The name Keālia means “salt encrusted,” and archaeologists tell us that the Hawaiian people gathered salt in this region for centuries. A seasonal wetland, the pond can sometimes swell to 450 acres, making it one of the largest natural ponds in the Islands. Keālia is located on the south shore of Maui’s central isthmus. The Keālia Pond lowland wetlands are a sediment basin, shaped like a shallow bowl sitting at the bottom of a 56-square-mile watershed. Keālia and receives her water from both of Maui’s mountain ranges. Water comes from the Waikapū Stream in the West Maui Mountain and Kolaloa Gulch originating from Haleakalā.
Keālia was once an ancient fishpond: Native Hawaiians may have raised awa (milkfish) and ʻamaʻama (flathead mullet) using a system of ditches and sluice gates to let nearby fish from Māʻalaea Beach into the pond.
Endangered Species Habitat:
This wetland is home to the endangered Aeʻo (Hawaiian stilt) and ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian coot.)
Other Indigenous migrant shorebirds include,
‘Akekeke (ah-kay-KAY-kay) Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Hunakai (hoo-nah-KYE) Sanderling Calidris alba
Kioea (kee-oh-AY-ah) Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis
Kōlea (KOHH-lay-ah) Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
‘Ūlili (OOO-lee-lee) Wandering Tattler Heteroscelus incanus
‘A‘o (AH-oh) Newell’s Shearwater Puffinus auricularis newelli
Mōlī (MOE-lee) Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis
‘Ua‘u kani (OO-ah oo KAH-nee) Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
‘Iwa (EE-vah) Great Frigatebird Fregata minor palmerstoni
‘Ou (OH-oo) Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii
‘Ōka‘i ‘aiea (OHH-kah ee eye-AY-ah) Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth Manduca blackburni
Honu ‘ea (HO-noo AY-ah) Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata
Honu (HO-noo ) Hawaiian Green Turtle Chelonia mydas
‘Īlio-holo-i-ka-uaua (EEE-lee-oh HO-loh EE kah OO-ah OO-ah) Hawaiian Monk Seal Monachus schauinslandi
Pueo (poo-AY-oh) Hawaiian Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus sandwichensis
‘Ākulikuli (AAH-koo-lee-KOO-lee) Sea Purslane Sesuvium portulacastrum
‘Āki‘aki (AH-kee AH-kee) Beach Dropseed Sporobolus virginicus
Pōhuehue (POHH-hoo-ay-HOO-ay) Beach Morning Glory Ipomoea pescaprae
‘Ilima (ee-LEE-mah) Yellow Ilima Sida Fallax
‘Ihi (EE-hee) Ihi Portulaca molokiniensis
Hala (HAH-lah) Beach Vitex Pandanus tectorius
‘Ōhelo kai (OHH-heh-loh KYE) Hawai‘i Desert-thorn Lycium sandwicense
Naio (NYE-oh) False Sandalwood Myoporum sandwicense
Naupaka Kahakai (now-PAH-kah kah-HAH-kye) Beach Naupaka Scaevola taccada
Pōhinahina (POHH-hee-nah HEE-nah) Beach Vitex Vitex rotundifolia
The refuge is adjacent to Keālia Beach, which is a nesting ground for the endangered hawksbill turtle.
Boardwalk: There is a long, raised, nature-viewing, boardwalk that provides access to the area. This boardwalk helps protect the environment from negative impacts. The boardwalk also incorporates informational kiosks. There are three kiosks along the boardwalk. The kiosk at the far end has seating.
In the dry season, the pond shrinks to half its winter size, leaving a crust of crystalline salt at its margins.
On the opposite side of the pond, is a visitor’s center, next to a network of trails around smaller ponds that were left over from a 1970s aquaculture project.
Keālia Pond was established as a 700-acre National Wildlife Refuge in 1992.
For more info about the refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Keālia_pond/
For more info about the Birdlife: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L5296421