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‘The River’ Films on Historic Kahana Valley

When ABC’s The River premieres next week (Feb. 7), viewers from around the world will get another opportunity to see some of Hawaii’s most beautiful places via the Tube. And even if only a few seconds of these places make the cut, it’s great exposure for the islands and for locals hoping to show off their backyards.

According to an inside source, Kahana will be one of those backyards seen on The River, which will follow the story of a wildlife expert who goes missing in the Amazon. (I hear there will also be a few zombies wandering around the island for the making of this show.) And while Kahana has already appeared in other shows and movies, it’s important to note the historical past still entwined in the majestic valley and its people today. Kahana Bay is one of the most historic places on the Windward side of Oahu.

The valley, located between Kaaawa and Punaluu, is the only place in Hawaii that has been established by the state as a “living park.” This means it must embrace, teach and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. The 31 families who currently live in Kahana assist with such programs that share the values and lifestyle of old Hawaii days.

In ancient times, the ahupuaa (land pision) provided a plethora of natural wealth for the Hawaiian people, who fished the thriving fishponds and farmed the fertile lands. And not uncommon to the Hawaiian way of thinking, they made sure to use such resources to their fullest, which included growing kalo in the loi (ponded fields) and irrigating rain water from the Koolau mountains. From atop a lookout, a fish watcher would signal to the community whenever he spied schools of fish approaching the bay.

But since Western contact, the population rapidly declined. The valley became a site for sugar cultivation and WWII jungle warfare training, both of which heavily changed the valley’s natural environment.

Today, remnants of the valley’s past can be found in the heiau (religious temple) and Huilua Fishpond, which is currently being restored. Locals and visitors continue to frequent Kahana for hiking, camping, sunbathing and on glassy, windless days, the residents will most likely be surfing the long rolling lefts. Otherwise, the water in the bay is usually pretty calm for swimming.

So next time you catch a glimpse of Kahana on your favorite television show, keep in mind the ancient past that continues to thrive in the present of this valley today.

KAHANA VALLEY • Kahana Valley Road, Kaaawa, HI 96730 • Visitor center, camping (by permit only), hiking, outdoor showers, restrooms, picnic tables & drinking water

Sources: Hawaii State Parks

Photo Credit: Haunani Kane

Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Jan 30, 2012