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Lights and Shadows of Yosemite (1926) by Katherine Ames Taylor


Hetch Hetchy

Nature, as well as history, repeats itself. The Hetch Hetchy Valley, approximately thirty miles north from Yosemite Valley, was at one time considered a small reproduction of the greater Yosemite. There was a distinctly marked family resemblance in its topographical features. But all hope that this little Yosemite would grow up to become a greater Yosemite was drowned when the valley was inundated with water in 1923 in the creation of a reservoir as an auxiliary water supply for the city of San Francisco. And therein lies a long tale of a bitter fight between the idealists who fought to retain the valley in its original virgin beauty, and the materialists who succeeded in converting it into a man-made lake.

Hetch Hetchy, the valley of the Tuolumne River, is now an artificial lake, stretching back seven miles from the 300-foot dam constructed across its lower end. Two very beautiful waterfalls empty into this from its surrounding cliffs, the beauty of which is repeated and emphasized in the reflections in the lake. The cliffs, so similar to those of the Yosemite, rise sheer and unbroken from the surface of the water. At the lower end stands the Kolana Dome, resembling in outline the Liberty Cap of Yosemite. At the upper end, when the spillway is opened, pours a miniature Niagara, hypnotic in its tremendous power and crystal beauty.

The Hetch Hetchy Valley has reverted to type. Once a valley, it was entered and occupied by a glacier, which, receding, left there a beautiful mountain lake, with its tributary waterfalls. In the course of time this lake was filled in and became, once more, a valley. Man, then, took a hand in things and by building a dam reconverted this valley into a lake. History, as well as nature, repeats itself!

Hetch Hetchy, once a miniature Yosemite, now a man-made mountain lake to store water for San Francisco. PHOTO BY COURTESY, CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO
PHOTO BY COURTESY, CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO
[click to enlarge]
Hetch Hetchy, once a miniature Yosemite, now a man-made mountain lake to store water for San Francisco


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