The latest issue of the Lake Berryessa News, November 2018, has been published. Download a pdf version here.

November 2018


Glory Hole 110218


Another Bureau of Reclamation Time Warp Moment 

The “2020-something…” Schedule

smiley face

Think Positive

by Peter Kilkus

 After more than two years of painfully slow progress, the Board of Supervisors has yet to finalize a Managing Partner Agreement (MPA) with the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation has a 20-year history of delays and bureaucratic bungling that led to the present situation at the lake. The first phase of this debacle began with a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register on November 7, 2000.

That was 18 years ago, Rocky Horror fans! It's astounding; time is fleeting; madness takes its toll. But listen closely, not for very much longer, I've got to keep control. Let's do the time-warp again.

That was also when I first met newly-elected Supervisor Diane Dillon at a small meeting at Pleasure Cove Resort to discuss the future of Lake Berryessa. Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future. (Think Positive.)

In a previous story I calculated that the lake community had lost TEN years of progress. Now add another year to that for no progress in 2018. The new proposed plan starts slowly in 2019 with the first redeveloped resorts, Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores, to open in 2022.

These are the resorts that county research showed are generating the most interest from the private sector. Disappointingly, the schedule stretches past 2025. A “2020-something” schedule! Is that a real time? Almost fifteen years of family recreation lost!

To put it the perspective, the average life expectancy of a male is roughly 80 years. As someone who has been involved in this BOR nightmare for 20 years,  5 more years for me at my age is the statistical end.

I’m not a fan of 5 year and longer plans, nor those that show results in late “2020-something”. Someone who is 35 has about 50 years to get things done so it's easier to be positive while waiting for long-term results from another plan.

Don’t ask me to wear a happy face t-shirt to BOR meetings. (Think Positive.) But I will continue to work positively for the revitalization of Lake Berryessa because I wish to support my community. And I do still hope to enjoy some of the benefits myself.

At a recent meeting the Board of Supervisors unanimously voiced their support for the County taking over management of the Lake Berryessa recreation areas, commonly referred to as “the resorts”.  “This isn’t about doing it for net revenues,” Supervisor Diane Dillon said. “This is about doing it for net benefits for the greater community.” 

Supervisors seemed optimistic that an agreement will be reached, possibly by early next year. Ironically, only a year ago the schedule showed that a bid process leading to contract negotiations with new concessionaires should have been completed by summer 2018. (Think Positive.) Reclamation originally supported this time frame.

About five years ago Reclamation seemed to understand the serious damage they’d done to the local Lake Berryessa community. They promised to make it right, and for awhile followed through with some positive actions. But even then I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Polish poet Stanislaw Lec,

“Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork?”

The Bureau of Reclamation is what I characterize as an “OK, but…” bureaucracy - one adept at feigning concern but always seeming to find a reason to move the goal posts farther out.

The latest example is from Drew Lessard of the Bureau of Reclamation who addressed the Board during public comments. He expressed optimism that the agency and county will come to agreement, “but…the last thing we want is to enter into a managing partner agreement and not have success”. Write your own favorite cliché here…“the pot calling the kettle black” comes to mind. (Think Positive.)

Apparently now Reclamation wants new information, a new economic analysis, and a proposed new schedule from Napa County - all of which was actually done more than a year ago. Is a “2030-something” schedule the next Reclamation “ok, but…” moment?

A recent letter to the Lake Berryessa News from Senator Diane Feinstein did indicate that she had been told by the “local Reclamation office”, wherever that is, “that the agency emphasizes that it still intends to work with the County to pursue an agreement and is seeking to do so by the end of 2018.” The letter is reproduced below..

How long does it take before a flickering candle finally goes out? When does saying “OK, but…” actually mean “OK, butt,…”? When can the Lake Berryessa community finally stop being the butt of the long running bureaucratic joke that is the Bureau of Reclamation?

