Past the Confluence to Mohihi and Moeloa Falls.
When you stand at the Puu Hinahina overlook, the northern of the canyon overlooks, and look across to Waipoo Falls, you're actually looking over the Waiahulu drainage. From the Waimea Canyon overlook, the drainages are from left to right as you look north and east, are Waiahulu, Poomau and Koaie Gorges.
The upper canyon and the Confluence are up Poomau Gorge.
Although everybody calls it Waimea Canyon, that doesn't help understanding what we're actually looking at, which is a system of canyons. I'll use mostly the USGS topo maps and name the canyons, gorges after the streams flowing through them.
Going upstream from Waimea Town, the Waimea River first splits into the Waimea and Makaweli Rivers. Above where the Waiahulu Stream joins from the west, the river becomes Poomau Stream. Above the confluence, I'll call the west fork, Kawaikoi Stream and the east fork, Mohihi Stream.(The map isn't specific where Poomau Stream becomes Kawaikoi but it makes sense to use the Confluence as the terminus of Kawaikoi Stream rather than a couple hundred yards upstream at some undefined point.)
Searching for beta for our initial summit trek, I'd spent a lot of time on a mostly fruitless search for photos of the summit. But I'd come hundred of spectacular photos of waterfalls and canyons. I decided to identify as many of the falls and gorges as possible. The captions were usually useless since all Kauai canyons were labelled as Waimea and all waterfalls were just some waterfall in Waimea Canyon.
Two of the most spectacular were Mohihi and Moeloa Falls. It was the desire to reach their plunge pools that had inspired us to explore the upper Waimea Canyon.
On our first trip up canyon, we'd camped on a terrace at the fork where the Waimea River splits into Poomau and Waiahulu Streams.
When you stand at the Puu Hinahina overlook, the northern of the canyon overlooks, and look across to Waipoo Falls, you're actually looking over the Waiahulu drainage. From the Waimea Canyon overlook, the drainages are from left to right as you look north and east, are the Waiahulu, Poomau and Koaie.
Since we didn't expect to reach the confluence of Kawaikoi and Poomau Streams, we didn't have enough time to explore up each gorge and had turned around after spending a few minutes at the spectacular Confluence, knowing we'd be back.
It was impossible to tell from aerial photos if we could actually reach the plunge pools for Mohihi and Moeloa but it looked promising. In June 2007, we headed up the canyon, allowing three days.
The flow was low and in hot, spectacular weather, we made good time, passing Poomau Falls below Poomau Pillar, enjoyed the occasional dip to cool off and soon reached the Confluence. We dumped our packs, enjoyed the incredible view as we ate lunch.
First, we headed up Mohihi Stream. Words fail me in the canyons -- I'm just not able to communicate their beauty, but I'll try. Each is unique. Mohihi runs east/west, so it's mostly bathed in intense sunlight. Hot, but with plenty of cold, clear water, that's no problem. Tall, sometimes overhanging cliffs. Steep but manageable profile with the ocassional small waterfall. We hurried across a guantlet of spooky shattered rockfall, a place of threat from above. No helmet would save you there. Rock, falling from a thousand of feet above, would shatter, throwing sharp shrapnel for hundreds of feet. And some of the rocks were SUV sized. But only a few smacked down around us, enough to hurry us on.
When we hit the sections with smooth, stream rounded rock, we'd slow down. We dreaded coming around a corner and confronting a wall to wall waterfall. Mohihi Falls is actually a triple drop with two small drops then the final drop to its plunge pool. Total drop? Hard to say but I'd guess about 500-400 feet. Rounding one corner, high above, we could glimpse the first drop. Then around another corner, and we stood at edge of the pool, craning our necks, looking up perhaps the prettiest waterfall on Kauai.
Click for more hi rez photos of Mohihi Falls.
Except for a incongrenious banana patch in a protected niche, the canyon was swept bare of vegetation. The combination of rockfall and wall to wall floods.
After savoring the magnificent amphitheater, we headed downstream to the Confluence to try our luck up Kawiakoi Stream.
The Confluence is a boulder, triangle shaped plaza strewn with boulders up to the size of condos. At its northern apex, Kawaikio stream makes its entrance, dropping over a shelf of hard lava into a broad plunge pool. While PB took the high road to the right, I took the low road through the pool. With little drama, both roads led us into the bottom of Kawaikoi Gorge.
Running north-south, it was dark and foreboding although didn't have the war zone feel of Mohihi. Shorter, cut into more solid rock than the Mohihi, it consisted of a couple of huge, almost cave like overhanging sections before so quickly it came as a surprise, there was Moeloa Falls dropping from a ledge high above into a huge, monster of a plunge pool. Staggers the mind to try and comprehend the flood that could erode such a hole.
Click for more hi rez photos of Moeloa Falls.
We spent a great night camped at the confluence, then headed downstream. We paused at Poomau Falls to get a couple photos. We bumped our packs near the mouth of Waiahulu Stream and headed up gorge.
Waiahulu climbs steeply, with almost an organic feel running across bedrock at time. The cliffs above are crisscrossed with huge dikes. Although it's narrow, it's still lined with terraces. Our goal this time was to head up the left fork, Waiahulu proper. The right fork leads up to the base of Waipoo Falls where Kokee stream drops from the plateau.
It was a hard, hot climb and after a few false starts, we headed up the left fork, trying to get to the short section where the walls consists of huge dikes. Unfortunately, the streambed was bone dry, the water being diverted into the --- ditch. Being tired from the long hike down from the confluence and suffering from the heat, we snapped a couple photos of the dikes, then beat a hasty retreat.
Click for more hi rez photos of Poomau Falls, Waiahulu and Waimea Canyons.
There's still a bit to do up Waiahulu -- maybe during a wetter stretch.