Welcome to San Francisco’s church of H20. A sanctuary to the sea, and an abbey of aqua. The Pulgas Water Temple.
The Beaux-Arts style temple stands alone amid rolling hills on a rural road off 280. It is a monument to a project that dammed a valley near Yosemite National Park and funneled its water to San Francisco residents.
Dubbed the Hetch Hetchy Project after the mountain the water came from and the valley it was dammed in, the engineering feat took more than two decades to construct. By its completion in October 1934, more than 160 miles of complex tunnels and aqueducts used gravity to pipe the water into the bay area. The $102 million project took place during some of the most tumultuous years in the US, as The Great Depression gripped the country.
A tall green fence encloses the Pulgas Water Temple car park, which is only open on weekdays, but a pedestrian gate is open on weekends. Follow the signs for about three minutes and you’ll be standing in front of the temple.
Water runs through an aquaduct under the structure, but before it can get there it travels through miles of tunnels, peripheral dams and reservoirs, hydroelectric power houses and aquaducts, according to the Hetchy Hetchy Water and Power System website.
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