Download a PDF copy of the full plan at: www.lakeberryessanews.com/county-berryessa-plan.pdf

Latest Proposed Schedule for Lake Berryessa Resort Devolopment

> Award Concessions - Steele Canyon & Monticello Shores (Phase 1: 2019)

> Initial Occupancy - Steele Canyon & Monticello Shores: 2022

> Markley Cove & Pleasure Cove Join MPA (Phase 2: 2019-2021)

> Award Concession - Spanish Flat (Phase 3: 2022 - 2024)

> Initial Occupancy - Spanish Flat: 2025 - 2027

> Award Concessions - Berryessa Point & Putah Creek (Phase 4: 2025-2027)

> Initial Occupancy - Berryessa Point & Putah Creek: 2028 - 2030

Steele Canyon, now managed under temporary agreement with Suntex (Pleasure Cove Resort), will operate during 2019 under temporary agreement.

Reclamation will seek temporary concessionaire (3-5 years) for Spanish Flat; possibly others (Putah Creek?).

Spanish Flat is now managed under temporary agreement with the BOR by Spanish Flat Partners - a group of local residents who organized to support the west shore Spanish Flat business and residential communities

Putah Creek is now managed by Royal Elk Park Management under temporary agreement with Reclamation.

Feinstein response


Here Is The Stunning Truth Behind The 

Mysterious Hole Inside Lake Berryessa!

In this era of “fake” news, false “facts”, and alternative reality “politicians”, it’s gratifying to see that Lake Berryessa and its famed Glory Hole have received their fair share of international social media coverage with a degree of “truthiness", if not actual truth.

There are several of these odd web sites out there, often originating in Asia. This story was obviously pieced together from public sources and written by someone for whom English is a second language. See the credits at the end of the article for some fun English usage and the purpose of the NEWSD web site. 

This imaginative story has been circulating since July, 2018 and just popped up again this week.  




The First Thanksgiving in 1621 - Myth and Legend

Few people realize that the Pilgrims did not celebrate Thanksgiving the next year, or any year thereafter, though some of their descendants later made a "Forefather's Day" that usually occurred on December 21 or 22.  Several Presidents, including George Washington, made one-time Thanksgiving holidays.  In 1827, Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale began lobbying several Presidents for the instatement of Thanksgiving as a national holiday, but her lobbying was unsuccessful until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln finally made it a national holiday with his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

President Franklin D. RooseveltToday, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November.  This was set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941), who changed it from Abraham Lincoln's designation as the last Thursday in November (which could occasionally end up being the fifth Thursday and hence too close to Christmas for businesses).  But the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving began at some unknown date between September 21 and November 9, most likely in very early October.  The date of Thanksgiving was probably set by Lincoln to somewhat correlate with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620 (by our modern Gregorian calendar--it was November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar).  

There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving:  First is Edward Winslow's account, which he wrote in a letter dated December 12, 1621.

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we  had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but  our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown.   They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in  the blossom.  Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men  on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after  we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed  as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.   At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many  of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king  Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted,  and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation  and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet  by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers  of our plenty.

The second description was written about twenty years after the fact by William Bradford in his History Of Plymouth Plantation.  Bradford's History was rediscovered in 1854 after having been taken by British looters during the Revolutionary War.  Its discovery prompted a greater American interest in the history of the Pilgrims, which eventually led to Lincoln's decision to make Thanksgiving a holiday.  It is also in this account that the Thanksgiving turkey tradition is founded.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit  up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in  health and strength and had all things in good plenty.  For as some  were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing,  about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which  every family had their portion.  All the summer there was no want; and  now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place  did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).  And  besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took  many, besides venison, etc.  Besides they had about a peck of meal a  week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.   Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to  their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

Foods Available to the Pilgrims for their 1621 Thanksgiving

The following is a fairly complete list of the foods available to the Pilgrims during the three-day Thanksgiving harvest celebration. As can be seen in the above two quotations, the only foods specifically mentioned by the Pilgrims are: "corn" (wheat, by the Pilgrims usage of the word), Indian corn, barley, peas (if any where spared), "fowl" (Bradford says "waterfowl"), five deer, fish (namely bass and cod), and wild turkey.  

