Seasonal closures at Lake Berryessa

The Bureau of Reclamation has announced recreation area closures and new operating hours at Lake Berryessa beginning Sept. 25. These seasonal closures allow natural resource recovery as Reclamation performs necessary maintenance.

Reclamation-operated locations at Berryessa remain open year-round with the exceptions and hours listed below:

The north side of Oak Shores Day Use Area and the two restrooms along the Smittle Creek Trail are closed until March 31.

The south side of Oak Shores Day Use Area will continue to offer restroom facilities, picnic tables, water access and a kayak/canoe hand launch.

Gates will open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. to reflect daylight hours’ changes at Oak Shores, Smittle Creek and Eticuera.

Capell Cove Boat Launch will remain open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. The launch ramp remains closed to motorized boats until water levels rise again.

The Smittle Creek Trail and Lake Berryessa administrative offices are closed until further notice.

The Dufer Point Visitor Center and gates to day use areas will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Dufer Point Visitor Center at 5520 Knoxville Road is open Saturdays, Sundays, and most holidays (exceptions above), from noon to 3 p.m. beginning Oct. 1 through March 31.

Maps, information, and America the Beautiful and Lake Berryessa annual passes are available during operating hours.

For information on activities, fees, directions, pet restrictions or other questions, call the visitor center at 707-966-2111, ext. 113, the Lake Berryessa Administration Office at 707-966-2111 (TTY 800-877-8339) or visit www.usbr.gov.


Lake Berryessa Statistics (9/26/22)

The lake is now down to 396.3 feet - 43.7 feet below Glory Hole. The level has been dropping about an inch per day. The modest two-day rainfall (9/18 & 9/19) we had (1.15” at Monticello Dam) did not have any significant impact.  The level is now only about 6” above the lowest level reached, 395.8’ on December 9, 2015, during our last drought.

Lake level 2005-2022a



OCTOBER 12 @ 6:00 PM





An informative, concise overview on wildfire preparedness in Napa County, presented by the Napa Firewise (Napa Communities Firewise Foundation, or NCFF) team and CAL FIRE Napa County Fire. You won’t want to miss this informative wildfire preparation event featuring experts from Napa Firewise!




Wildfire risk in Napa County

Who is Napa Firewise, and what are we doing?

It’s a WRAP! How to make Napa County more wildfire resilient

Money: Why we need it, how we get it, how we put it to work

How to make your property more Firewise, and why it matters

What’s a Fire Safe Council, and how to get involved

Innovative Pilot Programs: Defensible Space Cost Sharing and Reflect to Protect 911 Signage


Lake Berryessa Rainfall vs Level - A Short Tutorial (9/21/22)

Peter Kilkus 

Everyone is excited by the early rainfall at Lake Berryessa. In three days, 9/18, 9/19, 9/20, the lake received 1.15” at Monticello Dam and .81” in the Berryessa Highlands. Middletown received 1.62” and other northern parts of the Lake Berryessa watershed got more than 2”. But this rainfall will essentially do nothing to raise the level of the lake.

The lake is now down to 396.49 feet - 43.51 feet below Glory Hole. The level has been dropping about an inch per day. The modest two-day rainfall we had (1.15” by 9/21 at Monticello Dam) did not have any significant impact. The level did hold steady for a day but started down again the next day. See data below. The level is now less than a foot above the lowest level, 395.8’, during our last drought.

Date, Lake Level

9/15/22, 396.76

9/16/22, 396.68

9/17/22, 396.65

9/18/22, 396.57

9/19/22, 396.57

9/20/22, 396.49

9/21/22, 396.45

The dam output has dropped from 459 CFS (cubic feet per second) to 185 CFS during this same period, as the need for irrigation water decreases.

Lake level 2005-2022

Some folks use a rule of thumb that the lake increases a foot in level for every inch of rainfall after the ground has been saturated by 2-3 inches of rain and runoff begins This easy to remember rule is not completely accurate since the relationship between the lake level and its storage capacity is not linear. The lake profile is roughly a V-shaped bowl (with peaks and valleys and inlets and large flat areas), which means that the higher the water level gets the more rain is needed to raise it further. It takes about 25% more rain to go from 430’ to 440’ than it does to go from 390’ to 400’.

