CRAMP Study Sites
Geographic Name: Miloli‘i
CRAMP site code: KaMil
22° 08.80‘ N, 159° 43.60‘W
Chart showing Miloli‘i coastline. Red arrow shows location of transect sites. (Click image for larger view.)
Miloli‘i is located in the southwestern end of the Na Pali Coast State Park on the north coast of Kaua‘i. The high sea cliffs along this coastline show a saw-tooth profile along the crest that represents a cross section of the ridges and valleys that have been undercut by waves. The ridge peaks reach an elevation of more than 1000 feet along much of this coastline. Most of the valley bottoms are perched high on the cliffs, but a few such as Miloli‘i valley can be reached from the coast. Vertical cliffs along most of the shoreline are undergoing active erosion by the extreme wave action that is cutting them away at their base. Offshore bathymetry is steep, promoting rapid removal of eroded material into deep water. A system of submarine canyons whose heads approach the shore drop steeply to depths of several thousand feet (Moberly, Cox, Chamberlain, McCoy and Campbell. 1963. Appendix I). Miloli‘i has a more moderate seaward sloping bathymetry than the adjacent coastline, which has allowed the formation of a small beach and narrow coastal plain.
Range markers are line up for channel into Miloli‘i beach. Breakers on both sides of channel transport water over the reef. This water exits through the central channel. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
The shoreline area of Miloli‘i consists of a narrow strip of land that is approximately one mile long and several hundred feet wide located between the towering cliffs and the shoreline. A white sand beach fronts the middle portion of the coastal plain. Boulder ramparts exist at both ends of the beach. The land area behind the beach consists of sand dunes and talus slopes at the base of the cliffs. Intermittent streams flow from the perched valleys above Miloli‘i. Flood events dump large amounts of water at the base of the cliff. Outflow of the water has cut a small gully through the sand near the middle of the coastal flat. Mud from these flood events is deposited intermittently on the coastal plain and reef flat. Winter storm waves remove sand and expose the boulder ramparts at both ends of the beach. The coastal plain at the southwestern end of Miloli‘i connects to the adjacent Miloli‘i valley. The proximity of this coastal plain to deep offshore waters renders the land vulnerable to tsunamis. The tsunami of 1946 caused wave heights of 20 feet at Miloli‘i (Loomis, H. G. 1976).
Recreational Kayaks offshore of Miloli‘i. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Reef Structure, Habitat Classification:
A broken and very narrow reef flat with a reef crest extends along sections of the Miloli‘i shoreline. A broad reef platform extends farther offshore, characterized by basaltic "spur and groove" features with low to moderate (5%-10%) coral cover. Coralline algae appear to be the principal reef building organisms throughout this area. Overall, the shallow reef structure is reminiscent of a developing fringing reef, but is actually a thin veneer of carbonates over an eroded pre-existing basalt foundation that has been highly modified by wave action. Surge channels of varying size cut into the reef slope. Some are quite narrow and deep (10-20 ft). Others are broad sand channels. The topography of the reef directly off Miloli‘i valley is complex with high relief. To the northeast the bottom has a lower slope and less complex topography.
Crustose coralline algae veneer over basalt with few corals typify inshore environment at Miloli‘i. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Corals are sparse close inshore at Miloli‘i, consisting mainly of a few encrusting colonies of Porites lobata and Montipora patula. Slightly deeper water (1-2 m) is characterized by low coverage (<2%) of the corals Pocillopora meandrina, Porites lobata, Pavona duerdeni and Montipora spp., Cyphastraea ocellina and the soft coral Palythoa tuberculosa. Pavona maldivensis occurs on vertical surfaces. The colonies of Pavona duerdeni appear to be larger and more numerous that encountered at most CRAMP sites.
Boulder beach at SE end of Miloli‘i is result of severe wave impact of North swell along this coastline. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Wave and Current Regime - the dominant controlling environmental factor at Miloli‘i is the exposure to North Pacific Swell during the winter months and NE Trade Wind Waves. Secondary factors include sand movement and high turbidity due to sedimentation during flood events.
