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On Walkabout At: The Menehune Ditch on Kauai

Basic Information

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Narrative

For those with an interest in learning a little more about Hawaiian history while in the Waimea Canyon area on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, an interesting place to check out is the Menehune Ditch.  This ditch is located just a short drive from the village of Waimea up the appropriately named Menehune Road:

The Menehune Road is a narrow road that follows the Waimea River up into a nice valley with a few homes in it:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

This ditch is believed to have been carved by ancient Hawaiians that are believed to have first arrived on Kauai in about 200AD from the Marquesas Islands long before the ancestors of today’s native Hawaiians arrived from Tahiti in approximately 1000 AD.  These ancient Hawaiians are believed to have been very small and easily subjugated by the much bigger Tahitians when they arrived in Hawaii.  These ancient Hawaiians are known today as the Menehune and are believed to be the equivalent of leprechauns in today’s Hawaiian mythology.  However, the Menehune Ditch which is known as Kikiaola in Hawaiian is one of the few places in Hawaii where physical evidence of the Menehune’s presence in Hawaii can be seen:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

The Menehune Ditch is easily spotted on the opposite side of the road from the Waimea Swing Bridge:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

This ditch was used by the ancient Hawaiians to move water from the higher ground down to their taro fields along the coast.  The Menehune Ditch  is still moving water today though it has been maintained over the years to do so.  The ditch even features a tunnel carved out of the cliff face to allow the water to pass through:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Also in the cliff face is this large plaque commemorating the ditch’s Menehune builders:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Menehune Ditch

The row of hewn stones along the inner of the road is a remnant of one wall of an ancient water-course which is said to have been made by the Menehunes (Hawaiian dwarfs or brownies).  The stones were brought from Mokihana.  There is an old saying “Uwa Ka Menehune Ma Kanaoahhuluhulu (Kauai) Puoho Ka Manu O Kawainui (Oahu).  The shout of the Menehunes at Kanaloahuluhulu (Kauai) startles the birds of Kawainui (Oahu).”

Tablet erected 1928 by Superintendent of Public Works

After checking out the ditch I then walked across the street to check out the Waimea Swing Bridge:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Yes the bridge does swing, but it is well built and not dangerous.  Here is the view from the bridge looking up the Waimea River where it is responsible for cutting into the spectacular Waimea Canyon further upstream:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Considering how dry the river currently was it was hard to believe that it helped carve out such a spectacular canyon.   However, when it rains this river can swell very quickly.  Looking down the river from the bridge there was much more water pooled into the riverbed:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Finally here is one last look at the Menehune Ditch from the bridge:

Picture from the Menehune Ditch

Conclusion

The Menehune Ditch is an interesting little side stop that only takes about 15 minutes to get to and check out.  For people with no interest in Hawaiian history the ditch is probably not worth taking the few minutes to stop by and see.  For me on the other hand I did find the location of interest because it was interesting to see an engineering work from these ancient Hawaiians surviving all the way to modern times.  For me that is worth taking 15 minutes to appreciate.

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