A woman who posted photos on social media of large rocks being thrown into Lake Waiau — a culturally significant lake located on Mauna Kea — earlier this month prompted state officials to warn the public against doing so.
The state Department of Land and Natural resources said the social media photos have been taken down, but not before it attracted the attention of law enforcement and conservation managers.
Swimming, watercraft use and rock piling are prohibited at the lake.
“She came up here and decided it was a good idea to throw rocks into the lake. There are several obvious reasons this is upsetting, both to the ecological community that lives here and to the Native Hawaiian community. It can be seen as pretty disrespectful tossing large rocks into a place that Hawaiian culture reveres and holds in such high regard,” said Jordan “Kama” Lee-Loy, a specialist with the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife Natural Area Reserve system, in a statement today.
The land department has attempted to contact the woman but has not heard back.
The lake, currently surrounded by snow, is located 13,000 feet above sea level. In Hawaiian mythology, three deities inhabited the area, the DLNR said. Signs near the trailhead to the lake identify it as a sacred site and ask the public to help maintain the area’s natural state.
Lee-Loy said it’s possible the woman was not intentionally being disrespectful, but emphasized that it was.
“Though she may not have meant any ill will, whenever you visit anyplace and are unfamiliar with the cultural practices, the best idea is to understand the connection to the people and how you can respectfully visit a place without causing a disturbance or disrespectful action,” he said in a statement.
Lee-Loy also reminded the public to be wary of some of the offerings at the lake, noting that an orange had been left behind.
“We don’t want to limit traditional and customary practices, but I’m pretty sure an orange left as an offering is not culturally significant. We ask for everyone to be mindful not to inadvertently introduce invasive species like ants or non-native plants by leaving them as offerings,” Lee-Loy said in a statement.
Lake Waiau is one of the highest elevation lakes in the country. Its size fluctuates considerably depending on the amounts of rain and snow the area receives.