Revisiting Hetch Hetchy

You may recall a single picture of Hetch Hetchy reservoir I posted back in July after our trip to Yosemite.  After watching the second installment tonight of Ken Burns’ miniseries The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, I decided to go back through my files and post a few more pics to reveal a little more of the area.

When we were deciding what we wanted to see in Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy had not been part of our original plans, though we had discussed it at some length.  At the end of the second day in the park, however, smoke from the Grouse fire had become so thick in the valley that we decided to drive to the north side of the park and explore the reservoir after all.

I was well aware of the valley’s–now reservoir’s–past, and felt a mix of reluctance and sadness about seeing it.  That feeling was strongly reinforced as I walked the length of the pedestrian bridge around the edge of the dam.  I knew that Muir considered the valley to be Yosemite’s equal, if lesser known and less traveled.  I knew Bierstadt had painted it (see below), and a handful of black and white photographs remained showing the valley in its untouched state.  And I also knew that multiple studies have now shown conclusively that Hetch Hetchy valley can be restored without adversely affecting the Bay Area’s water supply.  Watching Burns’ cover the fight for Hetch Hetchy in tonight’s episode, and being mindful of Muir’s broken heart over losing the valley that surely precipitated his death, I feel more strongly than ever that the push to restore the valley should go ahead full-force.

This is what we lost (this is an archival photo which is, as far as I know, uncopyrighted–if anyone knows who, if anyone, I should credit, please let me know asap):

hetch hetchy historical pic

This is how Bierstadt saw it:

Bierstadt Hetch Hetchy

And this is what Hetch Hetchy looks like today, subsumed by the dammed Tuolumne River:

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~ by Survivor of BPD Parent on September 28, 2009.

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