FISH:  cod, bass, herring, shad, bluefish, and lots of eel.

SEAFOOD:  clams, lobsters, mussels, and very small quantities of oysters

BIRDS:  wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and other miscellaneous waterfowl; they were also known to have occasionally eaten eagles (which "tasted like mutton" according to Winslow in 1623.)

OTHER MEAT:  venison (deer), possibly some salt pork or chicken.

GRAIN:  wheat flour, Indian corn and corn meal; barley (mainly for beer-making).

FRUITS:  raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, cherries, blueberries, gooseberries (these would have been dried, as none would have been in season).

VEGETABLES:  small quantity of peas, squashes (including pumpkins), beans

NUTS:  walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, ground nuts

HERBS and SEASONINGS: onions, leeks, strawberry leaves, currants, sorrel, yarrow, carvel, brooklime, liverwort, watercress, and flax; from England they brought seeds and probably planted radishes, lettuce, carrots, onions, and cabbage.  Olive oil in small quantities may have been brought over, though the Pilgrims had to sell most of their oil and butter before sailing, in order to stay on budget.

OTHER:  maple syrup, honey; small quantities of butter, Holland cheese; and eggs.

Some perhaps startling omissions from the authentic Thanksgiving menu

Ham.  (The Pilgrims most likely did not have pigs with them).

Sweet Potatoes-Potatoes-Yams.  (These had not yet been introduced to New England).

Corn on the cob. (Indian corn was only good for making cornmeal, not eating on the cob).

Popcorn.  (Contrary to popular folklore, popcorn was not introduced at the 1621 Thanksgiving. Indian corn could only be half-popped, and this wouldn't have tasted very good.)

Cranberry sauce.  (Cranberries were available, but sugar was not.)

Pumpkin Pie:  (They probably made a pumpkin pudding of sorts, sweetened by honey or syrup, which would be like the filling of a pumpkin pie, but there would be no crust or whipped topping.)


Thanksgiving used to be  America's national chow-down feast - the one occasion each year when gluttony becomes a patriotic duty. But now it seems there are three such days: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

If the Pilgrims were alive today, what would they be most famous for? Their AGE!


The Great Berryessa Oil Rush(es): 1900 and 1920

If you look at the map of Lake Berryessa on the right  you’ll notice a location on the east shore called Oil Well Canyon. I had always wondered what that meant until I attended a seminar a few years ago and saw photos of an oil well near where the Bureau of Reclamation headquarters building stands.

The first “Oil Rush” began when some local businessman and a professional surveyor went prospecting for oil in Berryessa Valley in October, 1900. They returned with several full bottles that they said came from springs. A well should be drilled, one told the Napa Journal, to find the source somewhere in the sandstone and shale below.

Within days an "expert" from the Mt. Shasta Oil and Development Company said they were going to develop what suddenly became known as the "Berryessa Oil Lands." Soon after that the Monticello Oil Company was formed. Oil strikes were making news all over the country. 

The value of this new form of gold was only beginning to be recognized. As a replacement for whale oil and tallow, "rock oil" or "coal oil," as it was once called, illuminated homes around the country in the form of kerosene. Gasoline was used as a cleaning solvent. Oil was converted to light whole buildings as well as city streets. But by far the most significant use of oil would prove to be as a fuel in a contraption called the "internal combustion engine." 

When Henry Ford began making gasoline-powered vehicles, he started a demand that transformed the world. Ford's first automobile was completed and ready to go in 1896. The horseless carriage had become a rare but impressive sight on the streets in many American cities by 1902, and someone had already driven a motored vehicle through Napa. Prompted by the invention of the automobile, oil production in California had grown from 470,000 barrels in 1893 to 24,000,000 by 1903.

