easements, underground leases, and purchase of property.  The committee also wishes to promote scientific study of the cave, and educational programs that will benefit caves in Hawai`i.  This will be achieved by providing housing and basic research support to local and visiting scientists, and by assisting the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i in presenting educational papers on the cave.

History of the Property

The first use of the Kanohina Caves predates history.  Nearby South Point is purported to be one of the first landing sites on the island that the ancient Polynesian voyagers named ��Ohyhee��.  The kipuka containing the cave system bears an ancient name - ��Kanohina��.  Since the name survives through legend to present day use, it is believed to have played a significant role in the lives of ancient people.  Archeological evidence indicates that the Hawaiians used these caves for water collection, tool making, cooking, and sleeping.   

Figure 2 - King Kalakaua

The kipuka and surrounding land eventually came into the possession of the Hawai`i royal family.  In the 1800��s King David Kalakaua (the Merry Monarch) granted a large tract of land to the Honorable Charles Coffin (C.C.) Harris, who was a justice on the Hawaii Supreme Court.  This land was known as the Kahuku Ranch.  The western makai section of the Kahuku Ranch was later sold for development.  In the late 1950's and early 1960's, Karl Embrey and Ed Bossing started selling the real estate out of the old Kona Inn Hotel.  The land was later developed by the Crawford Oil Company, which consisted of Walter and Lillian Crawford and their two sons.  In May of 1969 the residents incorporated as Hawaiian Ocean View Estates Community Association, Inc.  The area experienced slow but steady growth, and was eventually awarded its own zip code.  Ocean View now encompasses the developments of Hawaiian Ocean View Ranchos, Kahuku Country Gardens, Kula Kai View Estates, Kona Gardens, Keone's Ranchos, and Kona View Estates.  There are approximately 1,500 homes in the area.  Electricity and telephone service are scattered throughout the subdivisions.  Water is collected via rainwater catchment systems. 

The first known survey of the cave system was by Peter Zabrock in the 1980��s.  The survey was performed using topofil line.  Unfortunately, the survey was abandoned and no information on the cave was ever published.  In 1998 the survey was restarted by members of the Cave Research Foundation, along with members of the Hawai`i Speleological Survey.  The survey has continued to the present time.  The known system is the culmination of exploration that began in four caves that were originally believed to be separate from one another.  These caves are Poha Cave, Kula Kai Caverns, Eli��s Pit Cave and The Maelstrom.  Each cave is notable in its own right and distinctly different from the next.  All caves are now known to interconnect through a fortuitous collection of small squeezes, and obscure collapses.  The whole forms a master system with more than 15.5 miles of accumulated survey. 

The majority of the cave lies under portions of two adjacent subdivisions, Kula Kai View Estates and Keone's Ranchos.  These areas are zoned AG-3 and are being developed for single-family dwelling.  Other activities related to an agricultural base are also allowed within the zoning restriction.  Only about one lot in ten is actually inhabited at the present time.  Absentee individuals own the remaining lots.  The lots remain in a relatively virgin state, protecting the caves beneath.  Some of the upper elevation parcels are forested with tall cycad tree ferns and mature ohia trees.  The lower parcels are generally sparsely vegetated, beautifully sculpted pahoehoe with excellent coastline and mountain views.  Over the last ten years development on Kipuka Kanohina has proceeded at the rate of about one new home per year.  Currently several lots with entrances to the cave system are owned by individuals interested in preservation of the cave.  Encouraging this trend is the primary purpose addressed by this management plan.

Applicable Statutory Regulations

    Hawai`i Revised Statute 0006D Protection of Caves
    Hawai`i Revised Statute 0006E Historic Preservation
    Hawai`i Revised Statute 0195D Conservation of Aquatic Wildlife, Wildlife, and Land Plants
    Hawai`i Revised Statute 0520 Landowners Liability



Cave Resources


Kanohina Caves protect an ecosystem that is known to contain a number of species of troglobytic arthropods that are endemic to Hawaii.  Several different orders have adapted readily to the ecological niche found in the abundant hollow and dark spaces created by the Hawaiian tube systems.  Observations show that these specially adapted animals migrated into the caves a few years after a lava flow cools.  Once there, they take up residence in root mats created as surface vegetation extends downward into the cave. 

Figure 3 - Cave Dwelling Arthropod

The root zones are protected by the dark and moist environment of the cave, and become a haven that provides the nutrients necessary to support a wide diversity of highly adapted organisms.  Species identified in Hawaiian caves include

Figure 4 - Root Forest

millipedes, crickets, (Caconemobius), plant hoppers (Oliaris), and spiders (Lycosa howarthi).  They are totally dependant on the cave environment and have emerged in a very short period of evolutionary time (Howarth, 2002). 

Microbiological resources of fungi and bacteria are often evident in the cave.  These resources need further study to evaluate and identify possible new species of organisms. 

