Kind of Catchy
The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco left the city without power and water. During the rebuilding years a plan was assembled and ultimately passed by Congress in 1913, allowing a dam and reservoir to be built in Yosemite National Park. John Muir led the opposition. The chief engineer designed a railroad and plan for the dam to be built in 3 1/2 years. Named after the engineer, the O Shaughnessy Dam created the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. It took 20 years overall to complete the system of tunnels, pipeline and facilities which now supply electricity and drinking water to 2.5 million people in the San Francisco Bay area.
The hike starts from the dam, where you can see your destination and get your best overall view of Wapama Falls. Wapama are the most powerful and impressive falls in Yosemite and the least crowded. They are made up of three distinct sections with an overall fall of over 1,000 feet. Cross the dam and enter the granite railroad tunnel at the far end. The railroad was last used in 1947. Parts of the old railroad tracks are still used today as guardrails and supports for the trail. The trail is on a steady grade as you work along the lakefront toward the falls. Watch for poison oak which is plentiful along the trail. Deer, bear, lizards and rattlesnakes are also plentiful. The first trail intersection you come to is well marked and be sure to turn right, signed Wapama Falls. The trail gets a little vague to follow as it crosses a section of barren flat granite. There is no use of cairns here, simply aim straight and you pick up a trail in about 300 yards. There are wooden bridges over feeder creeks which undoubtedly have a strong flow of water in the spring. You gain some elevation now and the well constructed trail uses sculpted granite for steps. After a short distance the falls become audible and in a few hundred more yards you get a side profile of the lower falls. Steps now lead you down to the base of the falls. Three section of wooden bridge walkways carry you over the base of the falls. You are going to get wet from the mist and at times the water actually flows over the walkway making it hazardous to continue. The thunderous flow of water is impressive and the views of Hetch Hetchy are awesome. Once you have had your fill return the way you came.
Note: There is a movement by activists to remove the dam and restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.