One of my favorite walks has always been to the Stone Dam on the Wai Koa Loop Trail in Kilauea. Since the 2018 Kauai flood, it has been closed due to rain and flood damage with an uncertain date of opening. The property recently exchanged hands as well, so the ability to visit the stone dam became questionable. Fortunately for residents and visitors alike, The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust has stepped in for the preservation of the trail and graciously given access to the historic Stone Dam, which means the nonprofit will now be protecting the land that hosts the Stone Dam and the Wai Koa Loop Trail, holding it in perpetuity.
The Wai Koa Trail is a 4.5 mile loop with flat terrain and three access points. At this time, however, there is just one way to start and finish the walk. Instead of looping, the low-to-moderate hike currently goes from the North Shore Dog Park to the Stone Dam and back, for a total of about 3 miles. The trail takes one through pastures, and a Kilauea forest with the largest mahogany plantation in the United States. There are beautiful views of the Namahana Mountains in the background. It is quiet and very peaceful, a much needed respite from today’s uncertain times.
The reward for completing the first mile and a half is the Stone Dam, built in the 1800s by the Kilauea Sugar Plantation. In order to bring much needed water to the thirsty sugarcane fields, the Kilauea Sugar Plantation built a series of reservoirs, aqueducts, ditches, and dams to service the sugarcane field, the town drinking water, and the field workers. Each rock was cut by hand and carefully placed. The dam needed to raise the water level by 20 feet in order for the water flow to reach the fields during the dry season. Specially angled buttresses were designed to support the natural migration of o’opu (Hawaiian freshwater goby) up the stream. [Info from Common Ground website}. Today we appreciate the effort of these workers. It is a perfect place for a picnic lunch!
The fencing you see is temporary in an effort to help the grass rejuvenate. Sadly, one of the largest trees next to the river was damaged and cut down after the floods. There is a path alongside the grass which takes one up to the top level of the water.
What to bring when walking to the Stone Dam:
Shoes: Although the trail is mostly flat, wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or muddy.
Bug Spray: Wherever there is standing or running water, there are mosquitoes, especially at dusk.
Water or Snacks: There is no source of potable water along the trail or at the dam. You are on your own.
Sunscreen: A must, no matter where you are on Kauai. Being so close to the equator the sun is intense, even on cloudy days.
Raingear: Be ready for a passing shower!
Kids: As long as they are willing to walk the 3 miles, this is a perfect family outing.
You never know what you might run into on your way back. In our case, it was free range horses finding shade within the forest. Enjoy this hidden gem on the north shore of Kauai.
North Shore Dog Park – 5445 Kahiliholo Rd, Kilauea. From Princeville, head toward Lihue. Just after crossing the long concrete bridge on the way to Kilauea, turn right on Kahiliholo Rd. Drive about 1/2 mile until you see the sign on the left. Park in front of the dog park. Your walk starts here.
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