The upper area of the kipuka has an ancient name of Pu`u Pueo which refers to the Hawaiian owl.  There are 2 species of owl in Hawai`i - the native Pueo and the introduced barn owl.  The barn owl makes its nests within the Kanohina Caves. 



Figure 5 - Line Drawing of the Kipuka Kanohina System


Ocean View encompasses a region on the slope of the Mauna Loa Volcano that stretches from sea level to 4000 feet in elevation.  This area is located at the base of the Southwest Rift.  Ocean View��s proximity to an active eruption zone places it in a ��zone 2�� hazard area as judged by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  The USGS scale for the island runs from 1-9, with higher number designations given to areas lying further from active eruption zones.  The most recent flow in the area is the 1907 a`a flow that originated from a vent source at 5600 foot elevation, just below Pu`u Keokeo.  This flow is evident near Highway 11 with a lower arm of the flow terminating near the Kula Kai entrance of the Kipuka Kanohina System.  The bulk of the surface exposed in the Ocean View area is designated as a K3 flow unit (Wolfe and Morris, 1996).  The K3 designation is dated at 750-1500 years before present (BP).  This flow is a mixture of a`a and pahoehoe units that support a diverse landscape ranging from heavily forested areas to stark and barren lava fields.  This landscape is composed of a patchwork of many separate kipukas.  Kipuka Kanohina is the ancient name of the pahoehoe flow unit containing the Kanohina Caves.  Additional K3 pahoehoe units are exposed in the upper regions of Ocean View and segments of this age may be observed on the Southwest Rift as high as 10,000 feet elevation and above.  The upper kipukas are also known to contain caves. 

Kipuka Kanohina is bounded on three sides by a`a flows that are both ancient and historic in age.  Luckily, the 1907 flow had minimal impact on the Kanohina flow and its many cave openings.  The Kipuka Kanohina surface preserves an abundance of apparent surface flows with obvious embankments that contained the original lava flow.  Given a longer flow duration, these fast flowing streams of lava would ultimately have become part of a tube system.  The relatively gentle topographic gradient within Kipuka Kanohina may have contributed to the potential for tube formation.  A`a components within the kipuka are not believed to have major tube bearing segments, though they often overlay pahoehoe units that do. 


Figure 6 - Typical Entrance Passage

Within the cave system there are at least four levels of passage development.  Each is believed to preserve evidence of changes in the eruptive volume and duration of the original flow.  A distinct layering of separate flow events is often exposed by collapse in the walls of entrance pukas.  The lava within the kipuka was first emplaced as a large eruption episode that formed tube systems at the original base level.  Later surges in the flow covered this original complex with thinner tube supported units.  Many upper level tubes are seen to have melted downward and reconnected to lower levels.  The end result is a maze of multilevel braided passages that all interconnect to form the present day system.  The uppermost level is a random collection of small tubes that lie just below the surface crust.  Most do not connect directly to the main system and have not been surveyed.  The highest integrated level is composed primarily of small crawling passages that lie within a few feet of the surface.  The third level down is much more extensive and encompasses the most impressive entrances and large decorated passages of the system.  The lower levels are rough floored, black lava stoop ways that interconnect randomly between various areas of the larger upper section.   

Figure 7 - Hearts Delight Skylight

The majority of the cave system is composed of large interconnected passageways with beautiful pahoehoe flow features preserved on their floors.  In some areas these features are now hidden by breakdown that has occurred subsequent to the tubes cooling.  These breakdown areas tend to occur near entrances and at the junctions of complicated braids.  Collapsed skylight entrances are common and many thin areas of the cave ceiling would potentially collapse under the hook of a bulldozer.  No significant collapse due to natural causes has been observed in the last ten years of exploration.   


Figure 8 - Lava Ball

Wall shelving within the cave preserves evidence of past flow levels.  Lava balls are a prominent feature in many areas of the cave.  They can be found wedged on the ceiling and walls and gathered in groups of 5-10 in one place.  One passageway is plugged with a lava ball nearly 19 feet tall.  Several unusual features within the cave are believed to have formed as extrusion shields or rinds in conjunction with lava that flowed over or around these wedged lava balls.  One is the size of the hood of an old Volkswagen beetle.


This area of the island is a lava desert.  With an annual rainfall of 10-20 inches there are no surface streams or water features.  On the surface the normal diurnal temperature range is 64-89 degrees F with winter extremes as low as 54 degrees F.  A hot mid-summer afternoon may reach 90 degrees F for a few hours.   The cave maintains a range of 68-70 degrees F.  Cool moist air is always encountered as one passes under the drip line of a cave entrance.  Air moves freely in the cave and direction is related to surface wind conditions.  The water, airflow, and humidity of the cave are directly related to ambient weather and rainfall. 


