Unlike traditional spillways--essentially chutes or channels allowing the controlled release of water from a dam--the Monticello Dam at Lake Berryessa has what is known as a glory hole spillway (also called morning glory or bell mouth after its shape). At the height of the drought, this spillway looked like a concrete donut on a tongue of land sticking into the lake (see photo here). Now it brings to mind a massive bathtub drain--and it acts essentially the same way. Water rushes down a 275 ft. concrete pipe and exits on the far side of Monticello Dam into Putah Creek.
The statistics are truly impressive: The glory hole is 275 ft. deep and 72 ft. wide and can release more than 300,000 gallons of water per second. In fact, the suction is so strung that it creates wind that you can feel as you stand by the side of the road.
Yesterday, my wife and I finally went to see the Lake Berryessa glory hole ourselves. Predictably, there were lots of visitors--an uncommon sight in what is usually a quiet corner of Napa County--and the small parking lot at Monticello Dam was completely full. But there is plenty of room to pull over onto the shoulder before you get to the parking lot.
The biggest obstacle to fully enjoying this spectacle is the chain link fence that starts before the dam and continues past the glory hole. It must be 10 ft tall. and the mesh is so tight that I wasn't able to stick my lens through.
All of the photos below were taken with the lens pressed right up against the chain link and using a wide aperture to blur it to the point where you can barely see it. I hope you still enjoy what I think is a truly otherworldly sight.
On the downstream side of Monticello Dam, the water shoots out into Putah Creek:
This is Putah Creek, flowing east towards Winters and Davis. Eventually it feeds into the Yolo Bypass between Davis and Sacramento.
This rock face is so steep that the sun was just starting to appear behind it at 11:00 a.m.:
On the way back to Davis I stopped a few times to take photos of the wildflowers...
|Wild mustard (Brassica oleracea)|
...trees leafing out...
Highway 128 is very scenic here:
To top it all off, I found a beautiful patch of flowers on the edge of a walnut orchard east of Winters. They must be from a wildflower seed mix.