The Lake Berryessa News

Your Information Gateway to Lake Berryessa and our Napa Back Roads!




Glory Hole Photo Album



Earthquakes Make You Feel Small on the Face of the Earth

Since I moved to California (Berkeley, of course) in 1967 I've felt my share of big and small earthquakes. Although the Berryessa Highlands is 20 miles northeast of Napa and 30 miles from American Canyon, this was one of the bigger earthquakes I've felt in my life.

My house is at 1,400 feet altitude above the Berryessa Highlands and about 1,000 feet higher than the Lake Berryessa water level. At first I thought that my grand-dog Koda had come into my bedroom to shake the bed and get me up for a new day. Then my house started moving side to side (seemed to be north to south). It got worse and worse for about fifteen seconds or so - creaking and bouncing - louder and louder. A couple of bottles fell off the refrigerator without breaking. No damage.

As it was happening I wondered, as I do in any earthquake I have felt, where the real damage would be worst. Unfortunately, downtown Napa took the brunt of damage. 

Friends in Napa were violently shaken. Anything on a shelf fell off. Beds were moved two feet along the floor. An old friend from American Canyon emailed this out: 

"Awoke with my house violently shaking, shaking, shaking. Absolutely horrifying. We held our hands together in bed, thought we would be with Jesus soon. Everything is on the floor. 55 gallon aquarium shattered in the middle of the family room. The other 55 gallon in the living room shifted on its base, but stayed up. All TVs on the floor. Broken glass everywhere. God was merciful to let the house stand."

There are hundreds of stories like this. If you watched the Indy Car race at Sonoma Raceway Sunday you saw some of the top race car drivers, who were staying at hotels in Napa, express their amazement and fear at living through their first violent earthquake.

Although I had a flash that I would look out in the morning and the lake would be dry, there was no damage to Monticello Dam! No power outages out here either, and only a few trees down. Per my Homeowners Insurance, this area is not considered an earthquake zone and I don't require earthquake insurance.

Lake Berryessa News editor, Evan Kilkus, went to Napa yesterday and got some amazing quadcopter video footage of the damage. His video was also shown on KTVU Channel 2 News.

Napa Earthquake Damage, Aug. 24, 2014


Lake Berryessa News editor, Evan Kilkus, was just interviewed by the New Yorker Magazine.



Lake Berryessa Water Level Update: 8/25/14

The elevation of the spillway (Glory Hole) at Monticello Dam is 440 feet msl. The water is now 35.41 feet below the top of the spillway at 404.59 feet. The lake continues to drop at its normal 6 inches per week rate.

The lake is now at its lowest level since 1995 and will go down at least another 4-5 feet if the rains don’t start until October. You can see from the full history graph below that Lake Berryessa has been extremely low during two previous major droughts, but that it can also fill very rapidly with a decent rainy season.


Welcome to the Legendary Napa Valley!

Aerial Video by Evan Kilkus

Wine Country Aerial Marketing


Aerial Videos of Lake Berryessa

by Evan Kilkus

As the charts above show, Lake Berryessa is at its lowest level since 1995 and still dropping. Although there is still a lot of surface area and boat launching has not been seriously affected, the following test videos shot by Evan Kilkus using his new quadcopter show dramatically how low the level has dropped.

In the first video, Evan flies right up the main cove to the site of the now-demolished Boathouse Restaurant & Bar where we often ate and were amazed by the fantastic view of the lake. The ice cream shop was right next door. The photos below show what all of us, including the tens of thousands of regular visitors, lost because of the destructive policies of the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation has a lot to make up for.

The video of the old Steele Park Resort launch ramp also brings back memories of when that area was thriving -with a marina, restaurant, and many happy families heading out onto the lake.

Lake Berryessa: Flying Over The Lake Quadcopter Test

Lake Berryessa: Steele Canyon Recreation Area Launch Ramp Quadcopter Test



Lake Berryessa Ski Boat Rentals, Wakeboard Boat Rentals, Pontoon Boat Rentals, Waverunner Rentals, Paddleboard Rentals, Kayak Rentals, and Fishing Boat Rentals

Lake Berryessa is still 260 deep at the dam. California’s drought is hardly affecting Lake Berryessa – it’s going to be an outstanding season! Lake Berryessa has 165 miles of shore line and one of the largest and cleanest lakes in California. Lake Berryessa has more miles of shoreline than Lake Tahoe and certainly Folsom Lake. The shore has beautiful oak and pine trees on the west side and large hills and cliffs on the east side. Oak Shores & Smittle Creek day use areas have a ton of picnic and swimming areas with shade and tables. We have the best boat and jet ski rentals in Northern California and the best lake closest to the Bay Area and Sacramento.

