Seriously, Stay Away from Sacred Falls
Adventure seekers love to push boundaries and take risks. If they were invincible and immortal, this wouldn’t be a problem.Â But nobody isÂ invincible and immortal, and too often in Hawaii, crossing the line is not a victimless crime.
Just yesterday the Honolulu Board of Water Supply said it no longer wants to be responsible for the Haiku Stairs, which were damaged by the weekend’s high winds. The stairsÂ have been closed for 30 years, mind you, but each month dozens of hikers sneak around fences and hide from security guards, trespassing into treacherous territory (and often requiring equally treacherousÂ rescue efforts).
Today, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has released a new video that they hope will warn people away from Sacred Falls State Park in Hau’ula on the North Shore. The park was the site of one of the most horrific tragedies in Hawaii history, aÂ landslide on Mother’s Day in 1999 that killed eightÂ people and injured more than 30 others.
The heartbreaking stories of that terrible day, when boulders the size of cars crashed down the steep valley walls and tore apart the lives of several families, are still revisited fifteen years later. But they’re still not enough to keep people out, and the DLNR is taking a stronger stance against tresspassers.
The DLNR is particularly peeved at online guidesÂ that still encourage people to visit Sacred Falls, or at least tell them how to access the closed park. The video is part of an effort to “counter countless blogs and websites which encourage hikers to trespass into the park,” decrying the current results of a web search for “Sacred Falls.”
There are Yelp reviews of the hike as recent as last month, and Keely H. of Wahiawa helpfully explains how he got in.Â AndÂ the top Google result for a Sacred FallsÂ search is a post at Exploration Hawaii titled, “How to Get to Sacred Falls.” The post was written in 2012.
(The DLNR’s effort seems to be bearing fruit, though, as the post has been updated in the last 24 hours to include the new video, a note that reads, “It is illegal to hike this trail and to do so would be cause for citation or arrest,” and several “[Removed]” markers.)
The seven-minute video explains the dangers at Sacred Falls, and emphasizes the illegality of entering the park. Words like “illegal,” “disrespectful,” and “kapu” are repeated and flashed on screen for emphasis. The video notes that people try to hike to the falls despite several signs telling people to go no further.
Incredibly, hikers have told DLNR officials that they thought the signs were just a technical requirement, posted to limit government liability.
“In 2014, our officers wrote more than 120 citations to people who entered the park illegally,” saidÂ Jason Redulla, acting chief of the DLNR’s enforcement division, in a statement released today. “We take the responsibility of protecting people from the continued danger of rock falls and flash flooding seriously and have a zero tolerance policy regarding entry into Sacred Falls — If you get caught you will be cited.”
Getting aÂ citation is hardly the worst thing that can happen to you in the park. And if you get hurt, that’s only the beginning of a much bigger crisis. It is incredibly difficult for rescuers to access the deepest parts of the valley. Helicopter rescues are essentially impossible, meaning rescuers have to hike in themselves, and face the very same dangers.
â€œGeological experts whoâ€™ve surveyed this area tell us that rock falls will continue unabated and canâ€™t be predicted, so anyone who goes to the falls is playing roulette with their lives,â€ said DLNR Administrator Dan Quinn.
The department notes that anyone cited for entering Sacred FallsÂ mustÂ appear in court and could face significant fines along with possible jail time. DLNR chair Carty Chang concludes, â€œWith so many wonderful waterfall hikes available around Hawaii, there is no reason for anyone to break the law and put their own and the lives of rescuers at risk by entering Sacred Falls State Park.â€
Check out the DLNR video here. For more information, visit the DLNR’s Hawaii State Parks website, and to find better hikes and trails to try, check out Na Ala Hele,Â the State of Hawaii Trail and Access Program.
