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The African Great Rift Valley - Hell’s Gate National Park

Date of Submission: 12/02/2010
Criteria: (viii)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Kenya Wildlife Service
State, Province or Region:
Rift Valley Province
Coordinates: S00 54 57 E36 18 48
Ref.: 5511

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Hell's Gate National Park is a park located between Lake Naivasha and the Longonot and Suswa volcanoes. It is covered by ashes from the Longonot eruption which occurred 100 years ago, the park is famous for its geothermal station, Lower Gorge and spectacular sceneries (cliffs, volcanoes gorges, geothermal steam).


Giraffe, eland, hartebeest, buffalo and other small gazelles and antelopes are common in the grassy plains. Lion (Panthera leo), leopard (Panthera pardus) and cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) also occur but rare. There are small troops of klipspringer and rock hyrax, both living in rocky area. The rare Chanler's mountain reedbuck is also present here. The park counts 103 species of birds and the cliffs are home and nesting places for birds, which are abundant at Lake Naivasha. The large white droppings on the rocks indicate nests of vulture, eagles and augur buzzard. Rare species are the Verreaux's eagle and the Lammergeyer, Ruppel's griffon and hooded vultures have been recorded.

Geological Features

FISCHER TOWER: This 25 meters (75 ft) high rocky tower formed by semi-molten rock forced to a fissure, cooling and solidifying as it extruded is located near the main entrance of the park. Both the Fischer's tower and the Central tower were formed the same way at the same time. According to the Maasai community folklore, the tower is a Maasai girl who was turned into stone after disobeying the family before her wedding.

OBSIDIAN CAVES: These Obsidian caves and their distinctive black glass like obsidian rock are located on the Buffalo Circuit. Obsidian rock is a result of rapid cooling of molten volcanic lava coming into contact with water while being poured into a lake or ocean. This results to the glassy texture of the rock. Iron and magnesium give the obsidian a dark green to black color. Obsidian can contain small air bubbles that are aligned along layers. These bubbles can produce interesting effects such as a golden sheen, known as Sheen Obsidian or a rainbow sheen called Rainbow Obsidian. Small nuggets of obsidian that have been naturally rounded and smoothed by wind and water are called Apache Tears.

LOWER GORGE/OL NJOROWA GORGE: the Lower Gorge is the main attraction of the park. Walking in the gorge is an amazing experience; a 2 hour expedition of geological experience of beauty and function, water eroded walls so narrow that they almost block out the sky, several hot and cold waterfalls, hot water springs, and colorful strata and rock formations. The place is also popular for film productions such as the Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, King Solomon's Mines and Mountains of the Moon which used the gorge as a backdrop for their movies.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(viii): Hell's gate represents an area of great geological phenomenon (i.e. hot water geysers and hot springs) these land formations and on-going geological processes at Hell's gate make the area exceptionally beautiful and unique compared to any other area. Presence of vegetation around the hot water is remarkable as these plants are able to survive in very high temperatures.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Hell's Gate National Park is a protected National Park.

Conservation issues:

Increased harvesting of geothermal power is threat to the continual existence of geysers.

Comparison with other similar properties

The on-going geological processes at Hell's gate are similar to the processes at Lake Bogoria national reserve in Kenya, these has made the sites exceptionally beautiful and unique.

The natural geographic formations found at the Hell's gate national park i.e. Fisher tower, Obsidian caves and the Ol njorowa gorge can all be compared to the Ethiopian plateau at Simien national park in Ethiopia, where natural geological processes led to the creation of spectacular landscapes with jagged mountain peaks and deep valleys. Both parks are home to rare species; hells gate is home to the rare chanler's mountain reedbuck, verreaux's eagle, ruppels griffon and hooded vultures and the Lammergeyer, while Simian National Park is home to Gelada baboon, the Simien Fox and the Walia Ibex.