Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

By Léo Azambuja

One of Kauaʻi’s most cherished and visited landmarks, the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse, will soon reduce its operational days from seven to five days a week starting early February.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services officials announced Monday the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, home to the lighthouse, will be closed each Sunday and Monday throughout the year starting Feb. 2. The refuge will open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except most major holidays.

“Due to flat and declining budgets, the refuge cannot maintain the staff necessary to support a seven-days-a-week visitor program and conduct conservation work necessary for the wildlife that depends on the refuge. After a trial period of one year, the visitation days will be reassessed to see if it is possible to reopen on a six- or seven-day-a-week schedule,” states a press release sent by Refuge Manager Shannon Stutzer-Smith.

The 31-acre Kilauea Point was purchased by the U.S. government in 1909 for $1, for the construction of a lighthouse. The Kilauea Point Lighthouse, the northernmost point of Kauaʻi and of all inhabited Hawaiian islands, was dedicated on May 1, 1913. Exactly 100 years later, the lighthouse was renamed the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse, in honor of the late Hawaiian senator. Inouye had been instrumental in establishing the refuge in 1985 and in the lighthouse’s $2 million restoration five years ago.

The refuge was established to preserve and enhance seabird nesting colonies and is home to some of the largest populations of nesting seabirds in the main Hawaiian Islands, according to the USFWS. Visitors also have a chance to view spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, native Hawaiian coastal plants and Hawaiʻi’s state bird – the endangered nene, or Hawaiian goose.

“There are many facets to operating a visitor services program at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge,” Stutzer-Smith said. “Our staff is dedicated to managing the wildlife, cultural, historical and other natural resources while providing a safe, high-quality opportunity for visitors. We can better serve both wildlife and visitors by moving to a reduced schedule.”

The lighthouse’s lens was originally lit by an incandescent oil vapor lamp, and had an intensity of 250,000 candle power. In 1930, when electricity became available at Kilauea Point, the lamp was replaced by a bulb. The wattage was increased twice, with the light reaching its final rating of 2.5 million candle power in 1958.

After World War II, RADAR and other technological advances made the use of lighthouses as navigational aids obsolete. In 1976, while still operable but no longer used by large ships and planes, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse and installed an automated beacon for local boaters and aircraft. In 1979, the lighthouse and three lighthouse keepers’ homes were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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