History & General Information

Early History: There has been people living in the Hetch Hetchy valley for more than 6,000 years.  American indians were prominent before the 1850’s when the first european americans came looking for gold and a place to graze livestock.  The name Hetch Hetchy comes from the Miwok word, hatchhatchie, this means “edible grasses”.  Many Miwok names are still used in the park, including Tueeulala Fall, Wapama Fall, and Kolana Rock. The first inhabitants depended on the natural resources of the lands.  They were hunter-gatherers, as they would gather seeds, plants,they would hunt and trade.

Modern History: Even as early as 1882, Hetch Hetchy valley had been considered a potential site for a new reservoir.  John Muir wanted the valley to remain untouched.  Muir and his followers launched a campaign to praise the beauty of Hetch Hetchy.  Around the early 1900’s Americans viewed wilderness as something to conquer ans natural resources as infinite.  There were many dam supporters who were convinced that a reservoir could offer tremendous social and economical benefits.  Around this time San Francisco was facing a terrible water and power shortages.  They were in need of water and power because in 1906 the big earthquake and fire devastated San Francisco.  The big earthquake urged to look for a new water supply.  In 1913 Congress passed an act known as the Raker Act.  This act authorizes the construction of a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley as well as another dam in Lake Eleanor.  The first phase of the O’Shaugnessy was completed in 1923, and the final phase completed in 1938.  Today the 117-billion gallon reservoir supplies drinking water to 2.4 million bay area residents.  The Hetch Hetchy reservoir is 8 miles long and the largest single body of water in all of Yosemite National Park.

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