I was thinking about this the other day. I’m very happy with the outcome and closing of Sacred Falls. My son (9) and I were there on Mothers Day in 1999. We went because this hike was advertised as a hike to take children on. I am an experienced mountaineer and knew exactly what was going on when I heard the crack. I was astonished to here from how high up it happened as I could not see above the lip of the walls surrounding us. I trusted that in order for this hike to be advertised as a children’s hike that someone had to had done their homework on this. I pulled my son from the pool and watched for the forts rocks to pitch out from what I then realized was ledge on the canyon wall. Where I saw the rocks pitch the farthest, I pushed my son close to the edge and covered him with myself. I was hit by a few rocks in the back, but it wasn’t a big deal. My son’s foot was sticking out a little and he watched a rock slice the edge of his foot off. I knew people were dying, no other way to put it. We were basically tubed by the landslide. We had to step over a wall of rocks that fell in a half circle around us. Everyone pretty much knows what the outcome was.
When I went back to see where my purse might be later on, after the nightmare at the hospital, there were a number of Kahuna in the parking lot area. They asked me if I had been there and told me the facts that we all should have known to begin with (plus a bit more info). After returning home to the mainland, I wrote a well crafted letter and sent it to 60 minutes. It ended up with the discovery channel, who hired a geologist to prove the I grant danger of the park. I goal was to close the park down for the preservation of children and for the kahunas who were the only one who had a right to attend to the area for very specific reasons. I am so happy to realize the outcome.
20 fire and rescue guys, all standing in the area, talking about how dangerous it is while they stand right where the rocks fall. they don’t seem scared, not even wearing a hard hat.
I went back there over and over the last 20 years. The State is making it a locals only place. The risk is not that great. This is complete bullshit. Warnings about the danger would be enough for most people, but instead we have to ban people from going there, but guaranteed any Saturday you will find 10-15 local teens swimming and hanging out near the base of the falls. They get no tickets. They get no stern warnings.
It is one of the most beautiful places on Oahu. Risk the ticket. Rescuers aren’t worried about the locals, they shouldn’t be worried about you.
If it’s so dangerous, Why did it only close in 1999?
Another example of government trying to protect the people from themselves or in this case the land we pay our taxes on to keep preserved. Then they bring some “local” whose been living in Hawaiian mythology land way too long to try to weakly make up some “respect the land plea”. what about all the other falls we climb on? what a joke from people who are just trying to hide a beautiful location from the foreigners
I too was just thinking about this place on mothers day. I was stationed at pearl Harbor I have went hiking several times before this tragic event. And I was there hiking this day also the weather was beautiful and we hiked to the falls and took a dip and then hiked out just one hour prior to the mudslide/rockslide it was a tragic and sad day kids and adults were killed that day.
1999 falls survivor. You mod the point. It was and is one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Do you own search to learn about it. The world’s not handed to you because your a special snowflake.
The state billed it as safe when it was on the list of most dangerous. Reasonable expectations. If you know the risk and go your doing so informed. If your told take the kids you expect it to be safe.
Example: If a theam park had a ride with no safety restraints you would think it’s safe. But nobody would ride space mountain without them. Expectations.
See law suit lost by state or this reason.
We were at Sacred Falls many times in the 80s and 90s.
Knew risk , however , so beautiful we risked it.
Wow, it’s interesting that so many people enter into Sacred Falls, knowing that rockfalls will continue unpredictably. We’re planning a trip to Hawaii and want to explore the beautiful nature! But heeding warning signs is a must, and I want to ensure everyone stays safe on our trip!
show respect to the Hawaiian land and people and stay out seriously it be sad if some rescue worker got killed rescuing your sorry ass because you think the law dosent apply to you
People who go up there are selfish they think oh it’s it’s my choice and I’m only hurting myself blah blah blah but they’re not thinking about the fact that if they get hurt somebody is going to have to go in there and get them which means they have to risk their own life for your stupid butt I say leave them up there they got themselves in that mess let them get themselves out
Let’s not act like its been closed for all eternity. I went with friends to sacred falls many times in the 90s without incident. There is just as much danger and unpredictability in scuba diving .. anyone closing the ocean anytime soon? Didn’t think so. Also have lost numerous friends to motorcycle incidents on Oahu (no helmet law) .. bikes still not against the law. This needs to be reversed, and warning signs posted is all. Yeah it’s sad people died that day .. people, thousands of people die every day, and doing less risky acts.
You want to get yourself hurt or killed that’s your issue but at least think about the poor people that have to come save your dumb ass because you didn’t listen and they have to put their lives in danger because of it