Endemic loulu palms are just one of the many species of plants that can be seen along the trails at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
The historical Aiopio fishtrap was built by the Hawaiians, capturing fish that in the lava rock wall enclosure when the tides receded. (Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Western influences influenced some later petroglyph designs, such as this cannon carved into the lava rock. (Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Roy Spencer of Oahu was among a small group of hikers that joined a ranger guided walk through Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, ending at the Aiopio Fish Trap. (Photos by Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Just outside Kailua-Kona there’s a place where a short walk can take you back to Hawaii old.
From a man-made fish trap and ponds that sustained life for hundreds of years to petroglyphs, ruins and native flora and fauna, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park offers visitors and residents alike an array of both modern and ancient finds that the park has worked to preserve in its natural form. Accessible only by foot, the park’s meandering trails provide a way for all to get a taste of Hawaii the way it was.
“It’s just a wonderful place to enjoy and learn about ancient Hawaii,” said Kailua-Kona resident Virginia Tormey as she overlooked the park’s Aiopio Fish Trap. “The lifestyle of the ancient Hawaiians and the way they lived here has always interested me.”
Tormey was just one of about a dozen people who took part in a free guided tour of the park located just north of Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in North Kona. The free event was just one of a handful held Saturday and Sunday around island in celebration of National Trails Day.
National Trails Day was created in 1993 for the nation to not only celebrate, but become more of aware of the 200,000 miles of trails that traverse the U.S., according to the American Hiking Society, which helped launch the holiday in 1993.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park was established in 1978 and the Kaloko portion purchased in 1987. Today, the National Park totals 1,160 acres.
“This park was created to preserve the ancient land use patterns of the ancient Hawaiians,” said Harrel Baker, a park ranger who led the hike. He described the area as a “self-discovery park” where people can explore history and natural resources on their own, of course with an informational pamphlet, if needed.
Along the 1-mile tour, hikers learned about the park’s rich physical and cultural history while passing through a multitude of lava flows, a keawe forest and a petroglyph field. Baker also explained various projects that have been done or are under way including the planting of dozens of endemic loulu, or Pritchardia palm trees, and rebuilding of planters once used to grow such foods as sweet potatoes and gourds.
At the shoreline, the hikers got a glimpse of the means for which a community was able to sustain itself for hundreds of years despite the area’s rather arid nature.
The Aiopio Fish Trap was the highlight, and final stop of the guided tour. Built prior to European contact, said Joe Jokiel, park supervisor, the trap is about 1.7 acres in size and includes four holding pens. Though some of the man-made structure has fallen apart, the remnants paint a clear picture of how the contraption was used.
Using the Aiopio Fish Trap, a loko kuapa or fishpond formed by sealing off a small bay, and the Kaloko and Amakapa fishponds, which consists of ponds separated from the ocean by sand dunes, ancient Hawaiians were able to maintain a constant supply of food.
“These were the early days of fish farming,” Baker explained. “It’s funny that just up at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority there are guys doing the same thing that dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries.”
Terry Hild, a nine-year Kailua-Kona resident, came out for the hike simply out of curiosity for just what the park holds as well as to learn about who and what was there throughout history. He is happy the park exists and hopes efforts will continue to maintain its existence in its current state.
“With development and construction, we are losing a lot of our open space,” he said while traversing the park’s keawe forest. “I’m glad this is a park out here that will be preserved and conserved so (in the future) we will be able to look back and say ‘this is the way it was and the way it still is.’”