Adjacent Land Tenure and Use:
State Park, conservation.
Human Use Patterns:
This area in not accessible by land. Visits by boat are made by tourists and local residents. Commercial power boat, sailing boat and kayak tours visit this site and make shore landings. Shelters, picnic benches, toilet facility, showers and grills are available on this site. Goat hunting is allowed in season. subsistence fishing occurs here at a low level to the remoteness of the site and adverse surf conditions during the winter months.
Economic Value and Social Benefits:
Miloli‘i is an important resource to the visitor industry and provides a valuable recreational area for local inhabitants.
Status (Degree of Legal Protection):
State Park with open access to reef resources. Authority for managing the marine resources within three miles (4.8 km) of the high tide mark lies with the Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources. All laws pertaining to the management of state marine resources apply (see pamphlet "Hawai‘i Fishing regulations, September 1999", 51 pp. available from Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kalanimoku Building, 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 330, Honolulu, Hawai‘i).
Human use is a primary concern. The impact of commercial tours and local visitors with possible resulting anchor damage and trampling has been noted. Sedimentation of the reef is a problem. Sediment generated from areas above Miloli‘i cascade onto the beach area during rainstorms. Goat overgrazing of the watershed has been identified as a problem. During the 2000 survey we noted two herds of approximately 15 animals each at both ends of the beach with extensive tracks and feces throughout the area. Shrubs and vegetation in the area were clearly being subjected to intense grazing by the goats.
Fractured basalt platform viewed from surface in water of 10 m depth. Crevice is approximately 1 m in width. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Noteworthy Flora and Fauna:
During the 2000 survey of Miloli‘i, Ryan Okano of the UH Botany department noted the occurrence of the algae Ulva and Enteromorpha in offshore crevices at depths of 30 feet. These algae are usually found in shallow inshore areas or areas of very high nutrient input. The occurrence of the algae in deep water on a pristine reef is highly unusual and suggests massive fresh water seepage (with high nutrient levels) through the fractured basaltic layer. Pavona maldivensis common on vertical walls and overhangs in deeper water (5-10 m). The beach area seems ideal for turtle nesting (no data) and as a haul out area for the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.
Miloli‘i valley, coastal flat and reefs represent a relatively pristine area that is rich in cultural heritage. This area is being preserved and studied (Yent, 1989). The terrestrial portions of this ahupuaa contain numerous sites of archeological significance including a He‘eiau, burial caves and cave shelters. Studies of the marine resources will give us insight into possible ancient use of the Miloli‘i inshore area.
Scientific Importance and Research Potential:
Miloli‘i is an excellent site for the study of high wave energy impacted coral reef communities. The area has very complex basaltic structure with very low coral coverage. Structure of the reef fish community in relation to benthic habitats and coral cover in this environment will be informative. Variation in coral coverage and fish biomass over a period of years will allow for testing the importance of rugosity vs. coral cover and importance of unusually severe winter swell on these communities.
Previous Survey Work:
DLNR Fish Survey: Three 250-yard fish counting transects were conducted seaward of the fringing reefs by DLNR in 1979 (DLNR 1979)
DLNR 1979. Marine Survey of the Na Pali Coast, Island of Kaua‘i. Div. of Fish and Game. Unpublished report includes location map of Miloli‘i, data on fish species composition, standing crop density.
Yent, Martha. 1989. Archaeological Investigations- Miloli‘i Valley and Coastal Flat. Unpublished report includes: map, results of archaeological survey
Loomis, H. G. 1976
Moberly, Cox, Chamberlain, McCoy and Campbell. 1963. Appendix I
Last Update: 02/23/2011
By: Dan Lager
Hawai‘i Coral Reef Assessment & Monitoring Program
Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology
P.O. Box 1346
Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744