Hetch Hetchy: the Yosemite of the North

by Robert Sterling Yard

Excerpted from The Book of the National Parks by Robert Sterling Yard (New York: Scribner, 1919), pp 55-56.)


Second in magnificence among the park valleys is Hetch Hetchy, the Yosemite of the north. Both are broad, flowered and forested levels between lofty granite walls, Both are accented by gigantic rock personalities. Kolana Rock, which guards Hetch Hetchy at it wester gateway as El Capitan guards Yosemite, must be ranked in the same class. Were there no yosemite Valley, hetch Hetchy, though it lacks the distinction which gives Yosemite Valley its world-wide fame, would be much better known than it now is - a statement also true about other features of the national park.

Hetch Hetchy is now being dammed below Kolana Rock to supply water for San Francisco. The dam will be hidden from common observation, and the timber lands to be flooded will be cut so as to avoid the unsightliness usual with artificial reservoirs in forested areas. The reservoir will over one of the most beautiful bottoms in America. It will destroy forests of luxuriance. It will replace these with a long sinuous lake, from which sheer Yosemite-like granite walls will rise abruptly two or three thousand feet. There will be places where the edges are forests. Down into this lake from the high rim will cascade many roaring streams.

The long fight in California, in the press of the whole country, and finally in Congress, between the advocates of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and the defenders of the scenic wilderness is one of the stirring episodes in the history of our national parks.


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