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The Tuolumne River ( "To All o' Me", with a silent N) in the U.S. state of Californiamarker flows nearly from the central Sierra Nevada into the San Joaquin River in the Central Valleymarker. Beginning at almost in elevation in Yosemite National Parkmarker, the river flows west through deep canyons before spilling into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and being impounded in Don Pedro Reservoirmarker. From Don Pedro Lake, the river flows through farmland in the Central Valley before finally terminating near Modestomarker. The San Joaquin then flows about further to its mouth in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltamarker.

Slightly larger than its counterpart in the south, the Merced River, the Tuolumne River's upper watershed was shaped by glaciations in the previous Ice Age, which produced Hetch Hetchy Valleymarker and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumnemarker. The river has been a source of controversy for many years, especially from Hetch Hetchy Valley. Much of its water is now diverted to San Franciscomarker from Hetch Hetchy Reservoirmarker, which fills the valley in the Sierra Nevada once compared to famous Yosemite Valleymarker. More water is diverted from Don Pedro Lake to irrigate farmland in the Central Valley, which leaves the lower course of the river almost dry. Despite these extensive water system developments, the Tuolumne is still a popular area in Yosemite National Park, although far less visited than the Merced River.

Course

The Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River
Tuolumne Meadows and the Tuolumne River from the west
South Fork of the Tuolumne
Don Pedro Reservoir


From its headwaters at 13,114 feet (3,997 m) above sea level at Mount Lyellmarker ( ), the Tuolumne River runs as a somewhat wavy line from east to west. Its waters drain into the San Joaquin River, eventually reaching the Pacific Oceanmarker via the San Joaquin Deltamarker and San Francisco Baymarker. The Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River flows from Mount Danamarker and meets the Lyell Fork descending from Mount Lyellmarker in Tuolumne Meadowsmarker, just west of the Sierra Nevada's main divide. As the river runs west, its course deepens markedly as it drops over the first of a string of many waterfalls.

Glen Aulinmarker (Gaelic: beautiful valley) lies immediately below the confluence of Cold Canyon, Conness Creek, and the Tuolumne River. Here, the valley walls pull away from each other and become steeper. The riverbed is quite level; the water meanders and forms deep pools. Just northwest of Glen Aulin, the River presents spectacular waterfalls, including LeConte Falls and Waterwheel Falls, both known for the "waterwheel" phenomenon whereby descending water hits rocks below and wheels back upward.

At this point, the Tuolumne enters the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumnemarker. This canyon is a deep, roughly 'V'-shaped gorge. The walls, not as steep and bare as those of Yosemite Valleymarker, are sculpted in an almost Baroque richness of form. The flora of the valley bottom is a haphazard melange of chaparral, manzanita scrub and oak woodland characteristic of the foothills and lowlands with a coniferous forest reminiscent of (but different from) that found above the canyon rim. This vegetation clings and clambers up every ledge of the valley walls to the top, giving it a lusher appearance than Yosemite Valley, though this area in fact experiences a drier climate.

Below the Grand Canyon lies Hetch Hetchy Valleymarker. The river bottom flattens again, and the canyon walls pull away and become steeper, in a fashion similar to that of Yosemite Valleymarker; this valley was once perhaps the most spectacular part of the Tuolumne's course. However, at the bottom of Hetch Hetchy Valley stands O'Shaughnessy Dammarker, which floods the entire valley under the Hetch Hetchy Reservoirmarker. Before the river leaves the dam, Falls Creek, Tiltill Creek and Rancheria Creek enter from the right. Below the dam, the river flows through the Stanislaus National Forestmarker, within which it is joined by Cherry Creek, the South Fork of the Tuolumne River, and the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne River. Far below the town of Groveland, the river is designated Wild and Scenic. This portion is popular for rafting and kayaking and is joined by the Clavey River.

Still farther downstream lie Don Pedro Dam and Lake Don Pedromarker. These reservoirs provide electricity and divert water to serve farms in the Modesto Irrigation District and Turlock Irrigation District, and cities in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker.

Towns along the Tuolumne River:

Cities along the Tuolumne River:

The Modesto Airportmarker lies next to the Tuolumne River. Between the airport and the river lies Veterans' Park. This park is the site of the annual Trans-Valley League high-school cross country running meet.

History

The Native Americans along the Tuolumne were the Paiutes and Miwoks. The Miwoks lived along the western part of the Tuolumne from Big Oak Flat down to the valley floor, while the Paiutes camped primarily east of that point towards the high Sierra Nevada. The Washoe Indians also visited the area.

See also



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