The San Jacinto Mountains are one of the most impressive natural wonders in our entire state. No other mountains on this continent rise so high so fast – in slightly less than seven horizontal miles, the peak rises from 800 to 10,804 feet above sea level!
But these mountains hold another distinction as well. They are the site of two of the greatest engineering accomplishments ever attempted by man.
In this adventure, host Huell Howser first visits the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which takes passengers from the warm desert floor to a snowy alpine environment in a matter of minutes. This tramway which opened in 1963 was constructed on such a sharp slope that it was impossible to build roads, and the only way to construct it was by helicopter. In fact, the construction of the tramway was such an engineering challenge that it has been labeled “the 8th wonder of the world,” and has been designated a historical civil engineering landmark.
Huell continues his adventure by traveling to the base of the San Jacinto Mountains for a journey that is both historic and truly exciting. This trip takes him through a 13-mile tunnel dug through the mountains during the 1930s as part of the Colorado River Aqueduct which brought water to Southern California. This huge and extremely complicated engineering project still ranks as one of the most difficult ever attempted. The 16-foot tall tunnel usually flows with 1.2 billion gallons of water a day, but once every five or ten years the water is cut off for a day or so to allow an inspection. Huell takes advantage of this opportunity to explore the tunnel and also to make some unusual discoveries once inside.
Whether on the top of the mountains on a tram, or under the mountains in a tunnel, Huell discovers that the San Jacinto Mountains are very much a part of California’s Gold.