Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam

 Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam

Water views of the Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam

Hetch Hetchy valley

It must have been amazing to see the Hetch Hetchy Valley in its unspoiled and natural state prior prior to it being dammed up as a reservoir to fill the water needs of the Bay Area and San Francisco. Below is a beautiful black and white photograph taken of the valley prior to the the dam project being started in 1914, quite stunning isn’t it?




Hetch Hetchy Valley image in public domain prior to Jan 21, 1923


Visiting the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam for the first time was an unexpected treat seeing that this place has always been on my radar, but never convenient time-wise when visiting Yosemite. It’s always never enough time visiting Yosemite which is always the key destination, so there is never any time left for a detour to this sister valley, which is just a short drive and along the way back to the Bay Area.

Upon visiting the site for the first time, I’m pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it is despite the fact that the main granite formations of Kolana Rock and Hetch Hetchy Dome are mostly buried in the dammed portion of the reservoir. Still, it is quite dramatic and the walk through the dam is easy and gives different vistas to the reservoir and the valley floor on the other side of the dam.

Water views of the Hetch Hetchy

A clear blue sky day at Hetch Hetchy reservoir


The Hetchy Hetchy reservoir and dam had a controversial history with its completion of the O’Shaunessy dam in 1923 to supply San Francisco and it’s municipalities. Until present day, it is still contested and many actions are ongoing to try to return this magnificent valley back to its original state. There are many efforts from conservation groups but is quite an uphill battle involving many municipalities, cities and water rights advocates who need the water. Currently, this case has reached a recent judgement of the efforts to revert the site. This is the start of a series of posts covering my favorite park in California, Yosemite Valley, here’s the next post if you would like to continue reading the series.

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27 Responses to Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam

  1. Jana Last August 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Beautiful photo! I’ve visited Yosemite before, but never Hetch Hetchy. And thanks for sharing the photo of what the valley looked like before it became a reservoir. It looks like it was quite a lovely place.

  2. Lisa Wood August 16, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Never realised that the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Dam had such a colourful history – what happens with the next step of the court case?
    Sometimes things change for the better, other times they need to be left alone to let nature takes its course. Sure looks like a very pretty place to visit.

    • Noel August 17, 2013 at 4:21 am #

      Hi Lisa, nowadays water is like gold to many municipalities so it will be difficult battle, it is beautiful still in its current state

  3. Dick Jordan August 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I’ve been to Yosemite many times since my first trip in 1968, but never to Hetch Hetchy.

  4. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} August 16, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    I like that name. When valleys get filled with water like this, I always wonder about the families who were displaced. I guess they’re probably the ones doing the contesting. The lake near my Texas home is actually a dammed up portion of the Colorado River. Interesting things float to the surface sometimes.

  5. Mary {The World Is A Book} August 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I have visited Yosemite a few times but always from Southern California so we’ve never passed by here. What a beautiful area. It looks so serene.

  6. Leigh McAdam (@hikebiketravel) August 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    I think it was more beautiful before it was dammed but no matter what the area looks amazing. I have yet to visit Yosemite.

  7. Marisol@TravelingSolemates August 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Wow!! When I saw the first photo I thought “Oh how beautiful.” Then I saw how it was as a valley. What a sight! It blows my mind to think how they filled it up with water.
    It’s interesting that after all these years the damming of the valley is being contested. As beautiful as the valley was, I would let it remain as a dam if it is of great benefit to the area. At this point, it is what it is. But I would not let any existing valley to be turned into dam today. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  8. InsideJourneys August 15, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I’ve never heard of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir before.
    It’s beautiful, it’s too bad the valley had to be lost. It must have been a hard call to have to make.

  9. muzachan August 15, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Great photos 🙂

  10. Lisa @ Raising Explorers August 15, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    A beautiful place, although I agree it was probably more beautiful before it was flooded. Would have liked to see that in colour, I’m guessing it would have been amazing.

  11. Nora August 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Exquisite captures, Noel!

    Yes, I’d love to join yr Monday meme whenever I post travel shots (not this week unfortunately!)

    PS Love Hawaii – super location!

  12. Nora August 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Exquisite captures, Noel!

    Thanks for stopping by – and yes, I’d love to join your Monday meme whenever I post travel shots (which isn’t this week unfortunately!)

    PS Love Hawaii – beautiful location!

    • Noel August 15, 2013 at 5:01 am #

      Thanks Nora

      I look forward to your participation, thanks

  13. Kim,USA August 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    It is very beautiful! I see in the old photo two water falls and I see one in the first photo. I hope these falls are being preserved too.

    Thank you for joining Water World Wednesday

  14. Joyce August 14, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Such beauty in our World-it is interesting to see prior to the dam and after-both are magnificent in their own way. This area reminds just a bit of Palisades Lake-a gorgeous
    man-made lake in Idaho. The dam was created to provide the upper snake river valley with water for irrigation.
    Thank you for sharing!

  15. Jane F August 14, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Noel, those photos are magnificent. And I love to see the comparison from early in the last century. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jane

  16. Melanie August 14, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    How beautiful! That must have been an awesome experience to shoot these lovely photographs!

  17. Sara Chapman in Seattle USA August 14, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    This is beautiful and I appreciate the old photo very much. Even though I lived in the SF bay area for many years, I never saw this place. I have to say that both dammed and pre-dammed are beautiful landscapes.

  18. Indrani August 14, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Wonderful views. Great to know of this.

  19. Judy August 14, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Beautiful images, Noel. I can remember my grandfather mentioning some of the problems of the dam in the early years. I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, but have never been there..Happy Wednesday..Judy

  20. Lea August 14, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    Both the before and after views are beautiful
    Have a wonderful day!
    Lea’s Menagerie

  21. artmusedog and carol August 14, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Wow! What a vista before and after the ‘dam up’ ~ Wonderful photography ~ thanks, carol, xo

  22. Irene August 14, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    The air looks as clear as the water!

  23. Marilyn Armstrong August 13, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    So gorgeous. Bet the wild fowl love it.


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I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

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