Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Friday I drove back to Yosemite National Park one last time, with the intention of seeing three things I hadn’t been to yet.  One was the Ahwahnee Hotel (which now has a different name due to legal issues) which is the largest hotel in the Yosemite Valley.  The main reason I wanted to see it was that the lobby and interior was the inspiration for the set constructed for the original movie “The Shining,” starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.  When I visited the two hotels (one in Oregon and the other in Colorado) which had been used for exterior scenes last year I did some research before posting those photos to the blog and thought I had read that the Ahwahnee had burned, but it is quite intact.  Well, because of a later than expected start Friday, and noticeably more traffic in the Park, I decided not to go and may post pictures I can find online later.

The second thing I wanted to do was exit the Park on Route 140 and drive south, through the little town of El Portal and continue down to Mariposa.  Well, El Portal was not exactly what I had been led to believe it was (a quaint little mountain town) and I only drove about 12 miles south before deciding that the scenery was not unlike something I could see in the mountains of North Carolina, so I turned around and went back into the Park.

Item 3 – I then turned left and exited the Park on the road I had been using most of the week and drove a short distance where I turned right on the road to Hetch Hetchy, a 16-mile road which ends at the reservoir.  About 2/3 of the way up that road I entered the Park again (my mother would say “make up your mind, are you in or out??”) and was rewarded with some magnificent scenery.  While the forest along much of the road up to Hetch Hetchy had burned years ago the reservoir area itself was worth the trip.

The reservoir was created by the construction of the O’Shaughnessy Dam, named for the engineer who designed it and supervised it’s construction, and sadly died just 12 days before the public dedication. After the devastating earthquake in 1906 which destroyed the water system in San Francisco (along with much of the city) a plan was devised, after heated debate with conservationists who wanted to preserve the natural beauty of the valley, to construct this dam and create a reservoir to provide water to the San Francisco Bay area.

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It took 20 years to design and build a series of pipes and tunnels to transport water from here, west to San Francisco – a distance of 167 miles.  The system was designed to transport the water completely by the force of gravity, and no pumps are utilized!

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Some of the water is released downstream by a series of gates, located to the right of the dam as seen in the photo above.

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This, then, creates a series of small waterfalls on the “dry” side of the dam.

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Though the bulk of the water released through the dam is by way of a large jet of water which crashes against a rock wall before falling into what is now the Touloumne River, headed for the coast.

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The dam itself creates the huge Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

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And although it is hard to spot in the photo above there are normally two waterfalls a little left of the center of the photo above (only one the day I was there).  The one which is flowing is the Wapama Fall, down near the water’s surface.

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Earlier in the year, when there is more snowmelt, there is a much higher fall, the Tueeulala, which drops from the top of the high point just left of Wapama Fall, but there was no water falling from there on Friday.

After walking across the dam I went through a short tunnel…

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… and got to see another perspective of the reservoir.

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This was a great way to finish my time on Yosemite.