Prior to the year 2000 the area suffered a serious drought for 4-5 years.  This has had a noticeable impact on the surface flora as well as the cave environment.  It was noted ten years ago that the cave protected a very moist environment with vibrant root colonies.  During the years of drought these root systems desiccated and appeared to die.  Many trees rooted directly over known cave passages also died during this period.  This is believed to be the result of the complete desiccation of both the root environment within the cave and the immediate area of overburden from the ceiling to the surface.   Since the rains have returned there is indication of stimulated root growth and the return of a more vibrant surface community.   

Due to the dry nature of the surface there are no significant streams, ponds, or sumps within the cave.  During times of heavy rain percolating water can be observed dripping down into the cave just hours after a storm.  This leads to some pooling of water on the floor and in natural "bowl stones" at various places throughout the cave.  The floor areas tend to retain the water longer than the natural rock basins.  One area of the floor appears to have been cleaned out intentionally by ancient explorers to collect water.  It will hold several gallons when full.   

There are areas in the cave that are perpetually wet.  These are primarily in the lowest accessible levels, near the bottom of the percolation zone.  Other condensation zones develop in large open rooms that are protected by constricted entryways.   

It has been observed that the color of the mineralized crusts have changed since the cave has become wet again.  During years of drought the crusts were very white.  With the return of the water the cave has taken on a definite yellow appearance. 


Hawaiian lava is considered mafic (high magnesium/ ferric) basalt.  Much of the remainder is silica – about 50 percent by weight.  All of these elements occur as oxides within the lava matrix.   Mauna Loa basalt breaks down to:  SiO2 50%, Al2O3 13%, Fe2O3 12%, CaO 10%, MgO 8%, TiO2 2%, Na2O 2%, P2O5 0.5%, K2O 0.04%, and MnO 0.16%. 

The interior of the cave exhibits these basic compounds in a wide variety of different mineral types.  Wall glazing related to the primary formation of the tube and secondarily precipitated minerals are among the most impressive.  Most of the walls and ceilings are coated with a dark glaze containing magnetite and hematite in large enough concentrations to alter compass bearings when survey stations are set too near.  Areas of breakdown reveal bright red oxidized rock behind the glazing, indicative of high iron content.


Figure 9 - Red Gypsum Curl

Secondary mineralization is apparent mostly near the entrances.  Areas of the cave are turned a glistening white as water percolates into the

Figure 10 - Blue Stalactites

cave and precipitates a secondary deposition of gypsum crust.  Some of these areas have plates up to 1/2" thick, which have exfoliated from the ceiling to form a litter on the floor.  Other areas reveal calcite coralloid formations that grow from the ceiling and floor.  These formations tend to grow where water is more abundant and often develop in one prevailing direction.  Often accompanying them are deposits of mineral salts, including mirabolite and epsomite growing from the shelves and floor.  A strong affinity to water often causes these deposits to form as coatings on root systems exposed within the cave.  As the root ages, dies and decays these rinds are left behind in great profusion.  A few areas of the cave exhibit clusters of small bluish green stalactites.  Preliminary analysis reveals these deposits to be composed of elemental sulfur impregnated with copper.


Kipuka Kanohina contains skeletons of goats, bats, birds, rats, and the cave adapted arthropods.  No work has been performed with the collection or analysis of these remains.


The caves in the Kipuka Kanohina System were a valuable resource to the ancient Hawaiians.  Much of their history has been lost, but the information preserved by materials in the caves may provide clues to opening an understanding of survival techniques used by the ancients.   

Figure 11 - Water Collection Gourd

The cave environment protects numerous archeological remains that are perfectly preserved and very little studied.  Gourd cradles are evident in many areas of the cave.  Torch sticks, opi`i shells and charred kukui nuts provide evidence of exploration of the caves by Hawaiians.  Charcoal remnants show that the ancient Hawaiians traveled nearly 1000 feet into the dark zone of the cave.  Preserved gourd fragments and intact gourds have also been discovered.   The cave also contains sleeping platforms, fire rings, and tool making sites. 

No burials have been found in the Kanohina Caves.  The caves were used extensively for water collection and refuge sights. It is thought highly unlikely that the original inhabitants would have used a heavily visited working area as a burial ground.  There is no expectation that any burials will ever be discovered in the area.   

Further study of the archeological remains in and under the Kipuka Kanohina will undoubtedly lead to many new and interesting insights into the culture of ancient Hawaii.


There are no known significant historical resources in this cave system.

Surface Resources


The surface of the Kanohina shield is an arid desert climate.  In ancient times it was home to now extinct species of birds that were used extensively as a food resource by the original Hawaiians.  Native Ohia and Aali`i are the predominate flora.  There is very little soil in evidence, making it a marginal growing area at best.  The moist cave environment is believed to help provide a source of water for the Ohia trees and native shrubs, especially during times of drought.  The survival of this flora is vital to surface wildlife living in the region.   

In contemporary times large numbers of goats have inhabited the area.  Some of the entrance areas used for sleeping are layered several feet deep in dung.  Goats were introduced by the first Anglo visitors and were not an ancient food source.  A few herds remain yet today in the areas makai of the main system.


