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FACTS ABOUT LAKE BERRYESSA AND MONTICELLO DAM

The Monticello Dam, which holds back Lake Berryessa, features a morning glory spillway. This type of spillway is basically a giant cement funnel. Rather than spilling over the dam, high waters spill into the funnel. Morning glory spillways are also known as bell-mouth spillways.

When and if the water level of the lake rises to 15 1/2 feet over the top of the Glory hole (its maximum design), it will release 48,400 cubic feet per second, or in layman’s terms 362,000 gallons every 1 second.

First, a little information on the Monticello dam and Lake Berryessa, California. The construction of the dam started in 1953. It was in 1957 that it dam was completed. The height of the dam is 304 feet, and its length at the top is 1,023 feet.

The Monticello dam creates a beautiful lake cut out of a wilderness. Lake Berryessa is located about 60 miles north of San Fransisco. The lake covers  20,700 acres, and has 165 miles of shoreline. When full, its capacity is 1,600,000 acre feet. ( And it just might hold the biggest bass in Northern Ca.! )

The Glory hole is a non- regulated spillway settled at the The Monticello Dam, which is located about 200 feet behind the dam. The outside diameter of the Glory hole is 72 feet. The hole in the center tapers down to no less than 28 feet. The crest of the Glory hole sits 16 feet lower than the crest of the dam.

Lake Barryessa Facts And History:

 Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County California This reservoir is formed by the Monticello Dam which provides water and hydroelecticity to the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The lake was named for the first European settlers in the Berryessa Valley, José Jesús and Sexto “Sisto” in Berrelleza who were granted Rancho Las Putasin 1843.

Prior to its inundation, the valley was an agricultural region, whose soils were considered among the finest in the country. The main town in the valley, Monticello was abandoned in order to construct the reservoir. This abandonment was chronicled by the photographers Dorthea Lang and Pirkle Jones in their book Death of a Valley. Construction of Monticello Dam was begun in 1953, completed in 1958, and the reservoir filled by 1963, creating what at the time was the second-largest reservoir in California after Shasta Lake The Monticello Dam with Lake Berryessa, Putah Diversion Dam with Lake Solano, and associated water distribution systems and lands are known collectively as the Solano Project, which is distinct from other federal water projects in California such as the Central Valley Project.

The lake has been heavily used for recreational purposes and encompases over 20,000 acres (80 km²) when full. The reservoir is approximately 15.5 miles (25 km) long, but only 3 miles (5 km) wide. It has approximately 165 miles (265 km) of shoreline. It has a seaplane landing area that is open to the public. One of the larger islands supported a small plane landing area, but was closed in the early 1970s after the FAA issued a safety report. Near the dam on the southeast side of the reservoir is an open bell-mouth spillway 72 feet (22 m) in diameter.

THE SURROUNDING LANDSCAPE IS ROUGH WITH A CEDAR FOREST:

Adjoining the Lake Berryessa Recreational Area camping facility is covered with rough cedar wilderness. The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2006 designated 6,350 acres located 1.8 miles past the Pope Creek bridge on the Pope Creek arm of Lake Berryessa. The wilderness can be accessed by car or boat, although there are no maintained trails. Hiking can be difficult and even dangerous without an experienced guide as more than half of the wilderness consists of Sargent’s cypress, which covers 3,000 acres and is relatively raw and pure genetically.

RECREATION AT LAKE BERRYESSA:

Popular activities include fishing, waterskiing, jet skiing, pleasure boating, kayaking and canoeing, hiking, road bicycling, motorcycle pleasure biking, birding, wildlife observation, picnicking, and swimming.

Lake Berryessa is a swimming and water skiing site for enthusiasts. The narrow portion of the reservoir, nearest to the Monticello Dam, is referred to as the “Narrows,” and is sometimes busy with boaters on holidays and weekends.

There are several resorts with marinas at the lake, as well as nearby Lake Solano County Park located west of Winters California. Day use areas include Oak Shores and Smittle Creek. There are swimming areas closed to boats and other watercraft, as well as several hiking trails.

Lakeshore lands, facilities, and concessions in Napa County are managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. However, five of the seven resort concessions that expired in 2009 have not yet become fully operational. Based on rules against exclusive occupancy of federal recreation lands, about 1,300 long-term resident trailers were removed from the resorts when the 50-year concession contracts expired.

Go check out this successful engineering marvel. Davis resident should drive out to see the massive dam. However, if you want to see the glory hole in action (with high water), make sure to visit after a lot of rain during winter months. You can check the conditions at the Solano County Water Agency website and like it’s on a clock the lake spills at 439.74 feet.

WHERE IS IT?

The Glory Hole is the spillway pipe for the Monticello Dam. The dam holds back a large freshwater reservoir called Lake Berryessa. Lake Berryessa is located about an hour and a half’s drive north of San Francisco, California.

DIRECTIONS:

Drive west on Covell Boulevard or Russell Boulevard. (After becoming County Road 93A, Covell eventually meets up with Russell.) In Winters, Russell becomes 128, which will take you to the top of Monticello Dam. There’s a turn out right at the top of the dam where you can safely park. From Davis, it’s about a half hour drive. Alternatively, you can bike up to the dam.

HOW DO YOU GET THERE?

