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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

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Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

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Saturday
Jan082011

The Geologic History of Kauai

Kauai is 5.5-6 million years old. During that time, wind and water have carved away the original volcano to reveal layers of old eruptions – it’s like looking back in time. The brilliant red earth tones of the cliffs, softened by the greens and golds of plants, change as the sun moves over the gorge.

The name Waimea refers to the reddish water (wai = fresh water, mea = red) that floods from the canyon after heavy rains. Think about the forces of nature working over eons of time, building then carving away layer upon layer of lava to expose the interior of Kauai’s original volcano.

Kauai is the high-island stage of an eroding volcano. After this stage, the Hawaiian islands erode down to the Northwest Islands, which are uninhabited low islands and shoals extending 1500 miles beyond Kauai. These are now part of a newly designated wildlife preserve.

Erosion of the canyon walls has been accelerated by goats, now wild in Waimea Canyon. Goats were introduced to Kauai in 1792 by English sea captain George Vancouver. Hawaiian island ecosystems evolved without any four-footed mammals which have been extremely destructive since their introduction.

One of the best resources for understanding the geology of Kauai is Kauai's Geologic History by Dr. Chuck Blay.