Up the Wailua River

Over the weekend, we went exploring with our Kayak on the Wailua river. We launced from the beach, right between the bridges. First, we paddled upstream on the really wide part of the river. At the branch, we took the left side, which is the South Fork. A little ways futher we landed at the Fern Grotto, about 2.2 miles (3.5 km) upstream from the beach. Although the entire river is a State Park, the only way to see the Fern Grotto is with a paid tour on Smith’s Boats or by private kayak. Rental kayaks are not supposed to land there so that Smith’s has the monopoly, and they don’t make it easy for private kayaks to land either.

A view of the outside of the Fern Grotto, a shallow cave in a cliff face covered in green ferns and dripping water

I don’t think I’d ever pay money to ride a boat with a bunch of tourists to see the Fern Grotto, but it makes an interesting side trip to kayaking. And since it was late Sunday afternoon, we had the place to ourselves. There used to be more ferns and a tropical garden along the paved path to the Grotto, but I hear they were all damanged in hurricane Iniki and poorly maintained since. Right now, they are doing some major work on the structures, and it looks even worse in the meantime. However, the ferns are growing back and the grotto itself looks nice with water dripping down in front, as long as you can ignore the metal railaing and cement path.

We then paddled another half-mile (1km) up the South Fork, nearly halfway to Wailua Falls from the Grotto. We went through another narrow spot in the river, and then the scenery opened up with some pastures and house at the bottom of a wide river valley. The river got shallower and faster, so we had to work to paddle upstream. At the point where we had to turn around, some cows were watching us curiously.

Three cows drinking in the river near their pastures

These pastures are inholdings in the state park, incidentally where the powerhouse is being proposed for the Wailua Falls Hydroelectic Project that I argued against previously. You can see the distance we paddled on the map at that link.

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