A forgotten, forever-changed expanse of Yosemite wilderness
Yosemite National Park, California
In the quiet northwest side of Yosemite National Park is a legendary site where you can escape the crowds of the Yosemite Valley while learning an important piece of national park history. Very few visitors to Yosemite ever travel there.
Less than 100 years ago, Hetch Hetchy was, according to John Muir, just as beautiful as the Yosemite Valley and its perfect counterpart. Then, in 1938 after a long legislative fight, the US government passed the Raker Act to green-light the intentional flooding of the valley, turning it into a 117-billion gallon hydro-electric reservoir. Filled by waterfalls and mountain snowmelt, the reservoir feeds millions of San Francisco residents a portion of their water supply. John Muir, often called "The Father of Our National Park System,” lost a great love of his life -- a piece of the Yosemite wilderness -- with the passing of that legislation.
In knowing the area history, it is impossible to explore Hetch Hetchy without pondering the area’s tumultuous past... one must wonder what it might look like today had it been left alone. However, the blessings of the present state of the area cannot be ignored. It is still a haven for wildlife species and is home to remote lakes, waterfalls, forests, and hiking trails, and unlike its superstar neighbor, the Yosemite Valley, it is full of immaculate peace -- well worth the 38-mile trip from the heart of the park.