Rainfall versus level for the first three months of 1998 showed that the lake rose 16 feet with 26 inches of rain – or 7.4 inches of level per inch of rain. However, the unexpectedly rapid rise of the lake in 2017 provided data that showed the rise was twice as great as the normal average – 14.5” per inch of rain.

The Lake Berryessa watershed encompasses the 576–square mile area primarily fed by Putah Creek which originates from springs on the eastside of Cobb Mountain in Lake County. Putah Creek enters Napa County about 11 miles east of Middletown. It merges with Butts Creek just before it empties into Lake Berryessa. Therefore, rainfall over the Cobb Mountain and Middletown areas provides the bulk of water entering Lake Berryessa. One reason that Lake Berryessa rose so quickly in 2017 was the very heavy rainfall that occurred on Cobb Mountain and Middletown.

Lake Berryessa Watershed map

The Lake Berryessa water level is actually measured on the Monticello Dam in a “stilling well” equipped with a float tape attached to a digital rotary encoder that measures accurately to 0.01 ft. Rainfall is measured using a tipping bucket rain gauge. However, the rain gauge on the top of Monticello Dam has never been very representative of precipitation in the overall Lake Berryessa area. The gauge is working well but the location, surrounded by mountains on two sides with a strong up-draft coming up the canyon and over the dam, prevents getting reliable data. Rainfall measurements at the dam may not be representative of the area, but they are also not the best indicator of how fast the lake may rise.

I’ve been keeping level and rainfall data at Lake Berryessa for 26 years. The table below shows that we’ve had early September rainfalls in 7 of those 26 years. But early rainfall is not an indicator of a high rainfall year. For example, last year we had an early September rain and a reasonable rainfall total by the end of December, but the rest of the year was a bust. The lake only went up about 10 feet. In 2021 the lake never rose at all. It stopped at about 417.5’, stayed there for most of the winter, then started dropping again in April 2021. See Lake Level chart above.

Rain Year data 26 yrs


How Many Droughts Have Ocurred?

Per the chart below, from 1958 several droughts are evident, the most serious of which was in 1993 when the lake dropped to 25% capacity. The droughts ended with dramatic increases in lake level due to large rainfalls - 38 feet and 61 feet for example. The latest drought which began in 2005 ended in 2017 with a 41 foot lake level increase in 3 weeks! The lake has reached Glory Hole level - 440 feet - only 26 times since 1958.

Although climate change has been scientifically-verified, the actual results, aside from sea level rise, are still relatively unknown. The projections are that weather may become unpredictably extreme. Could a long drought be followed be excessive rain? It has happened before. Those of us who lived through the unpredicted storms of February 2017 saw it happen personally.

1958 - 2015 below

Lake Level History 1958-2015


2006 - 2022 below 

Lake level 2005-2022


Capell Launch low1 090522

Capell Launch Ramp, 9//5/22

Lake level is 397.6 feet - 42.4 feet below Glory Hole. Capell Bridge is still about 30 feet below the surface around to the left.


Capell Bridge above water at a lake level of 361.7 feet - 78.3 feet below Glory Hole. See the Berryessa Highlands in upper left.


Capell Creek Bridge Location and Video

Location: 38°30'19.9"N 122°12'45.2"W






Lake Level History 1958-2015


A Bit of Monticello Dam History from 2013

Since the 9/11 attack Monticello Dam has been locked and blocked. The ugly concrete barriers are eyesores and could probably be removed with no danger of a terrorist attack. Or something more esthetic but practical and effective might be found to replace them. Before the attack the top of the dam was open to the public and regular tours of the inside of the dam were provided. The following story provides a unique glimpse of the dam and its operation.

