Hetch Hetchy

"Yosemite is so wonderful that we are apt to regard it as an exceptional creation, the only valley of its kind in the world; but Nature is not so poor as to have only one of anything."
Photo by Isaiah West Taber, 1908. Sierra Club. Source
"Several other yosemites have been discovered in the Sierra that occupy the same relative positions on the Range and were formed by the same forces in the same kind of granite. One of these [is] the Hetch Hetchy Valley."
"Hetch Hetchy Valley, far from being a plain, common, rock-bound meadow, as many who have not seen it seem to suppose, is a grand landscape garden, one of Nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples."
"As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life, whether leaning back in repose or standing erect in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, their brows in the sky, their feet set in the groves and gay flowery meadows..."
"...while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music--things frail and fleeting and types of permanence meeting here and blending, just as they do in Yosemite, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her."
"...the great Hetch Hetchy Fall, Wapama...is the counterpart of the Yosemite Fall, but has a much greater volume of water, is about 1700 feet in height, and appears to be nearly vertical, though considerably inclined, and is dashed into huge outbounding bosses of foam on projecting shelves and knobs."
"Wapama in a jagged, shadowy gorge roaring and thundering, pounding its way like an earthquake avalanche."
Photo by Herbert W. Gleason, 1912. Sierra Club. Source
"Sad to say, this most precious and sublime feature of the Yosemite National Park, one of the greatest of all our natural resources for the uplifting joy and peace and health of the people, is in danger of being dammed and made into a reservoir to help supply San Francisco with water and light..."
"...thus flooding it from wall to wall and burying its gardens and groves one or two hundred feet deep."
Photo by Isaiah West Taber, 1908 (detail). Sierra Club. Source
"These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar."
"Dam Hetch Hetchy?! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."
Source: The Yosemite, Chapter 16.

Hetch Hetchy and the O'Shaugnessy Dam

John Muir first visited Hetch Hetchy in 1871 and published articles describing its beauty. This small valley, north of the Yosemite Valley to which it bears resemblance, was included in the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890.

Soon after, it was proposed by Mayor James Phelan of San Francisco that Hetch Hetchy be dammed and converted into a reservoir providing water from the Tuolomne River to the San Francisco Bay Area. The proposal was the subject of years of controversy within the Federal Government.

Despite Muir's campaign against the dam with the Sierra Club, it was determined in 1913 that plans to dam the valley would proceed. Muir died in 1914 before seeing the completion of O'Shaughnessy Dam in 1923, which continues to provide some of the water and power for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Explore Further

Go south to the Range of Light
Go south to the entrance to Yosemite Valley
View the map of Yosemite National Park
Return to the Introduction