The August issue of the Lake Berryessa News is available for download (click this link)

LBNews Pg 8&1 Aug20


An Insight Into The Strength Of False Beliefs

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”      Upton Sinclair    


Lake Level as of 7/31/20

Lake Berryessa's water level has dropped to 424.4 feet, 15.6 feet below Glory Hole. 

Glory Hole 073120 14.6'

This is a reasonably normal level at this time of year.

Lake Level History 1958-2015

The following chart shows the lake level variation during the previous 10-year drought.

lake-levels 2006-to-031217
Lake Levels 1990 2017

Total rainfall for the previous season at Monticello Dam was 10.93 inches. The new rainfall measurement year began on July 1.

Water temperature measured at Monticello Dam is 80 degrees at the surface to 10 feet, 63 degrees average at 40 feet, and 53 degrees at 70 feet deep and below.

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 8.21.03 AM


Progress Towards Lake Berryessa Renaissance: 

Napa County Moves Forward

Renaissance is a French word meaning “rebirth.” It refers to a period in European civilization that was marked by a revival of Classical learning and wisdom. In 2020 it refers to the rebirth of a family recreation jewel through the creation of modern, eco-friendly resorts open and affordable to all.

In an email to the Lake Berryessa News, Deputy Napa County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan reported that, “We are in the process of finalizing the marketing report with Ragatz Realty and the job description for the Concessionaire Manager for Lake Berryessa. Both should be final in early August and we’ll move to the bidding documents.  Plan is to release documents in September.”

Although the rebuilding process has been delayed several times, the latest being the COVID19 crisis, everyone following this process is breathing a sigh of relief that the wheels are, once again, at least turning.

The MPA’s first phase paves the way for the county to choose developers for three lakeside resort sites, Monticello Shores, Spanish Flat and Steele Canyon RecAreas.

Under Phase 2, by or before Nov. 1, 2030, the county will determine whether to take over  recreation management responsibility for two other sites -- Pleasure Cove Marina and Markley Cove Resort currently under multi-year contracts with Reclamation.

In Phase 3, by 2030 the county may elect to assume recreation management responsibility for Berryessa Point Recreation Area and Putah Canyon Recreation Area. (See Putah Canyon story on Page 2: Bureau of Reclamation Opens Ten Year Term Bids for Putah Canyon RecArea.)

In a statement to the North Bay Business Journal (www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/) Rattigan said, “We plan to send out bidding packages by September. We maintain a list of interested parties and will provide information and updates about these emerging business opportunities.”

“It has been too long since we experienced a thriving Lake Berryessa,” said Supervisor Diane Dillon, chair of the Napa County Board of Supervisors.“We want to work with the community to restore economic vitality to the region surrounding one of Napa County’s most important recreational areas. We thank the Bureau of Reclamation for working with us and for providing the county the opportunity to bring back vibrant concessions at Lake Berryessa.”

Lake Berryessa Boat and Jet Ski Rentals and Repair Owner Marty Rodden hopes to see Spanish Flat, Monticello Shores and Steele Canyon redeveloped.

Although Lake Berryessa was closed for several months due the virus restrictions, since it opened last month the response from the public has been overwhelming - showing again that the lake is a major recreation draw. “We are booked up solid through August for our wakeboard, ski and pontoon boat rentals as well as for jet skis, fishing boats, kayaks and paddle board reservations,” Rodden said.

Rodden, a long-term local business owner with deep ties to the community believes, “A number of good companies plan to bid on one or more of these properties.”

Hopefully financially-solid recreation companies will recognize the profit potential described in so much detail in the Ragatz Report commissioned by the County in 2017: Lake Berryessa: An Untapped Resort Development Opportunity. (The full 71MB Ragatz Report is available at: www.lakeberryessanews.com/special-publications/rfii-process--ragatz-report/final-lake-berryessa-ragatz.pdf)

It is gratifying that the county is working once again with Ragatz to assist in writing the bid prospectus.

One enduring business, the Turtle Rock Bar & Café operated by Pete Leung for 40 years, regularly sees his parking lot packed with motorcycles, cars, trucks and boat trailers - even with the present health restrictions.

“The future is promising with opportunities for development, and property prices are going up,” said Leung, known for his famous egg rolls. “There is money to be made here if the county is willing to entertain new ideas, but we need to get resorts developed, new lodging, more restaurants, shower facilities as well as water and sewer infrastructure to support them.”

Most residents and regular visitors agree. The Ragatz report concluded, based on extensive input, analysis, and survey results that:

“The challenge and opportunity are to redevelop the five concession areas into resorts that more appropriately reflect the lifestyle of today’s participants in outdoor recreation – higher quality, more variety, greater convenience, more nature-based (but not forgetting the ever-popularity of motor boats and RVs), more family-oriented, etc.