Don, the guy and his dam

By Richard Rico, TheReporter.Com, 12/15/13

So there we were, 230 feet beneath the surface of Lake Berryessa. No submarine, no SCUBA. No need. We were inside the belly of Monticello Dam, 320,000 cubic yards of concrete known affectionately by Don Burbey as the "big, giant plug." He's earned that right. Burbey is the dam guy for Solano Irrigation District. For the past 32 years he'sknownthe Putah plug up close and personal. I've known it since it was built in 1957 as a Herculean hand holding back the Creek, inundating bucolic Monticello and helping grass, flowers and Solano progress to grow. For perspective, 320,000 cubic yards of concrete could make a sidewalk, 3-ft. wide, 4-inches thick, and run 1,667 miles to Omaha.

Tuesday, I finally asked Burbey to get me in. The dooris at the base, which is 100 feet thick. It tapers to 12 feet at the top. Care to guess how cold it was inside? In about 1981, Don hired on as apprentice dam tender. Through the years hebecamethe damtender, then grew to be-come superintendent of ops and maintenance. After all that, Burbey is retiring April 2 from "a fantastic job; I could not have asked for anything I liked better."

Before Putah Creek slams into that wall, we drove through the first of several security gates. Since 9/11, everything has tightened up. Burbey once gave up to 30 tours a year, but they've mostly been cut. Imagine the worst: If thedamwere to rupture, the lake would end up in the Yolo Causeway. Next to the steel door is SID's power plant, which went online in 1983. Its three generators can send 11.5 megawatts to the PG&E grid in Rohnert Park, just as releases can send water for people, animals and plants through 32 miles of Putah South Canal. It's a wet miracle.

Inside, a dam-wide corridor stretches north and south, housing monitors for stress and movement. One is primitive, and ingenious.Ataut wire stretches from the dam top to the bottom where a plumb bob weight hangs over a reference point. If it moves, so has the dam. They also do celestial mapping -- dam checking by stars.

Outside, Burbey said, "Lean back on the face, and look up." The thin curve of the rim swirled around us, like a photo of Earth from a satellite. A privileged view. Beyond the crest length of 1,023 feet is the Glory Hole. When it spills, it's at 48,400 cubic yards a second. We

make bets on when it'll spill again. Burbey sees a spill as "The best way to clean out the creek."

In 1997, a UC Davis student in the lake died when she jumped into the hole – an apparent suicie. Burbey said he was first to recover her. The Glory Hole's integrity is checked periodically by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. They do it by lowering a person by rope into the hole. He rappels its 275-ft. depth, looking for cracks. Some kind of moxie. With a 302-feet-high dam behind you, holding back a max 1,602,000 acre-feet of water, you imagine what the movers and shakers were thinking in the 1950s when they urged a "plug" across Devil's Gate to the

Bureau of Reclamation. Lots of locals -- politicians and civilians - got in the act. Agman Ed Uhl made more than 17 trips to D.C. to argue our case. Timing was everything.

Imagine again trying to build the dam today. Impossible. Construction began in 1953. It was built and managed by the U.S. Bureau until 1981, when SID and Solano County Water Agency took over. Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over. So far, it's been peaceful. Solano cities, ag, industries are nurtured by Berryessa water, and by its dam. Into that historic pageant came Don Burbey, a lifelong Vacan and a Vaca High grad of 1974. He was born in 1956, about a year before Monticello Dam was finished.

He goes so far back that his late mother, Sue Hurley, and he had the same K-1 teacher, "Mrs. Burton," at Ulatis. Burbey has a son, Adam, who works for SID -- no surprise -- in water metering. His daughter, Breanne, is a teacher at BrownsValley School. It's with his granddaughter, Grace, that Don Burbey now hopes to spend time that for 32 years was focused on his dam. After years of monitoring, unclogging debris from Lake Solano screens, answering calls of poweroutages, and the tribulations of keeping water flowing,

I'd say "his dam" is right on. The steward of a life element is moving on. A solid wall of concrete is not a living thing. But in its belly Tuesday, I swear I felt it breathe.


