Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Pull back the curtains of history to find out how Yosemite came to be. 

By the time preservationist John Muir visited Yosemite in 1868, artists had already captured the beauty of the area, captivating the nation’s imagination. And before them, people had been living in the park for more than 4,000 years. In fact, the last Miwok village in the park was demolished in 1969. That’s 79 years after Yosemite became a national park.

While more than 5 million people visited the park last year, there's an unusual sight tucked in the northwest corner that less than 1 percent of all Yosemite visitors see. Amid towering granite domes lies the 8-mile-long Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. It's liquid gold, supplying more than 2.4 million San Francisco area residents with water.

But it also sparked one of the first national conversations on valuing wilderness over development in the early 1900s. Muir and others argued a San Francisco water source should be built outside the park. In 1913 Congress approved the dam construction. Muir died a year later of pneumonia, but the loss of Hetch Hetchy Valley echoed profoundly in his heart. He wrote, “The destruction of the charming groves and gardens, the finest in all California, goes to my heart.”

Today, if you visit the Hetch Hetchy area in Yosemite, you’ll feel the same wonder Muir felt more than 100 years ago, even with the reservoir. Away from the crowds, it’s the park’s best kept-secret.  

Bighorn Sheep released in Yosemite. Photo courtesy of the Yosemite Conservancy Steve Bumgardner

Bighorn Return to Yosemite by Helicopter

March 2015, nine ewes (females) and three rams (males) were moved from the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park.

Red Legged Frog

Bringing Back the Frogs of Yosemite

In John Muir's day, thousands of frogs jumped about the rivers and alpine lakes of the park. Read about the reintroduction and habitat restoration efforts.


Keeping Yosemite Park's Air Clean

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Crossing a creek on a log

Leave No Trace in Yosemite

Even if you live by the phrase “take only photos; leave only footprints” when you’re outdoors, it still might seem counterintuitive to pack out food scraps and toilet paper.

Black bear eating berries

Tracking Bear Movement in Yosemite

With funding from the Yosemite Conservancy, the National Park Service was able to upgrade their bear tracking collars from radio telemetry to GPS which has an unlimited range and is more accurate.