The surface of Kipuka Kanohina is a testament to the power and authority of volcanic action.  The topography reflects the violent processes that created the cave beneath it.  It is suspected that the whole cave was formed in a very short time, dwarfing contemporary flows.  The pahoehoe lava has been sculpted so that every niche of the preserve shows bewildering and beautiful free form shapes.  The whole has now weathered over time to a ruddy red patina. 

Some of the surface contains soils made out of volcanic ash.  These soils are endemic to the Kanohina region.  The Kanohina Series consists of shallow and very shallow well-drained soils that formed in basic volcanic ash over pahoehoe lava.  Kanohina soils are a very fine sandy loam with a dark brown appearance.   These soils are found on south slopes of the Mauna Loa upland.  The soils are in depressions of constructional landscapes on nearly level to moderately steep pahoehoe flows that are 750 to 1,500 years old.  Slope gradients range from 2 to 20 percent.  The soils are slightly acid or neutral (pH 6.1 to 7.3).



With only 10 - 20 inches of accumulated rainfall a year, the surface of the Kipuka Kanohina is a very dry place indeed.  There are NO surface creeks or ponds, let alone rivers or lakes.  A few small depressions in the pahoehoe flows may catch small puddles after a rain, but they dry up almost immediately once the sun reappears.  This very limited supply of water facilitates rainwater catchment systems for residences in the area, but only if its inhabitants are very frugal in their usage.


    There is also a subterranean water table throughout the island.  In the Kanohina area it requires drilling a well to a depth of nearly 1500 feet to reach.  The freshwater "lens" at this elevation is considered to be less than 200 feet in vertical extent.  Beneath this layer the substrate will be saturated with salt water.


There are no known significant mineral resources on the surface.  The cave conservancy committee believes that the absence of commercially valuable minerals make the kipuka an even more feasible area to protect.  Land prices are lower than other areas of the island, because of a perceived lack of commercial value


Most of the entrance areas of the cave contain the obvious remains of animal populations currently living in the area.  Goats, birds and smaller rodents comprise the bulk of these accumulations.  Owl roosts contain the largest volume of material, as their residents cast up pellets from their most recent meal.  Many of the caves on the Big Island preserve the remains of extinct faunal types that once lived in this paradise of the Pacific.  Flightless geese, petrels, crows, and rails have all been identified in other areas.  Though none of these types of remains have yet been identified in the Kanohina area, it is the belief of the conservancy that the area may contain many interesting surprises for future researchers to discover.


There is significant evidence that much of the habitation was near the coastal areas.  Rock and cave shelters, petroglyph fields, and canoe landings are abundant near the ocean.  A section of the King's Trail still remains, running parallel to the shoreline below the Kipuka Kanohina.  Ancient trails connect the mauka (mountain) forest areas with the shoreline.  These trails cross the pahoehoe shield containing the Kanohina Caves.  The upper regions of the mountain were forested with valuable wood and bird resources.  Trails continue above tree line to the summit of Mauna Loa and this area may have been one of the ancient highways used to traverse the island.  Water from the caves would have been essential to early travelers in the Kanohina area.  The evidence that the caves were a valuable water collection resource is apparent by the many collection sites.  Sleeping areas, fire pits and rock walls indicate areas of habitation.  There are several areas near the cave entrances that have scrape marks – as though they were used as tool making sites.  Due to the harshness of the area it is suspected that the caves were not used as long-term residences.  They would have served as valuable way stations during the Hawaiians travels mauka/makai. 


Figure 12 – O`o Digging Stick

Surface archeology reveals that areas of pahoehoe bubbles have been excavated - possibly to rob bird nests or to use as wind shelters.  O`o (digging) sticks have been found on the property.  Red wall patinas near entrances were extensively mined for reasons not clearly understood.


Petroglyphs in the area record both Anglo and Hawaiian names written in an old English style script.  Many of these may prove to be interesting studies to future researchers. 

All of the known historic sites within Kipuka Kanohina are contemporary in nature.  Several houses have been built and the main entrance to Kula Kai Caverns now sports a very attractive series of flowered terraces and sculpted concrete steps that very closely resemble the natural pahoehoe in the area.  These lead down to approximately 200 yards of a lighted underground trail.  This section of the cave is operated as a commercial venture separate from the conservancy.  It is hoped that this area of the cave can be used to great advantage in educating a "less than adventurous" general public on the beauty of the underground environment. 

    A less than attractive feature of modern day usage of the area is present at one of the other entrances currently owned by conservancy members.  The Maelstrom was used as a dumping ground for steel fabrication waste for quite some time before its purchase.  Although these activities have now ceased, most of the material still remains at the bottom of the entrance sink and scattered across the surface of the lot.  It is the intention of the conservancy to remove this refuse and restore the area to as natural a condition as possible.  In the winter of 2003, several work crews collected much of the scrap on the surface and removed it.


