Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hiking in Beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley, 5/06/2016

Today we visited the northwest Hetch Hetchy portion of Yosemite National Park to see the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley formed by the Tuolumne River.

As with Yosemite Valley, it is a u-shaped canyon with peaceful meadows and dramatic granite cliffs created by glaciers moving through the canyon. 

The catastrophic 1906 earthquake in San Francisco basically destroyed the city water supply and fires burned for days. City leaders searched for a reliable water source. After great national debate about building a reservoir in a national park, permission was granted to use public lands to build what became known as the Hetch Hetchy Water & Power Plant

The O'Shaughnessy Dam was built creating the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir between 1915 and 1922 with additional improvements made in subsequent years

Today, the Hetch Hetchy Resevoir provides water to more than 2.4M people (85% of water for San Francisco and for several smaller towns) as well as clean, renewable hydropower (that would equal 39M gallons of oil annually). The water is delivered most of the way (167 miles) by gravity. 

Both the city of San Francisco and the National Park Service share responsibility for protection of the natural resources and water quality of the 460-square-mile Hetch Hetchy watershed. 

But what immediately caught my eye when we were walking across the dam was that amazing waterfall in the distance. There are 287-miles of trail in the Hetch Hetchy watershed, and the Wapama Falls are about a 3-mile hike each way from O'Shaughnessy Dam. Foot traffic only is permitted over the dam to a tunnel (built for the railroad). This is the location for many trail heads into the Wilderness. We took the Hetch Hetchy Trail along the banks of the reservoir to the waterfalls. 

The views of reservoir and Kolana Rock are spectacular from every angle along the trail. We heard woodpeckers in the woods and finally saw this beauty. Various spring wild flowers were in bloom, too. 

We came to Tueeulala Falls that was just a trickle when we visited. The water drops about 1,000' from the cliffs above and crosses over flat rocks to the reservoir below. 

As we continued along the trail, we got a glimpse of the huge Wapama Falls, spurring us on to reach our destination! The trail is well maintained but very rocky in places with lots of up and down terrain.

When we arrived at the base of the Wapama Falls we were amazed at the volume of water that was pouring down the cliffs. There are 6 bridges that provide amazing views of all of the places where water appears to be spurting out of the rocks. It was awesome and well worth the 3 mile hike to reach this point.

The trail continues for miles into the Wilderness, but we headed back to O'Shaughnessy Dam.  

Along the way we came across this interesting little fellow. I did some research but did not ascertain what type of lizard this is. 

After being cloudy all day, the sun came out providing a glorious view of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Kolana Rock (right). 

By the time we reached the dam, the clouds had returned. 

We loved this hike and there were very few people here, especially when compared to busy Yosemite Valley. Our only issue was that we could not bring our dog, Sadie, with us on the trail as the area is Wilderness (and pets are not allowed in those areas of the park). 

For additional information about Hetch Hetchy Valley, go to the Yosemite website.

Website:  www.nps.gov/Yose

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