At least mention Yosemite's high country, Hetch Hetchy

Posted by Mark Grossi on March 14, 2014 

The Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River just downstream from Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. Mount Dana is top center of background.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

This week, news stories about Yosemite National Parks's Tuolumne River Plan talked a lot about parking along Tioga Road, which is sometimes a big hassle in summer.

It's important, but there's so much more to say about the high country and the valley downstream as a reservoir for San Francisco's water. 

The plan itself says plenty. It proposes meadow and river-area restoration, waste-water treatment plant upgrades, camp site relocation away from the river and perhaps moving the Tuolumne Lodge dining hall away from the edge of Dana Fork.

It's no small job to manage the traffic and folks who pass through on Tioga Road, which is the longest trans-Sierra route in this 400-mile-long mountain range.

This area is protected in a national park and under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the National Park Service has a serious responsibility along this river.

But forget the planning jargon and the tour of federal laws. You need to know this river is magnificent.

It starts at both the west slopes of 13,0651-foot Mount Dana and the base of the glacier on 13,120-foot Mount Lyell where fierce blizzards blast in winter.

The forks meet in the midst of stunning views of granite spires and domes. Lakes up here glisten in the summer sun and ripple with afternoon breezes.

You can understand why there's a need for rules up there. People love this place. Let's move on to the largest high-country meadow in the Sierra.

Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet grows on top soil that has been accumulating for 2,000 years, and it helps filter some of the most pristine water you'll find in the Sierra.

That water flows down to Hetch Hetchy Valley to gather behind O'Shaughnessy Dam, which has been a sore spot for environmentalists over the last century. They think the dam should be torn down. San Francisco has been unwilling to part with its Yosemite reservoir.

I'm not unraveling that historic argument, nor am I analyzing the river plan.

But we can't talk about the Tuolumne River in Yosemite without describing this provocative high country. And we must at least mention Hetch Hetchy for those who do want to keep that conversation going.

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