There are several roads crossing the subdivision, in various stages of development.  The main road leading into the subdivision is a 2 lane paved road, and is maintained by the Kula Kai View Estates Homeowners Association.  The Kanohina system runs parallels to this road.  Secondary roads cross the system in several places.  Some of the roads are paved, while others have barely been bulldozed.  There are several areas in the cave that have suffered collapse because of bulldozer activity on the surface.  For this reason, no new roads are planned on conservancy properties, nor are there plans to upgrade the existing roads.  Bulldozing will be prohibited on the sections of the cave preserve that are designated as wilderness under the cave management objectives.



All management plan objectives should be a reflection of the goals established by the committee.  The primary goals are to:

  • Acquire rights to as much of the land overlying significant cave passages as possible. 
  • Protect the system from development threats.
  • Promote scientific study of the cave, and promote educational programs that will benefit caves in Hawai`i.

Land Rights and protections will be acquired in the following manner:

  1. The highest level of protection will be accomplished through the solicitation of land and tax-exempt funds from individuals for the outright purchase of land.  The CCH may only gain complete and permanent control of the properties through full title to the various parcels.
  2. A second level of protection will be pursued through the signing of scenic easements with current landowners in the area.  Each easement must be negotiated separately with each landowner, providing a variable level of protection to the cave.
  3. A third level of protection will be accomplished by negotiating conservation easements and leases to underground areas with current landowners.  This should allow access to the cave for continuing research and also relieve the landowners of liability concerns.  Again, each agreement must be negotiated separately so will have various levels of protection for the cave.

Each of these arrangements will provide the owners with a tax shelter to protect their investments.   

If landowners wish to develop their lots, the CCH will advise them in planning a low impact dwelling.  In addition, individuals will be encouraged to buy two or three lots within the subdivision instead of just one.  Land parcels are divided into three-acre lots that are currently selling for $15,000 to $25,000 depending on their location and current stage of development. 

The main objective of the committee is to minimize development and impacts to the cave and surface area.  This is best done by leaving most of the parcels surrounding the cave in an untouched state, and focusing any development on parcels that have already been modified.  Landowners are encouraged to leave their property as is.

Cave Management Objectives

The primary cave management objective is to preserve the cave system from impacts due to construction and development.  The secondary objective is to survey the cave, and record all findings.  The tertiary objective is to perform research on the archeological, paleontological, and mineralogical deposits in the cave.  There will be monitoring of biota for impacts.  A major goal is to understand the archeological remains in the cave.  By better understanding the cave through continued survey and research, the CCH believes that it will become more qualified to manage this delicate ecosystem through time. 

Surface Management Objectives

Initially three levels of preservation are envisioned.  Each land parcel will be designated for one of these levels of protection. 

1.   Wilderness:  This designation is reserved for pristine areas that will be maintained exactly as they now are.  Restoration and research activities will be permitted in these areas, with only occasional usage by educational groups. 

2.  Low impact:  These parcels will be developed with only a small number of temporary structures.  All access will be by foot traffic ONLY.   Bulldozing on the surface will not be allowed for either roads or utility connections.  These areas will be used primarily for educational purposes with an expectation of moderate traffic levels in the cave and short term residence on the surface. 

3.   Developed:   These parcels either have now or will in future be slated for full development with at least one long term residence.  All efforts will be made to locate structures and utilities (especially septic pits) so that they place minimal impact on underlying cave passages.  Trails and lighting are or may be installed in these cave areas.  Many of these parcels already have a bulldozed building pad, and the surface over the cave has already been changed. 

Financial Management Objectives

The Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve is located within Kula Kai View Estates.  A homeowners association governs this land.  Each parcel of land requires association fees, and may be subject to special assessment.  For each parcel of land purchased, the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i must set aside a requisite amount of money to cover any assessments.  The liability increases for each parcel purchased.  The Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i shall maintain appropriate funding for these assessments in a high yield account.  In addition, the CCH shall accumulate funding for any taxes and insurance needed.  Current assessed value of the parcels is $15,000 each and taxes are approximately $190.00 per year.  Association dues are $70.00 per year per lot.

Access Policy

The Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee will control access to the cave preserve.  This committee is responsible for enforcing Cave Conservancy of Hawaii access guidelines.  Kipuka Kanohina Cave will be open to responsible caving all year.  The property is available for use by the general public, including educational institutions.  The Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i believes that it will have sufficient and reasonable liability protection for non-paying cave trips under the Hawai`i Cave Protection Act. 

Use Conflicts

Several conflicts could arise between cave visitors and the goal of preservation of cave resources.  Archeological, paleontological and biological sites will be damaged by any significant traffic.  Trips should be designed to minimize contact with these areas.


