Wailuku River

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Waiānuenue (Rainbow) Falls

The Wailuku River is a 28.0-mile-long (45.1 km)[1] water course on the Island of Hawaiʻi in the Hawaiian Islands. It is the longest river in Hawai'i and its course lies mostly along the divide between the lava flows of Mauna Kea and those of Mauna Loa to the south. It arises at about the 10,800 feet (3,300 m) elevation along the eastern slope of Mauna Kea (19°48′26″N 155°25′13″W / 19.80722°N 155.42028°W / 19.80722; -155.42028 (Wailuku River source)). It flows generally eastward, descending steeply from the mountain and entering the Pacific Ocean at Hilo.[2]

Wailuku River State Park is located along the lower reach of the river. One section of the park includes Rainbow Falls (19°43′9″N 155°6′34″W / 19.71917°N 155.10944°W / 19.71917; -155.10944 (Rainbow Falls)), and another section Peʻepeʻe falls and an area called the Boiling Pots (a series of small falls and pools).[3] The upper and middle reaches of the river are known for hunting of introduced game animals. The lower river is a popular destination for swimming and tubing. However the Wailuku River (which includes Boiling Pots) accounts for 25% of the river drowning deaths in the state.[4]

A portion of the Boiling Pots above Pe'epe'e Falls.

The lower reach of the river is used for the generation of hydroelectricity. The flow at Hilo averages 275 cubic feet per second (8 m³/s) with peak flows 40 times as great. The stream carries an average of 10 tons of suspended sediment into Hilo Bay each day, at 19°43′40″N 155°5′15″W / 19.72778°N 155.08750°W / 19.72778; -155.08750Coordinates: 19°43′40″N 155°5′15″W / 19.72778°N 155.08750°W / 19.72778; -155.08750.

In the Hawaiian language, wai means fresh water and luku means destruction, so it means essentially River of Destruction.[5] The river can rise into the trees and drop back down very fast.The high flood marks can be seen dated in concrete, on the stairs going down to the river behind the Hilo Public Library.


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed April 28, 2011
  2. ^ "Wailuku River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. September 30, 2003. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  3. ^ Wailuku River official state park web site
  4. ^ Drownings in Hawaii
  5. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel Hoyt Elbert and Esther T. Mookini (2004). "lookup of Waianuenue ". in Place Names of Hawai'i. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 

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