"Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man." ~ John Muir
Hetch Hetchy is one of the most intensely argued over valleys in the western United States. Carved out by massive glaciers, shared for thousands of years by Paiute and Miwok indigenous communities, it was considered protected until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and over the objections of John Muir, the city secured the rights to dam this gorgeous basin.
First, we explore the marshes, creeks, and open bay that still flow underneath a good amount of city. If there are underground cisterns near your neighborhood, or a spot to bear witness to what waters flow near your home, we'll spend some morning time exploring those together.
Next, we'll journey about 45 mins south to the Pulgas Water Temple built in the 1930s, where the Hetch Hetchy Aquaduct from the Sierra Mountain reservoir 160 miles away within Yosemite National Park terminates and San Francisco's drinking water arrives in the Bay Area.
Traveling over the bay and towards the mountains, we'll stop at two spots along the flat agricultural valley to make acquaintance with the river. The Tuolumne River Regional Park next to the Modesto Airport, near the confluence where the Lower Tuolumne River joins the San Joaquin River, a lesson in urban/suburban planning. Then for lunch we'll stop at the Nowhere in Particular - Home of the Catfish restaurant/bar near the Tuolumne in Waterford.
From there we travel to the Moccasin Powerhouse and Fish Hatchery at the top of the Don Pedro Reservoir, the largest reservoir on the Tuolumne River, and the beginning of the Aquaduct's gravity fed journey downhill all the way back to the Pulgas Water Temple.
By this point it will feel especially refreshing arriving at our next spot, the Rainbow Falls and Pool Swim Spot, at 2,818 ft above sea level.
After cooling off, it's another half hour to our camp up at 4,422 ft, nestled along the banks of the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne. During the winter we may camp at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir herself. Offering fresh organic farmer's market sourced food and stories around the campfire, as well as night photography by the river, warm breakfast in the morning, as well as solo time with the river.
In the morning we will explore the reservoir, across O'Shaughnessy Dam above the curiously named Poopenaut Valley, and if weather and group considerations permitting, check out Wapama Falls and Tueeulala Falls, both among the tallest waterfalls in North America.