From San Francisco, take Interstate 80 northbound. Continue north out of the immediate bay area, and head toward Vacaville. Just as you’re passing through Vacaville, keep your eyes peeled for the Highway 505/Winters exit. Take that exit northbound. From Highway 505, take the Winters exit. Winters is a small farming community. It’s a few miles west of Highway 505. It’s about 15 miles due west of Davis, California (there’s a large university in Davis, and it has some pretty good skateshops). Anyway, the last time I was there, there were no stoplights in Winters (that’s how small it was). The main road from Highway 505 through Winters is Highway 128. It goes from Winters, up beyond Lake Berryessa, and eventually dumps you into Napa, California.

From downtown Winters, take Highway 128 west, toward Lake Berryessa. Go approximately nine (9) miles to the base of the dam. You will pass by a seasonal store which sells things like drinks, food, and fishing supplies for the campers at the nearby campground. Just past the store, you’ll drive over Putah Creek (no joke), which is the name of the creek that flows out from Lake Berryessa.

This creek is very, very cold. Because it flows from the bottom of Lake Berryessa, the water temperature is right around 50 degress year-round. It’s a good trout fishery, and there are usually lots of fly fishermen during fishing season (April through October).
Just past the bridge where you cross over Putah Creek, you will see a dirt parking lot to the right. Fishermen use this parking lot to hike back and fish Putah Creek all the way to the base of the dam. Park here.

Walk up the trailhead 1/4 mile to the base of the dam. The trail ends at a large rock formation. Climb out onto the rocks, and peek around the corner. You’ll see the Glory Hole. A small body of water is between you and skate nirvana. You could try to climb the rocks along the left-hand wall and make it there, but I’ve never seen anyone successfully do this. Especially with an armload of skate gear. Best to bring a raft, canoe, or some other flotation device. You could try to swim it, but your testicles will wind up in your lungs. It’s very, very cold, year round. Even when it’s 100 degrees outside, the water will chill you to the bone. I don’t recommend swimming it, unless you’re really into hypothermia.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

1) You need a skateboard. Longboard, vert board, street board, it really doesn’t matter. They’ll all work here. I recommend larger wheels, softer durometers, and tighter trucks. The ‘crete is a bit pitted in places, and you need to keep your speed to pump those humongous transitions.

2) Pads are a good idea. Use at least knee pads, anyway. Helmets are useful to prevent unforeseen expulsion of brain matter.

3) An All Purpose Towel. (comes in handy if you decide to soak your feet after a hot day of skating).

4) Food (the nearest store is a couple miles away, and you have to hike out to the parking lot first).

5) Water Water And Fluids. (bring a LOT, because it gets very hot in the summer, and you’ll sweat a lot).

6) Take A Friend. It’s a good idea to go with someone else. If you skate alone, and hurt yourself, there’s no way anyone would even know you were there, and if you couldn’t get out by yourself, you’re screwed.

7) A raft/canoe/flotation device. You can’t get to the pipe unless you cross a small body of water. And it’s a lot better to skate when you’re dry than when you’re wet. Do yourself a favor, and buy or borrow one of those small 2-person rafts you can get at K-mart for like thirty bucks.

8) A broom and kitty litter. Why? Because there is always a trickle of water in the bottom of the pipe (it does run under a lake, after all). A push broom works great to sweep out the water and slime, and then spread some kitty litter into the pipe to soak up any residual moisture. Voila–a good skating surface.

IS IT A BUST?

Nope. It’s been skated for decades by local skaters. I even met up with a park ranger walking in one day, and he was only interested in me to see if I was going to go fishing, and whether or not I had a fishing license. He asked me where I was going, so I told him. He just told me to be careful, and let me go on my way.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

The pipe is huge. It’s a spillway pipe for a reservoir, and it’s 30 feet in diameter, and extends about 200-300 feet into the face of a dam. It then bends upward until it hits vertical, then pokes out above the surface of the lake above the dam. You can climb up the elbow bend if you’re feeling adventurous. I’ve seen guys climb up a very short way up that elbow and then skate down the length of the pipe. It’s dark, it’s fast, and there’s a lot of debris at the bottom of the pipe, so watch where you’re skating.
Most skaters stick to the first two sections of pipe at the end. The decades of flowing water have pitted the bottom of the pipe, so it’s a little rough. Softer wheel durometers are recommended for best results. The bigger the wheel, the better. You’re not grinding here, and you need lots of speed. The second section back is smoother, and you can start there, and skate out to the front of the pipe. You can even grind the lip of the pipe when you’re feeling particularly gnarly. The coolest move I ever saw there was a local using a long board doing a bert slide to vertical, then grinding down the lip. A few inches the wrong way, and he’d have been dropping fifteen feet to the flat concrete outside the pipe.
If you go in the summer, it’s hot. Very hot. You’ll skate for a few minutes, and then collapse from the heat. There are no services anywhere nearby. Bring plenty to drink or eat, because you have to hike in about 1/4 mile from the parking area to get there, then paddle across about forty feet of water to access the pipe. Bring toilet paper if you’re prone to unexpected bowel movements (please don’t shit in the pipe–it’s just plain disgusting). Plan to spend several hours there, at least. It’s a unique skating experience that should be enjoyed for as long as possible. It’s usually an all-day session.