Waimalu Ditch

Sunday September 5th, 2010


Today Dave, Stanka and I along w/Dave's work friend Jim headed out to explore some "new" territory.  I've been there many times but it would be a first for the other three.  The Waimalu Ditch is more correctly called the McCandless Ditch, named after  Lincoln McCandless.  Lincoln McCandless moved to Hawaii in 1882 to employ his expertise in oil drilling and mining to construct artesian wells.  Since the "ditch" is named after him I'm guessing he designed it and perhaps supervised the construction.

The "ditch" is in reality a series of tunnels bored through sold lava rock with just a few sections being open ditch.  It is about 3.2 miles from it's beginning an a now silted over dam on Waimalu Stream to it's end in what is now a subdivision on "Pearl Ridge".  At the time of it's construction it supplied water for the sugar cane that was grown in the Pearl City-Aiea area.

The "Waimalu Ditch Trail" which we hike was the "ditch man" trail used to maintain the system of tunnels and ditches back when sugar was King in Hawai`i.  I can't find any information as to when it was constructed, but I'd guess somewhere in either the late 1800's or early 1900's.  Sugar was phased out in this area in the 1950's or 60's as the land was converted into homes for O`ahu's growing population.  Today most of the ditch sections are silted in after 50 + years of abandonment.  The tunnels themselves seem to be in great condition.  I've walk many sections of the past 10 years.  Where the tunnels turn to ditch they tend to have the entrances silted in either totally or almost totally.  The best access to the tunnels is through the many openings made to dump the rock as the tunnels were created.

Although not a dangerous trail an Australian, John Parsons went missing on the trail two years ago.  No sign of him ever found.

When you dig a tunnel 3 miles long there is a lot of rock to remove.  What they did was every so often blast a side tunnel to the open air and throw the blasted rock out.  They would then seal most of the opening up so the water would not flow out.