"Hetch Hetchy is almost an exact counterpart of the Yosemite. It is not quite as grand a scale as that valley; but if there were no Yosemite, the Hetch Hetchy would be fairly entitled to a world-wide fame; and, in spite of the superior attractions of the Yosemite, a visit to its counterpart may be recommended, if it be only to see how curiously nature has repeated herself." --Josiah D. Whitney
If there were no Yosemite, there would probably still be a National Park in the central Sierras, but it would be called Hetch Hetchy National Park, not Yosemite National Park. Though, as Whitney says, Hetch Hetchy is not on quite the grand scale of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy has a beauty and power all its own, and is second only to Yosemite in grandeur. And were there no Yosemite, there is little doubt that anyone could have conceived of any justification for damming the valley. It is, perhaps, a symptom of excess riches that we could have even considered throwing away the second greatest jewel in the Sierran crown. Certainly, anyone who visits Hetch Hetchy is dumbfounded that the beauty of this valley was expendable for a mere reservoir, particularly given the many other choices available.
Even with the dam, Hetch Hetchy has not lost all its beauty, and it could be argued that the dam has at least kept the throngs of tourists from descending upon the valley as they do Yosemite. Still, when you look at the pre-dam images of the valley, it is difficult not to mourn the loss of Hetch Hetchy's meadows.
For more information on Hetch Hetchy, visit the Restore Hetch Hetchy website.