Waiakea Pond, Hawaii, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Hawaii - Big Island -

Also known as:  Wailoa River State Park

The largest natural lake on Hawaii’s Big Island is 25-acre Waiakea Pond. A lake this small would hardly rate notice in most states, but Hawaii’s mountainous geology and surrounding oceans leave little flat land for natural ponds to form. Waiakea Pond is connected to Wailoa Stream which meanders on its journey down from the lower reaches of Mauna Loa volcano in the center of the island toward the ocean at Hilo. Waiakea Pond collects fresh water from a number of springs, with excess water flowing out through a 100 foot-long channel to Wailoa Stream which empties into the ocean at Hilo Bay.

High tide washes sea water from the bay into the pond, mixing saltwater with freshwater. Recent studies show that the saltwater tends to stratify, leaving some near-shore areas a haven for freshwater aquatic plants and less salt-hardy mollusks and small fish. It is also suspected that some of the springs in the lake have a high salt content, so the pond cannot be classified either saltwater or freshwater. Technically, Waiakea Pond is an estuary pond that receives some freshwater flow. Fish found in the pond are primarily saltwater species.

Waiakea Pond, in what is now the City of Hilo, once held lakefront residential communities along the eastern shoreline. These communities were washed away by the tsunami that resulted from the Valdivia earthquake in 1960. The land was eventually condemned and the State took possession of the entire area in 1969, creating 130-acre Wailoa River State Park. A memorial honors the victims of that tsunami. Another pays tribute to those who fought in the Vietnam War. A 14-foot statue of King Kamehameha overlooks the pond from the shore. Wailoa Arts and Cultural Center is located near the statue and functions both as a visitors center and a cultural museum featuring artwork and exhibits. Exhibits by local artists change monthly. Landscaped in Japanese garden style, Wailoa River State Park is a popular place for residents and visitors to enjoy walking paths, jog the roadways, and fish in Waiakea Pond.

Waiakea Pond is regularly used for fishing, with the portion of the lake south of the foot bridges designated as public fishing waters. A boat launch ramp is provided, but boat use is restricted to fishing. Only wooden boats are permitted, and no gas-powered motors are allowed. Fishing rules are enforced by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Common catches include mullet, aholehole and ulua with a maximum catch of 20 fish. Certain crabs can be caught with specified nets. A Freshwater Game Fishing License must be possessed. No swimming, water skiing or activities involving water contact are permitted. Several parking areas are provided to make access easy from Hilo. Children enjoy coming here to feed the multitudes of waterfowl.

Waiakea Pond is just one of several beautiful destinations near Hilo. Nearby Liliuokalani Gardens showcases landscaped grounds and lovely gardens, while to the north, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden holds over 2000 species of plants from the world’s tropics. Bayfront Park extends to the northeast from Wailoa River State Park and offers beautiful views of the bay. Paddle boarding is popular here, although this is not technically a swimming beach. The area is home to many resort hotels and guest stays, some with their own sliver of beachfront. A better swimming beach can be found at Cocoanut Island Park just outside Liliuokalani Gardens.

The Hilo area offers a variety of lodgings, restaurants, shopping, entertainment venues, and outdoor recreation. Driving northwest along the oceanfront will provide breathtaking overlooks, secluded beach scenes and access to some of Hawaii’s thundering waterfalls. At Akaka Falls State Park a few miles away, one short hike will take visitors to view two breathtaking waterfalls in one of Hawaii’s best birding areas. The lush rainforest is filled with orchids, ferns and stands of bamboo. Large acreages of preserved lands offer glimpses of unspoiled forest, endangered tropical flowers, and some of Hawaii’s increasingly rare native birds.

South of Hilo is spectacular Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park with two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The lava flowing through lava tubes into the ocean continues to add land mass to the Big Island. Visitors can drive the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive and 19-mile Chain of Craters Road, although sections can be closed due to lava flows and hazardous fumes. The National Park Service website provides updates on where visitors can view active lava flows.

Waiakea Pond was a popular and culturally-significant landmark long before European missionaries settled here. As with other ponds along the few rivers on the island, the shoreline was much modified to facilitate its use as a fishing pond by these native Hawaiians. Retaining berms were built in the past to contain the waters, cutting off water flow to some of the former wetlands that adjoined the shore. A series of arched footbridges facilitate foot traffic between the shores. In the past, a sugar cane plantation and mill along the banks discharged arsenic and cadmium-laden flows into the river to be washed to the sea. These heavy metal pollutants still exist in the sediments below the water and have been under study for remediation efforts in the area. With an average depth of about six feet, water levels rise and fall according to ocean tides. The pond is truly an unusual lake, one that Hawaiians are determined to protect from further damage.

Wailoa River State Park and Waiakea Pond are easy to access from Hilo. With the ocean at its front and the island’s highest mountains in the background, Waiakea Pond gives visitors a true taste of Hawaii’s natural beauty. Come enjoy the serene pond waters and the manicured lawns of Wailoa River State Park. Check into one of the beachfront hotels or a private vacation rental and enjoy a laid-back Hawaiian vacation.

Things to do at Waiakea Pond

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Beach
  • Tubing
  • Hiking
  • Waterfall
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Park
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Waiakea Pond Photo Gallery

Waiakea Pond Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 26 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4 feet

Maximum Depth: 6 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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