Access Guidelines

General policy rules for access to the cave and for visitation on the preserve property are as follows: 

  1. The Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve will be made available to independent organizations with an interest in pursuing research and educational activities.  Individual permits will be negotiated to fit each circumstance.
  1. The National Speleological Society, Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i, Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee, and members of the Hawai`i Grotto (NSS chapter); will not be liable for any damages, accidents, injuries, or death, on the surface or subsurface of the property.  All individuals entering the preserve (cavers and non-cavers) will be required to sign a liability waiver for each visit. 


  1. All vehicles are prohibited except on designated roads or in emergencies.  This rule may be waived with written permission from the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee. 
  1. Overnight parking is permitted only at Kula Kai Caverns or at Don Coon��s field house.   
  1. Visitors must use only established surface trail paths.  To protect surface flora and to reduce erosion, no off-trail activities or use are permitted without permission from the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee.  This includes climbing and rappelling. 
  2. Disturbing or destroying native plants or animals on the property or in the cave is not allowed. 
  3. Only caving groups may camp on the preserve.  Only cavers and their non-caving spouses and friends may camp on the preserve. 
  4. Illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia are prohibited on the property.  Alcohol and alcohol beverage containers are only permitted within areas designated by the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee. 
  5. Campfires and cooking stoves are permitted in designated areas.  No other open flames are allowed on the property except in the use of carbide lamps for underground exploration.
  1. There are no sanitation facilities on the property or in the cave.  All waste and trash must be carried away. 
  1. Groups and individuals shall bring their own water and toilet paper. 
  1. Groups and individuals shall show respect for others and shall observe a quiet period from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  Additionally, because there are homes nearby, individuals shall not engage in any lewd or lascivious behavior while on the preserve. 


Research projects and educational programs utilizing the property will be encouraged, and the involvement of the NSS Research Advisory Committee will be solicited.  Researchers are encouraged to submit their written proposals to the CCH Board for consideration.  Cave preserve access rules shall be followed at all times.  The safety and security of the plants and animals of the preserve are always the first concern when reviewing any research requests.  No collection of specimens, artifacts, or any type of natural or cultural resources from the preserve or the cave is permitted without prior written permission from the CCH Board.  Requests for permission to collect specimens or conduct research activities that involve the disturbance or removal of natural or cultural resources, including wildlife or artifacts, may be submitted to the Board for consideration.  All researchers are required to follow federal and state laws and regulations regarding specimen collection and must obtain any applicable state or federal permits.  Researchers are requested to provide a copy of any information or reports generated from their studies at Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve to the CCH.


Exploration Guidelines

All exploration in the Kipuka Kanohina system shall follow the ��survey as you go�� ethic.   All leads shall be noted in the survey notes.  In the unlikely event that a burial is found, the discovering party shall immediately notify a representative of the CCH to contact the appropriate state agency in accordance with Hawai`i cave law. 

Survey Standards

Surveys shall be performed in accordance to Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i survey standards.  Data is entered on site into the Compass computer program.  Original survey notes shall be left with the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee.  The Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i shall register copies of these notes with the Hawai`i Speleological Survey.  Pencil and final draft maps are currently being compiled for the entire system.

Training and Education

The Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee encourages the use of the facility by educational programs that will further a better understanding of the cave environment.  The Committee will assist the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i in hosting meetings of visiting and local cavers to discuss safety, preservation, access and owner relationship issues regarding Hawaiian caves.  The general public will also be accommodated by visitation to the cave through a currently operating commercial cave venture.


Publishing information on the caves in magazines or newspapers of general circulation will not be encouraged.  Caving publications such as the Cave Research Foundation Newsletter, the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, and the NSS News may contain information on the latest discoveries and other pertinent information.  Some grotto publications may also have information, but again, these have limited circulation and usually do not give locations. No locations will be given out without the express consent of the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i.

Rescue Considerations

Most visitors to the Kanohina Caves will fall into two categories.  The first category is the relatively inexperienced caver.  This individual will be in the cave for either educational or scientific purposes.  They usually will be traveling to well known sections of the cave.  The inexperienced caver will not be used to the lava tube environment, and will have a much higher probability of having an accident due to fatigue, rock fall, tripping, or falling.  This individual usually does not have the skills needed to self-rescue from the situation, and will need external assistance for any type of evacuation.  The second category of visitor is the experienced caver.  This individual will probably be in the caves surveying, or acting as a guide to the inexperienced caver.  There is a high probability that the experienced caver will be caving in sections of the cave that are not on any map.  The experienced caver has a much lower probability of getting into any type of trouble, and usually has the skills needed for a self-rescue.  If the experienced caver needs any outside assistance, it is because the situation is completely beyond their ability to cope.  In this case, a full rescue call out is usually necessary.   