Berryessa Highlands property owner. Eric Stone, came up with the Love the Lake stickers that were so popular last year. He's expanded into a range of other Love Lake Berryessa items.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Central California Area Office announces  summer and fall park events and Park Ranger interpretive programs at Lake Berryessa in Napa County, Calif. All activities will be held rain or shine and are free of charge. Participants will need to pay day use or camping fee for walks and programs held in  the concession areas. Activity descriptions state if a day use or camping fee is required. Some programs have group-size limitations, so please contact the Park Ranger office or recreation planner regarding availability. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather and bring water and sunscreen for daytime activities. Children are welcome, but those under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, Kids Fishing Event
Saturday, Sept. 13, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Pleasure Cove Marina

Reclamation, in partnership with Pleasure Cove Marina, is hosting the Fifth Annual C.A.S.T. (Catch a Special Thrill) for Kids Fishing Event. The C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation provides children with disabilities or disadvantages an opportunity to experience the sport of fishing. Kids will be partnered with anglers for a morning on beautiful Lake Berryessa. Reclamation is looking for boaters, volunteers and children to participate in this great event. To volunteer or register a child, please contact Jason Jordan at 707-966-2111 ext 143 or

California Coastal Cleanup Day
Saturday, Sept. 20, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pope Creek Bridge Parking Lot & Markley Cove Area
Join Reclamation, the Solano Resource Conservation District and partners for this annual lake and shoreline clean up event. Volunteers will clean up the shoreline of Lake Berryessa as part of the State-wide event. Since the program began in 1985, over 800,000 Californians have removed more than 15 million pounds of debris from California’s shorelines and coast. To volunteer, please contact Jason Jordan at 707-966-2111 ext 143 or

Nature Hike – Fall Foray
Saturday, Oct. 18 and Saturday Nov. 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Meet at the Smittle Creek Day Use Parking Lot

Join a Park Ranger for a leisurely hike on the Smittle Creek Trail along the western shoreline of the lake. Enjoy an autumn day exploring California’s unique Blue Oak woodland and the tranquility of Lake Berryessa. Meet at the south end of the Smittle Creek Day Use Area parking lot, off of Knoxville-Berryessa Road. Vehicles can be shuttled to the trail end point at Coyote Knolls within the Oak Shores Day Use Area. Hikers can stay with the Park Ranger for the entire 2.6 mile, 3-hour hike or leave early if they choose. Bring a lunch to enjoy on the hike. For details and directions, please contact Mike McGraw at 707-966-2111 ext. 112 or

National Public Lands Day
Saturday, Nov. 15, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Eticuera Day Use Area

Help restore Lake Berryessa’s native landscape at this restoration event. Volunteers will plant native plants and trees as part of an ongoing restoration effort. To volunteer, please contact Jason Jordan at 707-966-2111 ext. 143 or

Lake Berryessa Water Education Program
Available by Appointment
Oak Shores Day Use Area

The Lake Berryessa Water Education Program is an interdisciplinary learning experience for students in grades 4-6. The program integrates the natural resources of Lake Berryessa with California State curriculum standards. Classes join a Park Ranger at the lake to learn about the importance of water in their lives. In addition to the onsite learning experience, a teacher packet is available with logistical information and pre- and post-site activities. Berryessa Park Rangers may be available to conduct pre-site classroom visits. For more details on this free program, please contact Mike McGraw at 707-966-2111, ext. 112 or

Paddle With A Park Ranger
See locations and times below.

Experience Lake Berryessa from a unique perspective during these Ranger-led paddling tours. Paddling outings are open to experienced swimmers with a kayak, canoe or other non-motorized boat. Coast Guard-approved life jackets will be available, but boats are not available for rent. Participants should bring their boat, life jacket, paddle, sunscreen, hat, water, clothing layers depending on the weather, and a lunch/snack. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Changes to locations and times may occur because of fluctuating water levels. Events occur rain or shine, but high winds could cause an event to be cancelled. For details, directions and to RSVP, please contact Victoria Payan at 707-966-2111 ext. 113 or

Oak Shores Exploration – Sunday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Meet at Foxtail Flat in Oak Shores. Trailers are not permitted inside the park. Be prepared for a strenuous walk to the shoreline.

Capell Cove Cruise – Saturday, Nov. 8, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Meet at the Capell Cove Public Boat Launch.

Please visit the Lake Berryessa website at for additional information.

Proponents of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area, knowing that Congressman Thompson’s highly unpopular bill will never pass Congress, have begun an anti-democratic strategy to bypass Congress and have the President declare Lake Berryessa a National Monument under the Antiquities Act - simply by a stroke of his pen!

Lake Berryessa does not meet the basic standards of an NCA. And it especially doesn’t meet any criteria to become a National Monument.

The main problem affecting Lake Berryessa in all this chaos is that it was included in the original silly Berryessa Snow Mountain NCA in the first place. Lake Berryessa is like the tail of a dog that can't seem to wag the rest of the dog's body. The lake is not even connected on the map to the rest of the proposed NCA/National Monument which stretches far into Northern California. Just look at the map yourself!

At a minimum, Lake Berryessa should be removed from the boundaries of any proposed National Monument or NCA and the NCA should be renamed the Mendocino Snow Mountain NCA.

