Hawaii photograph

The Waters of Waiahole Valley

Posted: June 21, 2008

I hiked along several tributaries of Waiahole Stream — Uwau, Waianu, and Waiahole — to photograph the charming waterfalls and streams in the very back of lush green Waiahole Valley. 

In 1916 when the sugar plantations controlled Hawaii, groundwater was diverted from Waiahole Valley to leeward Oahu to irrigate the sugarcane fields in Ewa and Kunia, with little regard for the reduced water flow in Waiahole Stream.  Only since 1997 (just 11 years ago), after legal battles were waged when the sugar plantations closed, was the water flow restored to Waiahole Stream. 


This vigorous cascading waterfall along Kuolani-Waianu Trail is fed by a tunnel bored into the mountain-side that taps the groundwater.  This tunnel once diverted the groundwater to leeward Oahu but has now been co-opted to supply Waiahole Stream with a considerable portion of its water. 


This is the same cascading waterfall from a different angle.  Swordtail ferns thrive in the foreground with orange African tulip flowers and yellow kukui leaves adding a splash of color. 


Hoio ferns thrive along the banks of Waiahole Stream near a series of old terraces where kalo (taro) was once cultivated.  Waiahole Valley was renown as center for kalo cultivation in old Hawaii and remains so until this very day. 


Also known as “warabi” to the Japanese and “paco” to the Filipinos, the young growing shoots of hoio ferns have a nutty flavor that make a delicious addition to any salad. 


The crystal clear waters of Waianu Stream, a tributary of Waiahole Stream, are decorated by pink impatiens, yellow kukui leaves, and green swordtail and hoio ferns. 


Bracket fungi thrive in the wet jungles of Waiahole Valley and play an important role breaking down fallen trees to recycle their nutrients. 


This stream crossing along Kuolani-Waianu Trail provides an opportunity to splash in the cool refreshing waters of Waiahole Stream as it makes its way to the sea.  Waiahole Valley was named for the teeming schools of aholehole (Hawaiian Flagfish) that once thrived at the mouth of the stream where it enters Kaneohe Bay.  May Waiahole stream continue to flow unimpeded for countless generations of aholehole to come.  


“A History of Water” By Terje Tvedt, Eva Jakobsson, Richard Coopey, Terje Oestigaard
I.B. Taurus Publishers, 2006, pg 38-45

Ruling by the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii
In the Matter of the Water Use Permit Applications, Petitions for Interim Instream Flow Standard Amendments, and Petitions for Water Reservations for the Waihole Ditch Combined Contested Case

Sites of Oahu, by Elizabeth Sterling and Catherine Summers – Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1978, p. 188-189

One Response to “The Waters of Waiahole Valley”

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