Although Kipuka Kanohina has four levels, it contains relatively few hazards.  Most of the drops between levels are less than 20 feet, and there is usually a safer alternate path that can be used.  There are some areas of the cave that contain breakdown.  These are usually near entrances or major junctions.  These areas have increased probability of rock fall and caver fall.  Another hazard of the cave is its maze-like parallel passages.  It is quite easy to become lost within the system.  The cave is quite warm, which reduces the chance of hypothermia.  If visitors are very active in the cave, there is an increased chance of hyperthermia and dehydration.  Dehydration could cause nausea or clumsiness in the visitor, and increase risk of stumbling or falling.  Getting lost, along with tripping and falling, are probably the principal hazards of the cave system. 

A rescue from most of the system would be comparatively easy, given the basically horizontal layout of the passages.  The system has several entrances, allowing ease of access to most locations.  A major concern is the availability of trained cave rescuers.  In February 2001, the Hawai`i Grotto hosted a weekend rescue class.  The class consisted of 13 individuals from the caving, local, and rescue community.  These individuals demonstrated that they were fully capable of carrying out complete rescue operations for an injured caver.  Hawai`i County Search and Rescue, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, and the Hilo Fire Department also have individuals that can assist in rescue operations.  The Hilo Fire Department has carried out a rescue in Kaumana Cave on the east side of the island.  Hawai`i County Search and Rescue has carried out a vertical rescue from a 100 foot deep cave pit on the southeast side of the island.   

Another major concern is the impact that a rescue would have to cave resources.  The ohia roots and gypsum formations would not hold up well to rescue traffic.  Rescuers may have to be redirected through alternate routes that avoid delicate areas.  A guide should be provided to rescuers as resources permit.  Delicate areas should be flagged extensively to prevent damage.  All rescuers should be provided briefings about the delicate resources prior to entering the caves.  

The remote location of Kipuka Kanohina influences the method used for patient transport to medical assistance.  For non-life threatening injuries, an automobile or land ambulance should be used to transport the patient to Kona.  For life threatening injuries, an air ambulance should be called.  For complex or extremely life threatening injuries, an air ambulance should be used to transport the patient off the island to Queen��s Hospital in Honolulu (Oahu).   

A phone at the Kula Kai Caverns field house is available to cavers for emergencies.  Rescue gear and a SKED stretcher is kept in the field office.

Impact Monitoring

The Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee will make all reasonable attempts to safeguard the cave and keep it in pristine condition.  There will be an annual inspection of properties and easements.  If monitoring indicates that the cave is being degraded, this management plan will be revised to minimize degradation. 

Sensitive and High Traffic Areas

Sensitive or high traffic areas will be watched with a photo-monitoring program.  The Committee will document the results of the monitoring program, and maintain the documentation.  Photos and written descriptions of the cave resources will be kept together.  If a critical asset is identified then more specific or more frequent observations can be worked out as needed. 

Invasive Species

The annual inspection shall attempt to identify any invasive species and make recommendations for control (in consultation with the Big Island Invasive Species Committee).  Invasive plants should be controlled by cutting or pulling and covering with weed mat, rather than using herbicides.  Insecticides should not be used in attempting to control non-native insects or other arthropods (such as cockroaches or centipedes).  The insecticides are not very effective on the lava, and might impact the native species. 

Future Plans of the Cave Preserve Management Committee

  1. Complete transfer of individually owned cave properties to the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i.
  2. Interest individuals in performing scientific research in the cave.
  3. Create a pamphlet to outline merits of protecting Hawaiian Lava tubes and caves.  The focus of the pamphlet will be the Kanohina system, because of the multiple owners.
  4. Buy the Chadwick entrance (lots 104 and 107).
  5. Clear all of the garbage out of the Maelstrom entrance.
  6. Purchase the Meyers lot.
  7. Acquire land rights to the Poha section of the cave.
  8. Purchase all of the openings to protect the entrances.

Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee

The Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee will consist of at least five and no more than nine CCH members, headed by a Director.  Vacancies will be filled by the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i Board of Directors.  Founding members of the Management Committee are:

Current Committee Members

Don Coons,  NSS# 12639, RR1 Rutland, IL 61358

Ric Elhard, NSS# 43503, PO Box 6313, Ocean View, HI 96737

Rose Herrera, NSS# 44374, PO Box 6313 Ocean View, HI 96737

Cindy Heazlit, NSS# 22980, 5672 Bluegrass Lane, San Jose, CA 95118-3513

Steve Lewis, NSS# 30022, PO Box 53, Tenakee Springs, AK  99841

Dr. Fred Stone, NSS# 6015, PO Box 1430, Kurtistown, HI 96760-1430        

Mike Warner, NSS# 27876, PO Box 10, Schoharie, NY 12157-0010

Crissy Frotton, NSS# 45859, 711 Captiva Ct., Huntsville, AL 35803


Appendix A – Glossary

a`a Chunky sharp lava – no lava tubes
HAVO Hawai`i Volcano Observatory, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
kipuka An island of land surrounded by newer lava flows
makai Toward the sea; downhill
mauka Toward the mountain; uphill
pahoehoe Fluid ropey lava – contains lava tubes
pu`u Literally, throat.  Refers to the throat like openings of volcanoes.
USGS United States Geological Survey



Appendix B – References


Elliott, W. Conservation of the North American Cave and Karst Biota, Subterranean Biota, 1998 

Howarth, F.G., Hawaiian Islands, Biospeleolgy Encyclopedia of Cave and Karst Science, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, London, 2002 

White, K. and Kingsley, K.J., Principles and Practice for Design of Cave Preserve Management and Monitoring Plans for Invertebrate Species of Concern, San Antonio, Texas, National Cave and Karst Management Symposium, 1999. 

