To Theodore Roosevelt[Martinez, CaliforniaApril 21, 1908]Dear Mr. President:I am anxious that the Yosemite National Park may be saved from all sorts of commercialism & marks of man's work other than the roads, hotels, etc., required to make its wonders & blessings available. For as far as I have seen there is not in all the wonderful Sierra, or indeed in the world, another so grand & wonderful & useful a block of Nature's mountain handiwork.There is now under consideration, as doubtless you well know, an application of San Francisco Supervisors for the use of Hetch Hetchy Valley & Lake Eleanor as storage reservoirs for a City water supply. This application should I think be denied, especially the Hetch Hetchy part, for this Valley, as you will see by the inclosed discription, is a counterpart of Yosemite, & one of the most sublime & beautiful & important features of the Park, & to dam & submerge it would be hardly less destructive & deplorable in its effects on the Park in general than would be the damming of Yosemite itself. For its falls & groves & delightful camp-grounds are surpassed or equalled only in Yosemite, & furthermore it is the hall of entrance to the grand Tuolumne Canon [diacritic] which opens a wonderful way to the magnificent Tuolumne Meadows, the focus of04151 2pleasure travel in the Park & the grand central camp-ground. If Hetch Hetchy should be submerged, as proposed, to a depth of 175 feet, not only would the Meadows be made utterly inaccessible along the Tuolumne but this glorious canon [diacritic] way to the High Sierra would be blocked.I am heartily in favor of a Sierra or even a Tuolumne water supply for San Francisco, but all the water required can be obtained from sources outside the Park, leaving the twin Valleys, Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite, to the use they were intended for when the Park was established. For every argument advanced for making one into a reservoir would apply with equal force to the other, excepting the cost of the required dam.The few promoters of the present scheme are not unknown around the boundaries of the Park, for some of them have been trying to break through for years. However able they may be as capitalists, engineers, lawyers, or even philanthropists, none of the statements they have made discriptive of Hetch Hetchy dammed or undammed is true, but they all show forth the proud sort of confidence that comes of good, sound, substantial, irrefragable ignorance. For example, the capitalist, Mr James D. Phelan, says "there are a thousand places in the Sierra equally beautiful as Hetch Hetchy; it is inaccessible nine months of the year, & is an unlivable place the other three months because of mosquitoes." On the contrary there is not another of its kind04151 [in margin: From here][in margin: our wild mountain parks are passed on, etc][in margin: to here]these sacred mtn temples are the holiest ground that the heart of man has consecrated & it behooves us all faithfully to do our part in seeing our wild mountain National parks are passed on unspoiled to those who come after us for they are national property in which every man has a right & interest, sacred temples the holiest places the heart of man has consecrated where devout worshipers may get in sight of God. Last Autum Wandering [thru?] the [gards?] & grove of H H with Keith when the leaf colors were ripe & the great living rock [about?] [illegible] rocks [illegible] radiant with life & [illegible] on d[illegible] repose. 3in all the Park excepting Yosemite. It is accessible all the year, & is not more mosquitoeful than Yosemite. "The conversion of Hetch Hetchy into a reservoir will simply mean a lake instead of a meadow." But Hetch Hetchy is not a meadow: it is a Yosemite Valley .... [in margin: Insert here the part marked on back of p.2.] Engineer, Mr Marsden Manson also calls the Valley "a lowlying meadow" "a common minor feature" in no sense a natural curiosity or wonder" & to submerge it "would greatly enhance the beauty of the Park.I pray therefore that the people of California be granted time to be heard before this reservoir question is decided, for I believe that as soon as light is cast upon it, nine tenths or more of even the citizens of San Francisco would be opposed to it. And what the public opinion of the world would be may be guessed by the case of the Niagara Falls.Faithfully & devotedly YoursJM.O for a tranquil camp hour with you like those beneath the Sequoias in memorable 1903.04151
1908 Apr 21
Original letter dimensions: 31.5 x 19.5 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Theodore Roosevelt], 1908 Apr 21." (1908). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 5362.
Reel 17, Image 0427
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