Kauai

The Garden Island

 We spend several days on Kauai, the northwesternmost of the larger, accessible Hawaiian Islands. During this time we examine the many prominent weathering and erosional features of this older volcanic island. Kauai is one of the rainiest places on Earth and many areas truly live up to the phrase "tropical rainforest." Rich soil and wet conditions make this island conducive to agriculture. Many of the low wet fields near Hanalei (below) are planted with the traditional Polynesian starch taro.

 

North Kauai reveals many dramatic aspects of weathering, surface hydrology, and erosion. A hike along the NaPali Coast (below) reveals the breathtaking result of  landslides and sea-cave formation. The internal portions of this ancient volcano are exposed along cliffs for a detailed examination of Hawaiian lava rock types. Snorkeling the small, more pristine fringing reefs along this coast provide a comparison to the impact of tourism on the fringing reefs of Oahu.

 

Sometimes called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Waimea Canyon also shows effects of stream downcutting in severely weathered volcanic rock.  Hiking the deep red-brown ridges of the canyon to Waipoo Falls provides glimpses into the deep internal structures of shield volcanoes, as well as a good view of endemic and invasive species of plants and animals.

We volunteer time to preserve endangered species from the spread of invasive introduced species in Koke'e State Park. Park specialists guide us in eradicating such fast-spreading plants as the ornamental flower Kahili Ginger (below). Considering the size of these ginger toes (roots), it's too bad that they are inedible!

 

A hike into the Alakai Swamp (below) reveals the effects of geographic isolation on Hawaiian wildlife. Unlike the nearby ridges of Koke'e State Park, Alakai's cloud forests and swamps are nearly pristine Hawaiian habitats.  When weather conditions permit, the upper trails offer a spectacular vantage point of an entire watershed.