Wolfe, E.W. and Morris, J., Geologic Map of the Island of Hawaii, USGS, 1996 

US Fish and Wildlife Service., A study of the Effects of Golf Course Organophosphate and Carbamate Pesticides on Endangered, Cave-Dwelling Arthropods Kauai, Hawai`i US Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services, Honolulu, HI, 2000


Appendix C – Liability Release 

Kipuka Kanohina Cave System

Release and Waiver of Liability Agreement 

I, the undersigned, (please print) _______________________________, in consideration of my being granted permission to visit the Kipuka Kanohina Cave System, Hawai`i County, Hawaii, such permission granted to me at my specific request, hereby agree as follows:  I knowingly, freely, and voluntarily, for myself, my heirs, personal representatives, and assignees, WAIVE any right or cause of action of any kind whatsoever arising as a result of my visiting Kipuka Kanohina Cave System or the adjacent property, from which any liability may or could accrue to the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i, Inc., its executive board and officers, committees, agents, administrators, and members, and trip leaders and trip members and assume all risks of injury to myself, including death by falls, rock fall, cuts, or other accident, and to my property, while participating in cave exploring or in any activities incidental thereto from the beginning of time up to and including the full extent of the time that I am on or within the bounds of their property. 

I acknowledge that sections of Kipuka Kanohina Cave System controlled by the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i are completely ��wild�� and no improvements have been made or are desirable.  I understand that a visit to a wild cave involved certain risks including by not limited to those listed below.  I desire to visit Kipuka Kanohina Cave System and will do so completely at my own risk.   

I acknowledge that Kipuka Kanohina Cave System contains over 15 miles of maze-like passage, there may be more passage unknown to the owners, and that a very real danger of becoming lost exists. 

I acknowledge that regions of Kipuka Kanohina Cave System are physically demanding and may require climbing on unstable lava rock. 

I acknowledge that the Kipuka Kanohina Cave System contains unstable and loose rock.  Such rock can fall on me or cause me to fall. 

I acknowledge that lava rock is very sharp, and can cause extremely deep cuts and puncture wounds, even severing arteries. 

I will not make any changes to the cave, including digging out of crawlways or otherwise modifying the passages. 

I will not disturb any biological, paleontological, archeological or mineral site.  

I will not leave anything in the cave that I took in with me and I will not bring anything extra out of the cave except the normal dust on my clothing and trash left by cavers. 

I will not smoke in the cave. 

I will not use any alcohol or other intoxication substances in the cave or for at least eight hours before visiting the cave.  This includes prescription drugs that could impair balance, coordination, or strength. 

I understand that it is a criminal act under Hawai`i law to knowingly harm or disturb any cave deposit, or speleothem. 

I acknowledge that no compensation, other than a share of expenses, has been given the trip leader or organizer of this trip, as this is not allowed. 

I understand that I am a licensee on this property and that owner��s liability toward me is limited by Hawai`i Statute. 

If you have read this far, place an asterisk on the upper right hand corner of this page. 

I, for myself and my heirs, personal representatives, or assignees, from the date of this release and waiver agreement, and forever hereafter, hold the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i, its executive board and officers, agents, members, and the trip leaders and trip members harmless and blameless for any injury to myself, including death, occasioned by my participation in, or presence at caving activities, whether resulting by or through the negligence of the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i, it��s executive board and officers, agents, members, or trip leaders or trip members, their agents, servants, officers, or employees.  Should I, my heirs, personal representatives, or assignees, institute any action against either the owner or owners of record or the trip leader or trip members arising out of injury to myself or property, then and in that event, I for myself and my heirs, legal representatives, and assignees, HEREBY AGREE to pay all costs of such actions, including attorney fees incurred by them. 

WITNESS my hand and seal this date: 


Signed _____________________________________________ 



Birth Date __________________________________________

If applicant is under 18 years of age, parents(s) or guardians(s) must also sign and AGREE to the above RELEASE and WAIVER 

Signed _______________________________________________ 

Printed Name __________________________________________  

Signed _______________________________________________ 

Printed Name __________________________________________


Never cave alone.  Carry three sources of light.  Tell someone where you have gone and when you will return.


Appendix D – Maps

Maps are restricted to the Cave Conservancy of Hawai`i Board of Directors and the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee.  Maps may be released to others by written permission of the Kipuka Kanohina Cave Preserve Management Committee



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