Now practically everyone with any cash in the bank made a beeline to Berryessa. President of the Miners' Petroleum Association said, "I consider the oil indications in Northern California superior to any that I have seen in any part of the world.” People promised that there would be an oil rush in California that echoed the great gold rush 50 years earlier. Indications for oil were supposedly popping up on the Gosling ranch in Berryessa and in Wooden Valley. So much oil, of so fine a quality, so near the surface, so close to home! 

In mid-April, a man from Capell Valley struck oil after drilling down 125'. After that... silence. There were no more big stories in the local papers about oil strikes. There may have been oil there, but somehow most of it vanished before it could come to the surface. The drillers and drifters, surveyors and investors quietly packed up their things and went away. A lot of money had changed hands for nothing, much of it going in legal and professional fees to attorneys.

The second “Oil Rush” began due to persistence, better known as an obsession in this case. Berryessa had long been a frustration to the scores of investors who had hoped to find oil and gas there.  When someone claimed to have found oil and coal on the McCormick ranch on Spring Mountain in St. Helena, a rush of speculation started again, and a hatch of new companies appeared. One businessman convinced some Hollywood stars to invest.

A moderate-sized company produced about 10 barrels of oil a day, "very high grade and clear as crystal," according to the speculator. But it wasn't enough and the hole was closed and the riggings were removed. Local Napa businessmen also bought into the dream. But when a geologist from Los Angeles came to inspect the site, the expert advised folks to pull out. All the other little oil companies that had popped up in Berryessa soon reeled in their cables, too, and disappeared.

Convinced that Berryessa would yield oil, one "wildcatter" sank what was at the time the deepest hole ever drilled in Northern California. At 3,710', his 25'-long, heavy steel drilling cable snapped off. The line he used to rescue the cable also broke, and he had to seal the hole with cement. He tried again with another well nearby, but this time it was he who busted. He found a Los Angeles firm that was willing to finish the job on contract, but then the stock market crashed and no one had the cash to sink into questionable oil well investments. 

As before, the only people to profit from Berryessa's gas and oil reserves were the lawyers who drew up the contracts.


Welcome to the best map of Lake Berryessa you’ll ever find!

Click on the map to see a larger version.

Click here to download a pdf copy.

1 Lake Map Base 082317


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.



Full lake level history 2015
Lake Levels 2006 to 031217 edited-1



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

Berryessa Valley photo

Thanks to Carol Fitzpatrick for creating the Berryessa Valley Exhibit at the Spanish Flat Village Center described in the first video.




1958 - 2018

by Peter Kilkus


What Happened At Lake Berryessa? The Book! 

(Click to Download the PDF here)

Table Of Contents


Without THE LAKE BERRYESSA NEWS there would be no Lake Berryessa News…and finally there would be no definitive history of what happened at Lake Berryessa. Having participated directly for more than twenty years as an advocate for the lake in the fiasco that was the Bureau of Reclamation’s Visitor Services Plan, its farcical but tragic outcome, and the process of rebuilding, I have very strong views of the causes and results - supported by facts and data which were mostly obfuscated by the proponents of the destruction of the lake’s residential and business community.

The Bureau of Reclamation and their supporters destroyed family recreation at Lake Berryessa for a generation of families, children, and friends. Many people ask me about the history of the process that led to the present situation at Lake Berryessa. When I explain what happened most become incredulous and can't believe the government could have done something so stupid. "How could they have gotten away with that?" they exclaim.

The goal of this book is to provide the history and the context within which such an incredibly destructive course of action took place.

The initial timeline shows a condensed history of the process. The next section tells the story through the eyes of Lake Berryessa News articles. With the permission of the Napa Register, a parallel history is presented through contemporaneous editorials, articles, and letters to the editor from the Napa Register.

