Monday, May 7, 2012

Wailau Valley, Moloka‘i (“many waters”)

When we were kids, we occasionally went to Moloka‘i (for different reasons at different times:) to stay with the Nottages, to hunt or just to cruise around.

On one of these visits we took the family’s 48-foot haole sampan (Na Ali‘i Kai) along the North Shore of the island.

 I am always eager to see the Moloka‘i North Shore sea cliffs.  From the sea or air, North Shore Moloka‘i is impressive and memorable.

On this trip, we went close to shore and some folks swam into Wailau Valley (the largest along the coast) to cruise around there while the others continued fishing and sightseeing along the coast.
Wailau and Moloka‘i’s North Shore have some interesting history.

The sea cliffs that surround Wailau on the island’s north shore were formed by the ‘Wailau Slide,’ in which a portion of the volcano collapsed into the ocean, leaving a swath of debris strewn across the ocean floor.

The sea cliffs represent the scar left by the collapse and Wailau and the other windward valleys were cut into the scar after the slide.

The Kalaupapa Peninsula, in north central Moloka‘i, was formed later by volcanic rejuvenation.

Moloka‘i’s North Shore Cliffs were designated a National Natural Landmark in December 1972.  The Landmark includes 27,100 acres located along 17 miles of the northeast coast between Hālawa and Kalaupapa.

Four major valleys span the coastline, from Hālawa (at the east end of the island of Moloka‘i) westward toward Kalaupapa: from east to west they are Pāpalaua, Wailau, Pelekunu and Waikolu.

This area is accessible by boat and trails into the valleys; there are no roads through North Shore Moloka‘i.

Wailau is made up of a smaller broad valley on the east and a deeper valley on the west, with two major streams flowing down through them – Kahawai‘iki Stream and Wailau Stream. 

The Wailau (“many waters”) stream, which runs the entire length of the valley, is said to have received its name "because it began in many brooks that flowed from the palis on every side."

Wailau was a major area of taro production from the pre-contact era until the 1930s, when the valley was abandoned due to a combination of factors, including flooding and unfavorable economic conditions.

A series of intact lo‘i, or taro terraces, forms an agricultural system distributed across almost the entire valley.

There are extensive terraces in the seaward lowlands and back in the lower valleys of streams.  Approximately 80 acres were planted in taro.  The banks of the numerous taro patches in the lowlands can still be seen from the air.

They say Wailau also has high terracing of valley sides comparable to that on the Napali coast of Kaua‘i.

The cliffs just beyond Pāpalaua Valley are home to Kahiwa Falls, the longest waterfall in the state (over 1,700-feet.)

(Some of the historical background information and images come from reports by Windy K McElroy.  Some of these and other images of North Shore Moloka‘i are in a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.)

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