Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Mark Twain, who visited Hawaii in 1866, is attributed with dubbing this natural wonder the “Grant Canyon of the Pacific”. The canyon is 10 miles (16 km) long, 1 mile (1600m) wide and over 3000 feed (900m) deep. It is located in the vicinity of Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest points on Earth. Rainwater feeds the streams and creeks that carved this spectacular valley out of basalt.

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Road 550 from Waimea to Kokee State Park and Waimea canyon (right). VIew up Waimea Canyon from road 500 (left).

Waimea stands for “Reddish Water” in Hawaiian. The meaning becomes immediately clear after a few miles on road 550, which leads from the town of Waimea to the canyon. Before you reach the main attraction, you will come across a barren, otherworldly landscape made of intensely red soil. A small creek runs through when there is enough rain falling up in the mountains. The water of this creek is indeed red-brownish from the iron that is leached from the withered volcanic rocks that form the canyon and in fact the entire island. You can imagine hundred of these tributaries coming together down in the valley to color Waimea river red after strong rainfalls. It is hard to picture a better name for this river and the valley it formed.

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Red Kauai soil at the beginning of Waimea canyon.

Creek running across red Kauai soil.

Interestingly, Waimea canyon is not only shaped by water cutting into the rocks. It is somewhat unsettling to know that the initial crack was caused by parts of the entire island sliding off the slopes of this ancient volcano. Just like all the other Hawaiian islands, Kauai is a big mountain raising thousands of feed from the floor of the Pacific ocean. It was formed from 5 million years ago when the earth’s crust in the spot that is now Kauai was sitting right on top of a hot spot. Today, the hot spot is south-east of Big Island and new Hawaiian islands are being formed.

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Waimea canyon from different viewpoints.

The canyon is part of the Kokee State Park, which offers 45 miles of trails to explore the canyon and nearby Alakai swamp. More information and maps can be obtained at the ranger station at the Kokee lodge at the Waimea Canyon Road.

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Inside the canyon.

Waimea Title
nihi kai