This book is not a traditional academic exercise in historical exposition. Academic historians define history as presenting facts without expressing any opinion or analysis of the events whereas memories are comprised of emotions that can have a great influence on the perception of an actual event. Critical historians live by the old saying of "there are two sides to every story and then there is the truth."

I’m more interested in the narrative approach to defining this history. Almost two decades have passed since this story began, and Lake Berryessa history has been created with every day of that twenty years.

This book is the raw, as-it-happened, unfiltered picture of what many of us lived through. It is organized chronologically; focused on a single coherent story; primarily descriptive but also analytical; primarily concerned with people but also the abstract circumstances in which they find themselves. To me a big part of the fascination with any history is trying to discover what was going on inside people's heads in the past, and what it was like to live in that past.

The future may finally looking brighter for Lake Berryessa or does it? History continues to unfold.

Peter Kilkus, Lake Beryessa, 2018


Here's an interview I did in 2010, three years after the interview below with Pat Monaghan and just after Pensus had been given the contract for 5 resorts. As we all know Pensus was subsequently kicked out in 2012.        

Here's a 2007 TV interview with Pat Monaghan, cofounder of Task Force 7 at Lake Berryessa, to give you some historical insight. Those of you who remember Pete Lucero will recognize his description of what we called "The Big Lie" - which turned into the "Epic Fail".

How It All Began: The Origins of the “Big Lie”

Lake Berryessa History Timeline: 1958 - 2018

Click here for PDF version

Lake Berryessa News (2010 - 2018): A VERY SLOW MOTION Disaster! 

Click here for PDF version


Some Interesting Past Stories

Silly Septic System Standards Harm Rural Napa

Napa County Frustrated by Bureau of Reclamation Stalling Tactics at Lake Berryessa as Talks on Resort Redevelopment “Continue”

Beating A Dead Horse With A StickOR Beating A Horse With A Dead Stick? BOR Betrays Berryessa AGAIN!

Revitalizing Lake Berryessa - Idling Towards Home

Protection, Preservation, or Private Profit?

A Fishy Fishing Story at Lake Berryessa

Undercover agents and all…plus a new Fishing Guide Policy from Reclamation

A Tale of Two Aircraft Tragedies - Twenty Years Apart

Reclamation Releases Final Environmental Assessment (EA) For Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas Development

"Holes In History" at Lake Berryessa: Simple Incompetence, Fervent Ignorance, Malicious Arrogance

Who Will Run The New Lake Berryessa Resorts?

2017: The Year In Review Through Lake Berryessa News Headlines

Calls To Action For The Survival 

Of The Human Race

The Great Lake Berryessa (Atlas) Fire of 2017

Atlas Fire Timeline From The Berryessa Highlands

What Is That Red Stuff Falling From The Sky?

Circle Oaks Fire - The Great Escape

Lake Berryessa 1971: Controversy Begins (Oakland Tribune)

My First Fishing Trip on Lake Berryessa

The Destruction of Steele Park Resort

Analysis of the Creation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument - the Dumbest National Monument in the United States

Napa County Wildfire Awareness Resources

Lake Berryessa History: The Summer of Love (1967) versus The Summers of Chaos (1998-1999) 

Exciting New Game Fishing Opportunity at Lake Berryessa

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

Alternative A+ Executive Summary


Special Publications

Final Ragatz Report (75MB PDF)

Ragatz Summary Recommendations (75 KB PDF)


Conspiracy Theory Or Automatic Pilot: The Economic Roots Of Environmental Destruction        

By Peter F. Kilkus 

Download PDF of this report (2 MB)

As Lake Berryessa Turns!

Temperature and Fishing in a Warm, Monomictic Lake    


The Amazing Foods of Chef Neiman Marxist

Chef Neiman Marxist French


Winters Express logo

The Winters Express


ACDC Intros mix


Glory Hole Overflows

County Berryessa Map Large

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018