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Powerline Road (Big Island, Hawai'i)
Powerline Road (access only by foot) is Hawai'i Island's best native bird watching location and wilderness exploration area. Powerline Road runs parallel to the better-known "Pu'u O'o Trail". The two intersect 3.5 miles south of Saddle Road and can be combined as a 9 mile loop trail. Powerline Road runs 5 miles North-South between Saddle Road and Stainback Highway. The access trail for Powerline Road is an unmarked gravel road between the 21 and 22 mile markers on the South side of Saddle Road. This road is OK for 2WD cars, but you may have to weave a bit to avoid large rocks. There are often hunters on Powerline Road, and brightly colored clothing is recommended.
Powerline Road doesn't look like much from the Saddle Road, or even for the first 500 meters, but beyond that you will be rewarded! This area has the most native hawaiian forest birds of any place with easy public access, along with fascinating landscapes and spectacular views of the mountains and Saddle wilderness on clear days. It is at about 5800 feet elevation, with little elevation change. Travelling South along Powerline Road the kipuka forests and lava fields will get progressively more impressive and interesting. The best areas are 3-4 miles out on the edges of the 1881 and 1984 lava flows. Powerline Road is a much more direct and safe route to access these far kipukas than Pu'u O'o Trail. At 3.5 miles out Powerline Road and Pu'u O'o Trail briefly merge, and then diverge again.
Most of the length of Powerline Road crosses the wide open pahoehoe lava flows of 1855 and 1881. These flows surround kipuka forests (like islands of forest in a river of lava) filled with native trees such as ohia, koa, olapa, kawa'u, kolea and hapu'u tree-ferns. The road occasionally passes through a series of these kipukas, each of which is a bit different - from open grass, bog and 'ohi'a savanna to towering koa and 'ohi'a canopy shading native understory shrubs. The lava flows themselves are also heavily vegetated with pioneering growth of native ferns, grasses, berry bushes, and shrubby 'ohi'a trees. The small 'ohi'a trees on the lava flows are seasonally covered in brilliant red blossoms and visited by 'amakihi and 'apapane. Pahoehoe lava is relatively smooth, like broken pavement, so it's easy to cross the vast lava flows and explore kipukas off of the road.
At 4 miles out Powerline Road is covered by the 1984 lava flow. There is a rough trail across the 1984/1942/1852 lava fields for about a mile until it intersects Stainback Highway. At Stainback Highway junction Powerline Road enters the privately owned Keauhou Ranch. The big 1984/1942/1852 lava field is an impressive and remote landscape, but it is not of interest for birds. Do not try to cross the 1984 lava field if there is any chance the weather will get bad!
See also: Pu'u O'o Trail, Hawai'i(Eastern Saddle,)
 Notable Species
Many native birds inhabit both the kipuka forests and the lava flows. Native birds still dominate this area. 'Amakihi, 'Apapane, I'iwi and 'Oma'o are common. Kolea, 'Io and 'Hawaii Elepaio are often seen. 'Akepa, Hawaii Creeper and 'Akiapola'au are much less common, and limited to the far kipukas 3-4 miles south of Saddle Road. They will probably only be found by people who are very familiar with their voices and calls.
The most common non-natives are Japanese White-eye, Red-billed Leiothrix and Kalij Pheasant. House finch and yellow-fronted canary are seasonal in grassy areas. Erckel's Francolin and Wild Turkey are sometimes present.
Rarely nene fly overhead, in transit between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. They are unlikely to be found along Powerline Road. I have not seen pueo here yet though they should be occasionally present.
Birds you can see here include:
 Other Wildlife
 Site Information
Take extra care to monitor the weather and DO NOT underestimate how easily you can get lost once you leave the road! The weather can change very quickly - lightning is very dangerous and terrifying when crossing miles of open lava field, and hypothermia is a serious danger if you become lost overnight in fog and rain. Fortunately Powerline Road is very straight, which makes it safer than the fainter and more rugged Pu'u O'o Trail.
 History and Use
Note: mammal hunting is allowed and there are often target shooters firing just off the road.
 Areas of Interest
Each kipuka and lava flow on Powerline Road has its own character, and the kipukas at both ends have large meadows and bogs to explore. Lava tubes are scattered around the lava fields. You should wear heavy tough hiking boots for Powerline Road, because the "road" is simply a raw bulldozer scrape across the lava. I highly recommend starting AT dawn if at all possible, because the clouds can set in quickly between 10AM and 1PM. The air is wonderfully cool and dry, and the overcast afternoons give welcome relief from the intense Sun.
 Access and Facilities
Parking on gravel access trail at the 21.5 mile area on Saddle Road. NO FACILITIES.
 Contact Details
 External Links
Content and images originally posted by bkrownd