Carved by an ancient glacier and settled by a 6,000 year old native culture, the Hetch Hetchy Valley was flooded by the damming of the Tuolumne River in the early 1900s. Providing high value water and power to the San Francisco Bay area, this gravity system sends 180 billion gallons of water to the city daily, so pure it needs no filtration.
The dam structure itself is startlingly large. Staring down the impressive 400-foot high dam wall is not for the faint of heart. It’s a big drop. So are the waterfalls at Wapama and Rancheria, sending flows down as much as a 1,300-foot tumble that is markedly more dramatic during spring runoff. The power exhibited by the flow commands respect from the first view.
Such water wealth translates to bowers of wildflowers along the banks and meadows, showing off lupine, wallflowers, and buttercups among the gorgeous gray pines. Hikes through the area are magnificent adventures, taking in the flora and fauna with a variety of exertion levels.
Debates are ongoing with regard to the Hetch Hetchy dam and its effect on this lovely valley. Regardless, the area’s pristine beauty remains a draw for hikers, photographers, and artists, providing a majestic landscape with multiple uses.