572 Putah Creek final


How many wineries are there in Napa County

By Paul Franson

I blithely stated that there are more than 500 wineries in Napa Valley on Barry Martin’s radio program last Thursday, and a reader challenged that.He said, “There aren’t over 500 wineries in Napa. That figure comes from an outdated list from county planning that includes numerous abandoned wineries that cannot be reopened because of current building and fire regulations, numerous ‘wineries’ that are actually just part of a larger custom crush facility like Laird and Napa Wine Company. They need to look at ABC data and find there are about 400 operating wineries in the county.”

I actually thought there were more than 500 physical wineries and many more wine brands.That doesn’t include the many “virtual wineries” that are legally just wholesalers who buy wine from winegrowers and resell it with their label and also hold retail licenses (17/20 licenses). The state’s official name for producing wineries with Type 02 licenses is “winegrower.”

I went to the ABC records and quickly found 1,840 Type 02 bonded wineries in Napa County. But that’s misleading. Many custom (crush) wineries (and other wineries) make wine for other winegrowers under what is called an alternating proprietorship. For example, there are 16 listed for Cuvaison and 32 for Napa Wine Company in the current list.Those aren’t “virtual wineries.” Those are real bonded wineries by law.

So I turned to the experts, Wines Vines Analytics, the sister of Wine Business MonthlyLynne Skinner is their long-term vice president of data management. She said that they confirm records every 12 months for wineries in the Wines Vines Analytics winery database, both bonded California type 02 winegrower permit and the virtual wineries that hold the other California permit types, 17 and 20, which produce at host wineries.

She emphasized that the bonded premises is not only about address and equipment. “We don’t count permits, we maintain a database of active, viable wineries, and their state and federal permits are attributes of their profile. If a bonded winery has six BW permits and four facilities, we track that as a single winery.”

According to their numbers, as of August 2022, Napa County has 940 bonded wineries and 291 “virtual wineries,” which are winery businesses with unique management, producing at least one brand at a host-bonded winery.

Virtual wineries don’t have “wineries” of their own by definition, so they are irrelevant to my question, but for what it’s worth, the two total 1,231. So, pending further information, I’ll go with Wine Communication’s numbers.

There are 940 wineries in Napa County. I await your comments at paul@paulfranson.com.

By the way, The Gomberg-Fredriksen Report and BW 166, both experts in wine information, are also partners with the Wine Communications Group. Their information, such as the Wine and Vines Directory and Buyers’ Guide, is exhaustively detailed, as I learned in the almost two decades during which I contributed to their publications.


Amber ad September 2022


Boat Rental 2022


Evan ad 2022


Valley Internet color 2022


Boat Repair 2022


Updated Map of Lake Berryessa (6/30/22)



The Lake Berryessa Fishing Page

Lake Berryessa: Best Fishing in America!

BOR Fishing Brochure.pdf


Lake Berryessa Summer Hours

Dufer Point Visitor Center: Park rangers will continue to staff the Dufer Point Visitor Center from noon to 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Oak Shores Day Use Area: Throughout the year, South Oak Shores is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

South Oak Shores open is weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reclamation has extended South Oak Shores’ closing hours to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Starting on May 2, the north end of Oak Shores will reopen for day use from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays only.

Smittle Creek and Eticuera Day Use Area: Smittle Creek and Eticuera are available for wildlife watching, picnicking and hand-launching watercraft throughout the year. The Smittle Creek Trail remains closed due to damage from the LNU Lightning Complex Fire. Park Rangers close the parking lot gates by 8 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The parking lot gates will close before 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The Capell Cove Boat Launch is close until further notice. The parking lot and small picnic areas at the Capell Cove will remain open. Additionally, hand launching of kayaks, canoes and other small craft will continue to be permitted.

Concession areas: Markley Cove Resort, Pleasure Cove Marina, Steele Canyon Recreation Area, Putah Canyon, and Spanish Flat offer a variety of recreation services, including boat launching, and are alternatives to Oak Shores and Capell Cove.

