Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite’s Secret Treasure

People listening to a ranger at the Oshanasee Damn at Hetch Hetchy

Visit California’s Gold Country group visits Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Groveland, Calif. Friday, June 7, 2019.

Yosemite National Park is roughly divided into 5 areas (Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, Wawona and Glacier Point).  The Hetch Hetchy area is in the northwestern part of Yosemite and has its own entrance gate.  Because it’s a bit off the beaten path, this rich area is often missed by first time visitors to Yosemite.  Visitors who discover Hetch Hetchy are treated to amazing views and American history all in one place.  In the early 1870 John Muir called the Hetch Hetchy valley “a wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite.”  Despite Muir’s attempts to preserve its natural beauty, Hetch Hetchy’s commercial value won out and in 1913 Congress passed the Raker Act authorizing the construction of the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley as well as another dam at Lake Eleanor.   Today the 117-billion-gallon Hetch Hetchy reservoir supplies drinking water to 2.4 million Bay Area residents.  It also supplies hydro-electric power generated by two plants downstream.

Hetch Hetchy offers one of Yosemite National Park’s longest hiking seasons because it is lower than much of the rest of Yosemite.  From gentle, scenic paths to challenging treks, Hetch Hetchy offers a hike for everyone. 

In spring, visitors can see two of America’s tallest waterfalls (Wapama Falls and Tueeulala Falls) crashing to the rocks at their bases.  From spring through late fall, visitors have easy access to a vast wilderness filled with lakes, streams, flowers and wildlife.  Because Hetch Hetchy is a less well-known area of Yosemite, it is less crowded in the summer when crowds fill the Yosemite Valley.  Even in winter, adventurous visitors can explore on skis or snowshoes.

The Hetch Hetchy Valley has been inhabited for more than 6,000 years.  The Miwok people were living there when the first Euro-Americans came looking for gold and a place to graze livestock. The valley’s name is believed to be derived from the Miwok word, hatchhatchie, which means “edible grasses.”

Swimming and boating are prohibited in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in order to maintain a clean source of drinking water. Dogs and other pets are prohibited on all trails and on the dam. Wild animals are threatened by domestic animals in their territory and may endanger your pets. Dogs are allowed in the parking area but must be leashed at all times.

Fishing – The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir also offers year-round fishing.  A valid California fishing license is required. Daily bag limit is five per day and ten in possession.

You will not be sorry you took the time to explore Hetch Hetchy.

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