For the Teacher

Unit Objectives
  • Describe and classify American attitudes about the natural environment leading up to the Hetch Hetchy controversy.
  • Compare and contrast the geology and geography of the Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Valleys
  • Describe the early history of the Hetch Hetchy Valley and the efforts by the city of San Francisco to acquire rights to dam the valley.
  • Explain arguments for and against damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley raised around the time of the Raker Act.
  • Analyze evidence on both sides of the decision to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
  • Analyze and defend removing or retaining the dam at Hetch Hetchy today.
Related National Standards
Common Core standards apply to the activities in this unit.
Identify those that are appropriate to the particular materials you select to use
from this set of history related standards compiled as part of the
American Social History Project City University of New York.

Common Core

GIS Activities

GIS investigations are part of many of the activities in this unit. These investigations make use of ArcGIS Online, an internet software that runs on most browsers. If you do not have an an ArcGIS account and would like to have one you can sign up for a free personal account here.

The Hetch Hetchy Project files are also available to download for ArcGIS Desktop:

Download Hetch Hetchy Project Data
(large file)

The data and shapefiles in the various map layers are from a variety of sources:

California State & County Level Data

California state and county shape files including hydro, imagery, and base map data from the Cal-Atlas Geospatial Clearinghouse

San Francisco Water Options 1912

John R. Freeman, The Hetch Hetchy Water Supply for San Francisco, 1912, San Francisco: Rincon Publishing Company, 1912.

U.S. Congress, House of Representatives Committee on Public Lands, "Report on San Francisco and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir," 1909

San Francisco Public Utility Commission Pipelines & Tunnels, Power Plants, Water Treatment Plants, and Dams

San Francisco Public Utility Commission web site.

Environmental Defense Fund, Paradise Regained: The Hetch Hetchy Report, 2004.

California Departments of Water Resources and Parks & Recreation, Hetch Hetchy Restoration Study, 2006.

Yosemite Boundary File

Boundary of Yosemite National Park, California,” available from the National Park Service Geography and Mapping Technologies, Geographic Information Systems web page.

Yosemite Area

clipped from “30m Color Hillshade of California,” available from Cal-Atlas Geospatial Clearinghouse

Yosemite Topographic Map

Topographic map of Yosemite National Park, California / from Geological Survey maps surveyed between 1893 and 1909,” available from the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.

Additional Resources

Students and teachers wishing to learn more about Hetch Hetchy may want to read the following:

Robert W. Righter, The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Yosemite Online Library

The Yosemite Online Library contains an extensive collection of books and other writings about Yosemite National Park and Hetch Hetchy

Library of Congress: American Memory Collection

Search the American Memory Collection for resources on Yosemite National Park including Hetch Hetchy.


    Your comments and suggestion about these materials are more than welcome.

    If you have ideas for additional topics that would lend themselves to the approach taken here, please pass them along. I'd enjoy collaborating with you.

Last modified in June, 2019 by Rick Thomas