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

By Robert W. Righter | Go to book overview

Afterword

IN JULY 2003 three friends and I hiked from Tuolumne Meadows to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, ending our seven-day odyssey at the O'Shaughnessy Dam. The trail works its way down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River to Pate Valley, then swings up Piute Creek to Pleasant Valley, tops out at Rancheria Mountain, and then descends in a long rollercoaster walk to Rancheria Falls and the reservoir.

Of course, we talked rather endlessly about Hetch Hetchy, as we descended some 4,000 feet along the Tuolumne River, a stream that rarely pauses from its wild rush down the canyon. For 20 miles we exulted in white water rushing over polished granite on its way to the sea. One of our party brought along a copy of Wallace Stegner's brief essay The Sound of Mountain Water and read a portion as we paused on a glistening granite slab to view LeConte Falls:

By such a river it is impossible to believe that one will ever be tired or
old. Every sense applauds it. Taste it, feel its chill on the teeth: it is pu-
rity absolute. Watch its racing current, its steady renewal of force: it is
transient and eternal.1

Of course, the Tuolumne River water, like most California streams, is consumed by our insatiable thirst well before it reaches the sea, its natural destination. But the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is a magnificent slice of nature. It features not only rushing water and occasional deep green pools but polished granite everywhere, the result of glacial action thousands of years ago. The slopes, cliffs, and domes reflect light, and if John Muir had not called it "The Range of Light" over a hundred years ago, we would have come up with the description ourselves. Many years ago Muir, who surely

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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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