The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism

By Robert W. Righter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

The Uses of the Valley

"We lay by the fire and revealed our inmost selves…
until we were overcome by sleep."

ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON

"IMAGINE YOURSELF in Hetch Hetchy," wrote John Muir. "It is a bright day in June; the air is drowsy with flies; the pines sway dreamily, and you are sunk, shoulder-deep, in grasses and flowers."1 These are the words Muir penned to describe his first visit to the enchanted valley. Alone, he sauntered up and down, east and west, describing cliffs, waterfalls, and various wonders. From this 1871 exploration he seemed to bond with the valley, and his rhapsodic prose reflected his infatuation. Freed from the tame, rolling hills of his Wisconsin youth, Muir exulted in vertical landscape, in high mountain meadows, in granite, in ancient redwoods, and the exuberance of sparkling waterfalls. Yosemite Valley often claimed his attention and passion, but the Hetch Hetchy Valley, a geological replica, did not suffer Muir's neglect. The valley represented all that he loved, and it would never be far from his thoughts until his death in 1914.

Muir delighted not only in Hetch Hetchy's grandeur but also in its geology, and this dual interest reminds us that humans used the Hetch Hetchy Valley in different ways. The Central Miwok and Paiute Indians tribes certainly altered the landscape, while European American miners fervently wished to do so on a larger scale. Sheepherders with their flocks changed the nature of the valley grasses and ferns. Writers and artists, such as Muir and Albert Bierstadt, recorded their impressions, but their enthusiasm also represented change through visitation. The nineteenth-century story of Hetch

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The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Hetch Hetchy Harriet Monroe vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Hetch Hetchy Chronology xv
  • Cast of Characters xvii
  • List of Illustrations xxi
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Uses of the Valley 11
  • Chapter 2 - The Imperial City and Water 29
  • Chapter 3 - Water, Earthquake, and Fire 45
  • Chapter 4 - Two Views of One Valley 66
  • Chapter 5 - San Francisco to [Show Cause] 96
  • Chapter 6 - Congress Decides 117
  • Chapter 7 - To Build a Dam 134
  • Chapter 8 - The Power Controversy 167
  • Chapter 9 - The Legacies of Hetch Hetchy 191
  • Chapter 10 - Restoration 216
  • Afterword 242
  • Notes 245
  • Index 279
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