News

Happy New Year!

Come Fly with Us!

Open Every Day

One of the “20 Best”

Niihau Interns Work Hard to Restore the Stream and Quarry

People Counts Continue to Grow

Remembering Richard

1586: Year of the “Orphan Tsunami”

Happy New Year!

December 29, 2018

Scouts put up sign

MCR started off 2018 with major progress on the Reserve signage and picnic area, thanks to Scout Troop 270. Another Scout project is planned for 2019.

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! As another year slides away, it’s good to ponder time, that most imponderable concept. In his 2010 book, Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua`i, Dr. Burney talks about “time vertigo,” the experience of seeing the clear evidence of many time-scales simultaneously inside Makauwahi Cave. It’s all there: the cave’s rocks, nearly a half million years old; the cave itself, perhaps 100,000 or more; the sediments underfoot, thousands of years old; Hawaiian cultural evidence, many centuries; a tsunami deposit perhaps 1586 A.D.; 19th and 20th century impacts from overgrazing and cane farming near the surface; and the advent of research on the site in 1992. Read More…

Come Fly with Us!

Come Fly with Us Photomosaic

Lida Pigott Burney flies drone to monitor quarry restoration. Left, top, view above recent “Scout area” restoration near picnic area. Right, top, looking down on central part of Reserve, with sinkhole lower left and seashore lower right. Bottom, oblique view across restorations, with Mt. Haupu in background.

Our new quarry and streamside restorations are doing even better than we expected. With support from Grove Farm, EPA, and visitors’ donations, we have been able to plant in 2018 a total of 1,492 native trees, shrubs, and perennial groundcovers. Our staff and interns did this with the help of 585 K-12 school children and 131 college students.

We monitor all our native plant translocations by maintaining a database with up-to-date and historical information on each of the thousands of plants translocated here since 1999. Read More…

Open Every Day

Tour Guide in uniform

Tour guide Jerry Keesee sports the guides’ new “uniform.” Tours are free but we need your donations to keep operating – and growing!

Makauwahi Cave is open for tours every day of the year now, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays 10 – 4. This is possible through the efforts of our new tour guides, Linda Kosen, Deborah Flynn, and Jerry Keesee, and to Keakalina Lindsay’s coordination of tours. Congratulations, Keakalina, on the birth of daughter Aeryana!

One of the “20 Best”

We’re one of the “20 Best Caves in the US!” Makauwahi Cave Reserve was listed #14 in a recent travel site’s assessment of caves open to the public around the country. There we are, right between Luray Caverns, Virginia, a National Natural Landmark, and Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the longest cave in the world. These two famous underground places made a great impression on me when I visited them as a youngster.

Drone photo of Makauwahi Cave

Drone’s-eye view of Makauwahi Cave (photo by Toby Ralph)


Read More…

By David Burney

Niihau Interns Work Hard to Restore the Stream and Quarry

December 25, 2017

Makauwahi Cave Reserve began a program back in 2009, with federal “stimulus” funds, to provide job-training opportunities in conservation, landscaping, and horticulture to unemployed Native Hawaiians. We wanted particularly to focus on helping the Niihau families who have migrated to Kauai from our neighbor island in recent years seeking employment.

Niihau Interns

The Niihau Interns
(left to right)
standing: Henry Nakaahiki Jr., Keaka Kanahele
kneeling: Bernard Koyeg, Joe Kanahele (supervisor), Julie Kanahele

Those federal funds dried up soon after, but thanks to grants from the Wildlife Society, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaii Community Foundation, Hawaii Tourism Authority, and others, we are proud that the Makauwahi Conservation Jobs Program lives on! At last count, 46 interns have participated in this program.

Read More…

People Counts Continue to Grow

In recent years we have been guessing, mostly by indirect methods, that the Reserve gets around 30,000 visitors per year. Thanks to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, we were able to install early this year a couple of those infrared-beam people counters like the kind you cross when you enter a big department store. In waterproof cases at strategic locations, they have been counting people for us!

Hawaiian Stilt

Over 40,000 people per year are likely to view the new wayside exhibit funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. It features endangered water birds that frequent the wetland restorations, including the rare and beautiful Hawaiian Stilt, as in this photograph contributed by Hob Osterlund.

And, as you might have guessed, it turns out we have been underestimating. Even without the numbers yet in for December, we can say with reasonable certainty that more than 40,000 people visited this year. We know from the registration book in the cave that 15,000 or more got guided tours, and additionally hundreds of local school children participated in our education programs. We also know that about 20% of our total visitation is local, the rest being from the elsewhere in the state, the nation, and the world, including increasing numbers from Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Read More…

Remembering Richard

Our Tour Manager, Richard Segan, Richard Segan passed away October 15 at Wilcox Hospital in Lihue. Richard began giving tours on Sundays at the cave in 2012. To that point we had only been able to muster enough volunteer help to open one day per week, but through his energetic efforts, we were able to eventually keep the cave open four days per week, and now five. Since he began informing and entertaining the public with his many wonderful stories, Richard probably gave tours for more than 75,000 visitors. At Makauwahi Cave, Richard will be a permanent part of the legends of this place.

1586: Year of the “Orphan Tsunami”

Newly published evidence from Makauwahi Cave suggests that we may now know precisely which mega-tsunami hit here over four centuries ago and left tell-tale deposits.

In the journal Natural Hazards we published an article recently entitled “The Orphan Sanriku Tsunami of 1586: New evidence from Coral Dating on Kaua`i.” Although radiocarbon dating had previously pinpointed the evidence for some sort of “extreme event” at the cave to within about a century, we used fresh-looking pieces of coral embedded in the tsunami deposit inside the cave to date the event using a high-resolution Uranium-series technique that may be accurate to within just a couple of decades.

Tsunami Models

Scientists ran computer simulations of the two earthquakes inferred to have happened in 1586; a 9.25 earthquake in the Eastern Aleutians (left) and an 8.05 in Peru (right). Predicted tsunami heights for the Sanriku orphan tsunami in Japan matched the Aleutian model much better.

Read More…

By David Burney

HTA Sponsors New Exhibit at MCR

December 14, 2016

MCR Staff pose with the new Trailside Exhibit sponsored by HTA

What has a dozen pictures of fossils and artifacts, a giant tortoise, Joe Kanahele at work with volunteers, and a familiar landscape as it might have looked a millennium ago, all in one place? Answer, our new wayside exhibit entitled Makauwahi Cave Reserve: Where Past and Future Meet.

Read More…

Mahalo Joe!

December 13, 2016

Joe Kanahele

Joe Kanahele is Makauwahi’s Reserve Caretaker.

Joe Kanahele, the project’s longest serving employee, wishes all our visitors and supporters “Mele Kalikimaka.” His devoted work as a part-time Reserve Caretaker began in 2009 and continues to this day. Mahalo to Joe for making sure the place looks good for our many visitors, and for protecting the precious resources of the cave and its surroundings. Please contribute to MCR this year to help continue to pay Joe and our other employees for all they do for the place.