Tag Archives: Waipi’o Valley

Big Island bodies of water

A view of Waipi'o Valley taken from the mouth of the river
Waipi’o Valley
Kohala waterfall
Rainbow Falls, Hilo
Lake Waiau.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Bodies of Water.’ (See more responses here.) Last Sunday, I posted photos of the Kohala valleys. This week, I’m posting a bit about what goes on in them and elsewhere on the island.

The top photo is shows the mouth of the Waipi’o River looking back toward the cloud shrouded Kohala hills. The river, is fed by water passing over Hi’ilawe Falls and other waterfalls deep in the fingers of the valley. Like all water courses on the Big Island, its flow is greatly increased by the often heavy rainfall.

The second photo shows a waterfall, farther down the coast, cascading into a pool at the bottom before flowing out to the ocean. Some of these waterfalls drop more than a thousand feet. Some cascade into valleys, some directly into the ocean. During dry spells, the water flows are greatly reduced and many falls, those that are entirely rain fed, disappear for a while. When rains are heavy, the water flow is so great that some falls blend together to form a sheet of falling water.

On the east side of the island is Wailuku River, the longest river on the island. This flows down to the ocean in Hilo, and on its way, tumbles over the aptly named Rainbow Falls (third photo). The falls and rainbows are best seen in the early morning. This stretch of the river is very dangerous with flash floods being common. People get swept away here every year.

Finally, the bottom photo shows the biggest lake on the island, which can be found at the top of Mauna Kea! Lake Waiau is fed by rainwater and snow melt, mostly in the winter. That it exists at all is something of a mystery. The ground on Mauna Kea is highly permeable, and it’s not fully understood what the layer is beneath Lake Waiau that enables it to retain water. Lake Waiau is not just the biggest lake on the island, it’s the only one. Green Lake, the biggest lake previously, disappeared during Kilauea’s 2018 eruption (photos and story here).

Kohala valleys

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Mountains and Valleys.’ See more offerings here.

Kohala Volcano is the oldest volcano on the Big Island and has long been extinct, having last erupted around 120,000 years ago. Since then, the various processes of erosion, from rainfall to landslides, have carved deep valleys into the volcano. Waipio, the easternmost of these valleys, is accessible by vehicle (4-wheel drive only), horseback, or on foot. It has permanent inhabitants so access within the valley is restricted.

The other valleys are most easily seen from the air, along the Kohala coast. The top photo shows Waimanu Valley. This can be accessed by foot from Waipio, after a long and arduous hike, and permits are available for camping there. Waimanu River can be seen on the far side of the valley and is one last obstacle to be crossed to reach the camp site, which is in the strip of land between the river and the ocean. The steep sides are typical of these valleys and another consideration to keep in mind when thinking about hiking here.

The middle photo shows a fairly typical view directly into one of the valleys from the ocean. Again, notice the steep valley sides and the abundance of foliage, evidence that this is the wet side of the island.

The bottom photo shows valleys cutting through the mountain farther inland. There’s little or no water running in this view. A few valleys have spring-fed streams, but most depend on rain for water flow. However, when it does rain, it can rain long and hard. Flash floods are common. It’s not a shock when campers in Waimanu Valley are cut off and unable to make the return hike.

I’ll do another post about the water courses for next week’s Sunday Stills challenge.

For more information about Hawaii’s volcanoes, go to https://www.lovebigisland.com/hawaii-blog/hawaii-volcano-history/.

Waipi’o Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Hi'ilawe FallsThis week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Bucket List Images.’ (See more responses here.) Since I don’t have a bucket list that posed something of a problem for me, so I plumped for this image of Waipi’o Valley, since I might never see this view again.

Waipi’o is a valley on the northeastern slopes of Kohala Mountain. The valley is about one mile wide at the mouth and about six miles deep with walls that are around 2,000 feet high. It’s accessed by a steep, one-lane road that’s for four-wheel-drive vehicles only. On the left of the top photo, and in the second photo, is Hi’ilawe Falls which tumbles almost 1,500 feet into the valley.

Waipi’o means ‘curved water’ in Hawaiian and the valley is known as the “Valley of Kings.” It was the home of Hawaiian royalty until the 15th century and was a stronghold of King Kamehameha, who united the Hawaiian islands under one leader. In its heyday, the valley was home to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 people.

Those numbers dropped over time, but the valley remained well-populated until 1946 when a magnitude 8.6 earthquake in the Aleutian Islands triggered a massive Pacific-wide tsunami with waves ranging from 45–130 ft. high. Waipi’o Valley was hit by this tsunami, and though no-one was killed, most of the structures in the valley were destroyed. Today, the population is around 50 residents, though many more visit on a daily basis.