John Muir


John Muir


[Robert Underwood] Johnson


Martinez, California.

Sept. 19/07.

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Here are a few clippings, a confused mess full of concealed motives. Youmay return them when done with them.
The objections to making Hetch Hetchy Valley a reservoir are briefly
(1)That such use would to a great damaging extent defeat the purpose and nullify the effect of the law creating the Park. For Hetch Hetchy is a counterpart of Yosemite, and a great and wonderful feature of the Park, next to Yosemite itself in beauty and grandeaur, visted by thousands even though as yet accessible only by trail.
(2)If dammed as proposed it not only would be made utterly inaccessible,so that no road or trail could be made around the reservoir without tunnelling through rocks like El Capitan and the Cathedral, but it would block and close up the door of the great Tuolumne Canyon, the sublime way to the upper Tuolumne Meadow or valley, the focus of pleasure travel in the High Sierra, and grand central camp-ground of the Park
(3)Because the Park is a natural wonderland belonging to all the world, and should be preserved in pure wildness forever.
(4)Because San Francisco Supervisors and Mr. Phelan want it for a City water-supply, not because it cannot be got elsewhere, but because they expect to get it at less cost. Only Mr. Phelan and his hired assistants and Supervisors demand this use of the Park, not the citizens in general. In all the years


since Mr. Phelan made his first application I have never heard a word on the subject from anyone else, or seen a line in the newspapers from any other citizen, though all of course would be in favor of Sierra water, Marsden Manson and Warren Olney are the noisest pleaders
The specious plea they make that damming Hetch Hetchy would prevent damage to the lowlands during the spring floods is rediculous--not half an inch would the flood waters be lowered.
The plea that the Park water is purer than any outside sources and will for forever be free from contaminating influences all other are exposed to, is not true. On the contrary it is far more liable to contamination from camp sewerage than any other adjacent source, hundreds or thousands camp for months on the Tuolumne Meadows, and soon these will be multiplied ten or a hundred fold by campers and travelers from all the world. And so on with every plea and claim and statement.
Think what a monstrous responsibility is placed on young Garfield, and now heavy must be the load however able and strong he may be, while submerged beneath reservoirs of lies and lopsided truths inextricably mixed--Woe is he andthee and me and all the world's beauty-lovers that such dollar-dotted tangles should approach our sacred Sierra temple, 0 for a touch of Ithuriel's spear to these eloquent water changers--How queer they would look and how facts take to thickest cover.
Does it not seem strange to you that the only parties recognized so far in this great question are the Irrigators and Supervisors--What of those of all the world for whom the Park was created?

Faithfully yours

John Muir



Martinez [Calif.]

Circa Date

[19]07 Sep 19


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 16, Image 1033

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



2 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.