On the morning of November 26, 1778, Captain James Cook awoke to the sight of the northern coast of Maui. “Next morning there lay the land, the island of Maui, with its ‘elevated saddle hill’ – the extinct 10,000 foot volcano Haleakala …”
“… rising to its summit above the clouds, and descending gently towards the deep ravines and falling waters of that steep rocky coast, where the trade wind hurled other waters into perpetual surf.” This was the first documented sighting of the island. (Fredericksen)
Haleakalā was thought to have been known to the ancient Hawaiians by any one of five names: “Haleakalā,” “Haleokalā,” “Heleakalā,” “Aheleakalā” and “Halekalā.” (Hawaiʻi National Park Superintendent Monthly Report, December 1939)
Historian Abraham Fornander wrote that “Haleakalā” was a misnomer and that the ancient name for the crater was “Aheleakalā,” which meant “rays of the sun,” and…th[o]se which the demigod Māui snared and broke off to retard the sun in its daily course so that his mother might be able to dry her kapas. Fornander further noted that Lemuel KN Papa, Jr., insisted that the correct name was Alehelā “on account of Māui’s snaring the rays of the sun.” (Fredericksen)
“Of course Haleakalā is the sacred home of our Sun, and the ancient Path to Calling the Sum as depicted in its ancient name: Ala Hea Ka La. Why is this critical to our survival?”
“The Sun’s energy is the source of all life, and governs our most basic rhythm of day and night. Ancient cultures have venerated its being, and we as a human race follow its course without thought and are insignificant in respect of its power.”
“However, our Native Hawaiian Culture praises its existence, until this very day the sun is praised for its cycle.” (Maxwell, Fredericksen)
Haleakalā is best known in stories related of the demi-god Māui; he is best known for his tricks and supernatural powers. In Hawaiʻi, he is best known for snaring the sun, lifting the sky, discovering the secrets of fire, fishing up the islands and so forth. (Fredericksen)
In addition to Māui, Haleakalā stories recall Pele who fled the Big Island and while in exile, Pele stopped for a brief time on Maui, where she dug a pit with her pāoa (divining rod) and started a fire. Haleakala is such a huge pit that she found it difficult to keep the fire going to keep warm.
Sometime later the two sisters (Pele and Namakaeha) engaged in a fierce battle, and Pele was weakened – her body torn to pieces and scattered along the coast into huge mounds of broken lava at the base of Haleakalā, on the east side, near Hāna. This place is now known as “Na Iwi o Pele”—the bones of Pele. (Fornander)
Another deity connected with Haleakala is Poliʻahu—the snow goddess and another rival of Pele. Her younger sister is Lilinoe – goddess of the mists. She is sometimes referred to as the goddess of Haleakalā. She was able to check the eruptions that could break forth in old cinder cones on the floor of the crater. Her presence is noted in heavy mists that shroud the mountain. (Fredericksen)
The slopes of Haleakalā had originally been covered with forests but had been logged out for sandalwood for the China Trade (1788–1838), then for koa, ʻōhia and other indigenous trees for uses ranging from railroad ties to firewood.
The lands were then utilized to grow sugar cane and vegetable crops, or were left as pastureland and served as the locations of a number of small plantation or ranch settlements. (NPS)
“Platforms related to traditional Hawaiian ceremony [were] predominantly found along the crater floor and at high promontory locations. Caves [were] often found on the crater rim.”
“Temporary shelters built against rock outcrops or boulders [were] found scattered along the crater rim and within the crater, but [were] concentrated on the leeward sides of cinder cones such as Pakaoa‘o. Cairns or ahu [were] scattered over Haleakalā.” (Hammatt, NPS)
The first visit to Haleakalā by non-Hawaiians occurred in August 1828 when missionaries Lorrin Andrews and Jonathan Green, along with Dr. Gerrit P. Judd, physician, visited the crater.
They were followed by a US Navy expedition led by Commander Charles Wilkes in 1841, and later, others. Significant public interest was generated by written accounts of these visits that determined that Haleakalā would eventually become a destination for tourism. (NPS)
Homesteading on the slopes of Haleakalā as well as other public lands in Hawai`i had been encouraged by the Territorial Government in 1910. This prompted a “rush for homesteads,” applications which were filed and adjudicated by a land court in Honolulu, including one petition by an unidentified applicant who attempted to acquire the entire “floor of Haleakalā Crater” (Maui News, 8 August 1910) (NPS)
The largest tracts were held by ranches, among them: Grove Ranch (Kaonoulu Ranch), owned by the Baldwins and later sold to Senator Harold W. Rice; Kaupo Ranch, owned by Dwight Baldwin; Ulupalakua Ranch, owned by J.I. Dowsett and then J.H. Raymond, then was purchased by the Baldwins; and Haleakalā Ranch, owned by Harry A. and Frank F. Baldwin and managed by S.A. Baldwin. (NPS)
Until 1935, the primary means of getting to Haleakalā was on horseback, and this continued to be the case for the first three decades of the twentieth century. As late as 1932, the Inter-Island Steamship Company and the Maui Chamber arranged trips on horseback to Haleakalā Crater. (NPS)
Thomas Vint described the trip by horseback that he made in 1930: “The trip is now made from the town of Wailuk[u] which contains the principle hotel on the island of Maui that caters to tourist travel …The combined auto and horse back trip to the 10,000-foot summit may be made from noon to noon from Wailuku, spending the night at the top.”
“Trips into the crater are made from the rim rest house as a base.” Vint concluded that “another rest house at the far end of the crater is needed. To see the crater properly, one should camp overnight, making a two-day trip from the present rest house.” (NPS)
Haleakalā Road (now known as Haleakalā Highway) was finally completed on November 29, 1935, and the number of visitors increased substantially, reaching 16,300 within a year. In 1938, the numbers decreased slightly to 14,156 because of a maritime and shipping strike, but continued to rise in the following years until reaching 29,935 in 1940. (NPS)
The increase in visitors was “greatly in excess of expectations…compared with the few hundreds who visited the crater before construction of the Haleakalā [R]oad (Hawaii National Park Superintendent Annual Report 1935, NPS)
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began in 1937, succeeding the Emergency Conservation Work agency, which started in 1933. In 1939, the CCC became part of the Federal Security Agency. It was eliminated in 1943. (UH Mānoa)
From April 1934 until May 13, 1941, the CCC operated a “side camp” in the Haleakalā Section of the Hawaiʻi National Park; CCC participants were housed in tents and moved to where the work areas were. (NPS)
Major park improvements through the CCC program on Haleakalā included the construction of the approximately 11-mile Haleakalā Road, Haleakalā Observation Station, two Comfort Stations (public toilets) and the Checking Station and Office at the park entrance. Several trail projects were completed within the Park. (NPS)
On August 1, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the country’s 13th national park into existence – Hawaiʻi National Park. At first, the park consisted of only the summits of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa on Hawaiʻi and Haleakalā on Maui.
Eventually, Kilauea Caldera was added to the park, followed by the forests of Mauna Loa, the Kaʻū Desert, the rain forest of Olaʻa, and the Kalapana archaeological area of the Puna/Kaʻū Historic District.
On, July 1, 1961, Hawaiʻi National Park’s units were separated and re-designated as Haleakalā National Park and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.