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Exploring Rivers on the Big Island of Hawaii

Playing in the rivers can be fun and very rewarding. It can also be a nightmare? The rivers on The Big Island of Hawaii are powered by rain and snowfall from tall mountains. There are over five mountains providing an ample supply of running water for flash flooding, even in the Summer. This can cause freight-train like flows that only slow down when they reach the ocean.

Civil Defense messages on local radio stations post Flood Watches and Flood Warnings. When these are in effect, don't even think about exploring the rivers. We've rescued people from the rivers that seemed to be very capable climbers and swimmers.

A common scenario is when a group explores the river and after some walking find it a requisite in their journey to cross many small streams along the way. These small streams become part of larger streams which eventually all blend together during rains. Rains that are often happening many miles away while you're basking (or falling asleep) on the brightest day ever. This unseen rain leaves explorers stranded on temporarily high areas in the middle of the river, locked between streams with rising water.

While a feeling of imminent death can make your vacation memorable, only the very lucky get the chance to experience the memories later. No one likes to get hurt, injured or killed while on vacation. So don't go where you don't know!

If you've read this far, you're probably really interested in checking out the rivers and we probably won't be able to stop you. Fine! Just PLEASE check with the Civil Defense for river conditions or potential flooding.

The Civil Defense does not issue warnings for Leptospirosis You're own your own. Just be aware that "lepto" is theoretically more possible after heavy rains or first rains after spells of little to no rain. If you're here vacationing, you'll have to check local weather over the last few weeks. Other diseases from feral and non-feral animals are also routinely reported and treated at the local hospital. Still eager to explore? Good!

If there are no watches or warnings then you're ready to consider some additional safety measures.

These Big Island River safety measures include but are not limited to:

  • A cell phone (Just in case it works and you're stranded, you might be able to find a helicopter to come get you, if they can.)
  • A helmet (Having a helmet will help emergency workers find your head.)
  • A Will (So your family will understand your final wishes.)
  • A Buddy (This increases the chances of emergency workers finding someone.)
  • Food and water (No one likes to stay in a tree overnight without food or water.)

Ok, so many days here are filled with lazy flowing streams with dramatic views of the ocean, large cliffs and many spectacular land features only found in Big Island dreams. The water is refreshing in the Summer and very enjoyable. Which brings us to river etiquette.

Many people go to the rivers to get away. Be respectful of others and choose a part of the river that is not already occupied. Also please don't smoke upwind, spit into the wind, or send any brown submarines downstream. We share the aina so share the aina with us.

Remember, the most challenging things in life are often the most rewarding. But not always!