Locals hope Lake Berryessa spillway spillover signals economic revival for area

Water flowing into Lake Berryessa’s “Glory Hole”
Water flowing into Lake Berryessa’s “Glory Hole” U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Lake Berryessa’s “Glory Hole” hasn’t spilled over since 2006, but incoming rains mean the unique, funnel-shaped spillway, which operates only in the wettest winters, probably will see use soon.

This year’s record rains have filled Lake Berryessa nearly to the brim. As of lunchtime Thursday, the lake’s water elevation was 439.6 feet, with spillover expected to start with another 2 inches of water.

“We’re predicting, because there’s been so much rain coming in, we’re going to use the Glory Hole spillway as well (as the main spillway of the Monticello Dam) probably today or tomorrow,” said Russ Grimes, the acting public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the dam.

Lake Berryessa is perched in the hills of Napa County above the Yolo County town of Winters.

The Glory Hole spillway, similar to a sink drain, is an 8-foot-wide, 200-foot-long pipe that sits in Lake Berryessa and exits into Putah Creek, which flows through Winters and Davis.

Water spilling into the Glory Hole is a mesmerizing sight, and it tends to draw a crowd.

Its flow means the Lake Berryessa region may see a pickup in tourism, said Peter Kilkus, the editor and publisher of the Lake Berryessa News. The lake, a popular destination for boating and fishing, lost a lot of business during the drought, he said. With water levels rising, he said the community is hopeful that business will rise, too.

“I’m getting messages on Facebook and emails from thousands of people asking about coming back who used to visit,” Kilkus said. “Seeing the amount of interest, it’s kind of a rejuvenation spiritually for Lake Berryessa.”

Kilkus, who is also the president of the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce, said that the community is working on a program to market Lake Berryessa to large recreation companies.

“It’s 30 miles from Napa Valley. It’s the most beautiful lake in California, and it’s going to waste,” Kilkus said. “The water rising on Lake Berryessa is tremendously important because … it’s giving our community a chance at revitalization.”

Robin Opsahl: 916-321-1176, @robinlopsahl