For information regarding services offered at concession-operated facilities, launch fees or to make reservations, call the concession operators or visit their websites:

Markley Cove, 707-966-2134, www.markleycoveresort.com

Pleasure Cove Marina, 707-966-9600, www.goberryessa.com

Steele Canyon Recreation Area, 707-966-9410, www.sunoutdoors.com/california/steele-canyon

Spanish Flat Recreation Area, 707-966-0200, www.sunoutdoors.com/california/spanish-flat

Putah Canyon Recreation Area, 707-966-9051, www.royalelkparkmanagement.com

For information on activities, fees, directions, pet restrictions or other questions at the lake, call the Lake Berryessa administration office at 707-966-2111


The definitive book about what happened at Lake Berryessa!

Policy and Politics Betray the People:

The Lake Berryessa Saga, 1958-2020

This KPIX Eye on the Bay interview I did in 2010 is a relevant introduction to the substance of the book. I did it after Pensus had been given the contract for 5 resorts. As we all know Pensus was subsequently kicked out in 2012. 


Eye on the Bay screen shot
Berryessa Book Cover

The book is available on Amazon as a Kindle version and a paperback version.



Special Reports

Special Release: New combined report for those who want to know almost everything about how Lake Berryessa works!

As Lake Berryessa Flows:

A Combination of Science, Engineering, and Natural Beauty

by Peter Kilkus

The Science and Engineering Elements of a Major Natural Resource

Download Full Report PDF Here...


Lake Berryessa Fills and Glory Hole Spills: The Video History

This amazing series of Lake Berryessa News Drone videos by Evan Kilkus documents the 45 foot rise of Lake Berryessa in 2017.





Berryessa Valley and the Town of Monticello Historical Photos and Videos from before Lake Berryessa covered it.

Monticello from air gig

Thanks to Carol Fitzpatrick for creating the Berryessa Valley Exhibit at the Spanish Flat Village Center (Now t the Winters Historical Museum) described in the first video.


Berryessa Valley Exhibit Moves to the Winters History Museum


Some Interesting Past Stories

Berryessa Valley Exhibit Moves to the Winters History Museum

...From 1977 (45 years ago):Revolt Against BOR in 1977: Wier Out of Lake Berryessa Management


Floating Native American Casino (4/1/22)

Napa County Fights Against Building the Monticello Dam

Lake Berryessa Historical Maps

What’s Under Lake Berryessa?

Glory Hole: Awesome, Frightening, But Dangerous?

Skateboarding Inside Glory Hole

Best of April Fool's Stories (2009 - 2021)

Full April Fool's Issues (2009 to 2021)

Triploid Trout Getting Bigger and Smarter in Lake Berryessa

University of Lake Berryessa Promotes Global Food Security: 

Meat Grapes &  Steak Potatoes


Scuba Diving the Putah Creek Stone Bridge

Bridge Dive Video

Lake Berryessa Waterspout 2017


The Stock Market IS NOT the Economy, Stupid!

Bird Goes Over the Glory Hole Waterfall Without A Barrel

My First Fishing Trip on Lake Berryessa

Berryesa Oil Rush 1900 & 1920

Rattlesnakes: Friend or Enemy – or just a primal fear?


Lake Berryessa Technical Manual


The History of the Creation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument: The Ultimate Political Perversion of the Antiquities Act

By Peter Kilkus

The Twisted Ten-Year Political Path From a Modest Nature Area Partnership to a Local Blue Ridge Berryessa National Conservation Area to a Large Disjointed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area to an Incoherent Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.

Is it the “Dumbest National Monument in the United States”? An objective review of the process by which it was created and the final formal designation suggests the answer is YES. I personally support the creation of legitimate national monuments, but this is not that. Being part of the ten year political process that led to its creation convinced me that in many situations the Antiquities Act is being abused. The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is a perfect case study of this abuse. 

Read the full report here.


The Amazing Foods of Chef Neiman Marxist

Chef Neiman Marxist French



EFM: Agriculture Day, 1999

Sun Lake Berryessa Master File

Rebel Rebel - Rockin’1000


Evan fights the fire at our house

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2021