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Beyond Hanalei on Kauai’s North Shore

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Plein Air at Waikoko Beach, Hanalei Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Hanalei bay, Hanalei Kauai beach artPlein Air at Waikoko Beach, Hanalei, ©2011. One of Kauai’s most photographed beaches, now blocked to visitor traffic.

Earlier this year, record rainfall on Kauai’s north shore caused flooding and landslides that reshaped the coastline and closed the only access road to the communities north of Hanalei town. Some of Kauai’s most famous beaches and trails are still mostly inaccessible, and north shore residents and businesses are still rebuilding. Click here for my original post on how to help.

Low Tide at Haena stream Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Haena, north shore Kauai beach, Kee beach artLow Tide at Haena Stream (Ke’e Beach), ©2013. Now blocked to visitor traffic.

Before the April flooding, Ke’e Beach was the “end of the road” on the north shore, where Hwy 560 dead-ended into the sheer cliffs of the Na Pali coast. When I moved to Kauai in 2001, Ke’e was a beautiful, crystal clear lagoon filled with colorful fish, sheltered from the wild surf by a fringing reef. Over the years, more and more visitors to the area made it difficult to access the beach. I stopped seeing colorful fish in the lagoon. My last visit to Ke’e Beach was in 2013, before moving to Oregon the following year. When I fly back to visit each year, friends and family don’t want to go to Ke’e: it’s too crowded, no parking, dangerous road. Now, that road is blocked by a checkpoint for residents only, escorted at 5 miles per hour down the single lane that has been cleared.

Below are two of my plein air watercolors of the same view at Ke’e Beach, painted seven years apart. From the beach, you see the same beautiful lagoon and sheer sea cliffs. You don’t see the changes that took place below the waterline, and behind the trees. What further changes have taken place since the floods?

Ke'e Beach lagoon Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Haena, north shore Kauai beach, Na Pali artwork, Kee beach artKe'e Beach Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Haena, north shore Kauai beach, Na Pali artwork, Kee beach artKe’e Beach lagoon – left: ©2013, right: ©2006

This aerial view is my most recent painting of the Ke’e Beach area, completed shortly before the flood. I used a reference photo taken from an airplane in 2013. The view includes the famous lagoon at the center, a restored heiau and hula platform on the right, and restored taro fields on the left.

Pali at Ke'e Beach Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Haena, north shore Kauai beach, Na Pali artwork, Kee beach artPali at Ke’e Beach, ©2018

The popular beaches at Haena and Lumahai are also past the new “end of the road” in Hanalei. All the businesses north of Hanalei are closed. With local traffic only, residents have said it feels like “old times” – quiet, peaceful, and slow.

Lumahai River Mouth Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Lumahai beach, north shore Kauai artLumahai River Mouth, ©2017

Some reefs are still smothered by sediment washed out from the flood, but there have also been reports of fish returning to the reefs.

Reef at Haena Point Kauai watercolor painting - Artist Emily Miller's Hawaii artwork of Haena, north shore Kauai beach, Haena beach artReef at Haena Point, ©2012

This is not a story of good or bad, just the changes I’ve seen in a small span of time. Like all landscapes, Kauai is a living place.

1 comment on “Beyond Hanalei on Kauai’s North Shore”

  1. Emily:
    The
    I think the paintings are great! Why didn’t you show ua these before?

    i see you’ve copyrighted them–a very wise move. Now you can let us see them though we’re so far away. They show a lot of interesting new directions, and I am delighted!

    love, Grandma

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