The Antiquities Act states that National Monuments should contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” and be “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” Lake Berryessa meets neither criteria and clearly falls into the “Rural Developed Setting” under the government’s own Water and Land Recreation Opportunity Spectrum Users' Handbook (WALROS) quoted below. This designation should immediately exclude it from National Monument or NCA consideration. And Lake Berryessa and the surrounding areas are already highly protected.

"A rural developed area is beyond a metropolitan area and the suburban ring of development. Rural developed areas may serve as "bedroom" communities for urban areas and may contain working farms, ranches, and towns. In this setting, primary road networks are common. Although development will be prevalent and common, the setting has a pastoral sense because of an interspersing of forests, water resources, hills, valleys, canyons, wetlands, open spaces, and agricultural lands. Naturally appearing shoreline edges are common, although various water controls or other structures are also common. Recreation management is prevalent and common but not as extensive as in an urban setting.”
Lake Berryessa is a man-made lake with no special historical or environmental significance, created by a minor dam and surrounded by bedroom communities and private land. It has historically been a major public recreation destination. Although I have been a long-standing critic of the Bureau of Reclamation in the past, its recent actions show that Reclamation is doing an excellent job in managing the future development process for the revitalization of the lake. Reclamation’s last Public Forum presentation in Winters of the status and results of the ongoing planning process for the lake’s redevelopment were extremely thorough and professional. It included drafts of detailed Market Assessment and Financial Analysis, Conceptual Site Plans, and Infrastructure Design Report. These are all available for review at their web site:

How would a National Monument designation affect residents, property owners, and ranchers in the boundaries? How would the designation affect the NBRID, the Berryessa Highlands, and the potential Community Services District being planned for that region?

A National Monument is traditionally managed by the National Park Service, but the Bureau of Land Management has often been designated as the manager in the legislation. A National Monument designation would force out the Bureau of Reclamation - as would Thompson’s other bill in Congress. His management transfer bill, HR4166, does not enjoy popular support among the people affected and has never had any significant public input. What would be the cost of the transition and who would pay for it? How long would it delay the present process? What specifically can the BLM do better an faster than the BOR?

What happens to current Reclamation employees, some long-term, who care as much about the lake as do local residents? Their lives would be seriously affected, their jobs could be eliminated, their families could be uprooted for no good reason.

A National Monument designation could severely restrict public access to and future development at the lake - as could an NCA designation. The usual radical exclusionist suspects have already been floating the idea that some of the resorts should not be reopened at all, reopened with limited amenities, or reopened for day use only. 


Reclamation Announces Hours of Operation for Recreation Facilities at Lake Berryessa

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Central California Area Office announces the hours of operation for recreation facilities at Lake Berryessa for 2014:

Dufer Point Visitor Center
May 18 through September 1: Weekends and Holidays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Weekdays Noon-2 p.m.; closed Wednesdays

The Lake Berryessa Visitor Center offers displays and exhibits on the history of Lake Berryessa, the Monticello Valley and the construction of the Solano Project. It also houses an exhibit of local wildlife (stuffed and mounted) showing the common and not-so-common animals found around the lake. Park Rangers are available to answer questions about natural resources, recreational opportunities, wildlife and the area’s history. Brochures, maps, trail guides and other educational information are available free of charge. Contact the Park Rangers at 707-966-2111 ext. 113 for information about park events, hikes, kayak tours and educational programs.

Oak Shores Day Use Area
May 1 to September 15: Open 7 a.m., Close 8 p.m.

On April 1, the seasonal closure of the northern portions of Oak Shores Day Use Area will come to an end, and the entire day use area will be available for public use from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closing hours will move to 8 p.m. on May 1 to correspond to the longer daylight hours.

Smittle Creek Day Use Area
May 1 to September 15: Open 7 a.m., Close 8 p.m.

Other developed day use areas and dispersed access points at Lake Berryessa are open from dawn to dusk.


Markley Cove Resort, Pleasure Cove Marina, Steele Canyon Recreation Area, Spanish Flat Recreation Area and Putah Canyon Recreation Area continue to be open and offer a variety of recreation services. For information regarding operations and services offered at concession-operated facilities, please call the concession operators or visit their websites:

Markley Cove: 707-966-2134,

Pleasure Cove Marina: 707-966-9600,

Steele Canyon Recreation Area: 707-966-9179,

Spanish Flat Recreation Area: 707-966-9192,

Putah Canyon Recreation Area: 707-966-9051,
For questions, please contact the Lake Berryessa Field Office at 707-966-2111 ext. 0.

Please visit the Lake Berryessa website at for additional information.


Carol Fitzpatrick has developed a great new web site for the Berryessa Valley History Exhibit at the Spanish Flat Village Center with some interesting photos and personal stories about the Berryessa Valley and Town of Monticello before the Monticello Dam was built in 1958.


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The Lake Berryessa News Archives (2005 - 2012)


Peter Kilkus, Owner/Editor
1515 Headlands Drive
Napa, CA 94558, 415-307-6906

Last Updated on August 25, 2014

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