If more care is given to these important trends, Lake Berryessa has the opportunity to: (1) become a significant year-round destination for the almost 10 million people in the Bay Area and Sacramento; (2) significantly impact the economy of Napa County; (3) be profitable to appropriately selected concessionaires; and (4) do so while maintaining and enhancing the natural environment.

It is not the intent to make Lake Berryessa into a highly-commercialized, over-dense environment. Care must be taken to always balance the criteria of consumer demand, economic gain and protection of Lake Berryessa’s beautiful natural setting.”

This is 2020 - we know how to do that!


Lake Berryessa Is Fully Open!

All recreation areas, marinas, and campgrounds are open. Day use is available. All Bureau of Reclamation facilities, Oak Shores Day Use, 

Smittle Creek Day Use, Capell Launch Ramp, are also open.

Markley Cove Resort, 707-289-8068, markleycove.com

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

Steele Canyon RecArea, 800-709-7814, lakeberryessacampgrounds.com

Spanish Flat RecArea, 707-966-0200, spanishflatcamping.com

Putah Canyon RecArea, 707-966-9051,



More Opportunities to Live at the Lake

1029 Eastridge Jun2020 copy
208 Manzanita Jun2020


Reclamation Opens Ten Year Term Bids for the 

Putah Canyon Recreation Area

Per the Managing Partner Agreement between Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation, Steele Canyon, Spanish Flat, and Monticello Shores will be the first recreation areas to be put up for bid. However, that leaves the Putah Canyon Recreation area out of MPA play until 2030.

Putah Canyon is being run now by Royal Oak Management on an interim contract with the BOR. But Putah Canyon is on the list for the County to take over as one of the last recreation areas on the schedule - after 2030. So the BOR seems to be extending the present contract for ten years to buffer that extended time frame. By law Reclamation has to have an open bid process. So Royal Elk may bid and be the company that keeps the present contract. Expect some, but not much, development no matter who takes over the concession.

Per the MPA: "Putah Canyon: Reclamation, and Napa County, may agree to include Putah Canyon into the Managing Partner Agreement (after 2030). Until such time, Reclamation will continue to manage the Recreation Area.

Timeline – Phasing the concession sites under the MPA by the County.

o Phase 1 – (November 1, 2020) The County will take over recreation management responsibility for Steele Canyon, Monticello Shores, and Spanish Flat.

o Phase 2 – By or before November 1, 2030, The County will determine whether it will exercise an option to take over the recreation management responsibility for Pleasure Cove and Markley Cove.

o Phase 3 – The County may take over the recreation management responsibility for Berryessa Point and Putah Canyon."


Press Release: Reclamation opens concession development and operation bidding at Putah Canyon Recreation Area

 The Bureau of Reclamation announced today the open bidding period for a campground’s recreation development and operation at Lake Berryessa’s Putah Canyon Recreation Area. This is a business management opportunity for a Putah Canyon Recreation Area camping concession facility for up to 10 years.

With a business model committed to the provision of quality camping, Reclamation foresees commercial opportunities at Putah Canyon Recreation Area, which is readily accessible by millions of potential visitors. The location, environment, scenic vistas, multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities and proximity to other tourist destinations makes this a desirable location for land-and-water-based commercial recreation services.

Putah Canyon Recreation Area includes campgrounds, public boat launch, day-use area and limited retail sales. Some operations will be seasonal, while others may be year-round. Bidders may also suggest other appropriate facilities/activities as part of their unique proposals.

View contract opportunities at the Beta.Sam website, https://beta.sam.gov/, and search for keyword: “Putah Canyon” or solicitation number MP-20-LB1, for opportunities and information on submitting a business proposal. Business will be conducted under the terms and conditions of long-term concession contracts between the successful bidder and Reclamation. 

Proposals are accepted until Monday, August 10, by 4:00 p.m. PST.


Summary of the Putah Canyon RecArea Business Opportunity 

Reclamation, through this solicitation is outlining a business opportunity for concession operation of a campground at Putah Canyon Recreation Area at Lake Berryessa. This business opportunity is developed to meet the standards of recreational services and facilities identified in the 2006 Visitor Services Plan/Record of Decision. Nature of business and service(s) provided: This business opportunity is for concession operations of campground and associated facilities at Putah Canyon Recreation Area at Lake Berryessa for a term not to exceed ten years.

 Rates for the goods and services provided are regulated by the Bureau of Reclamation based upon comparison of similar services provided by the private sector. Some operations may be seasonal in nature while others may serve year-round business demands. There may also be other appropriate facilities and activities that Offerors may suggest as a part of their unique proposals. Selected contractor will be required to pay a Franchise Fee to Reclamation representative of the value to the Concession Contractor of the use, rights, and privileges granted by the Concession Contract. 

Based on visitation trends, Reclamation will allow seasonal adjustments to the operations. The selected concession contractor may propose partial closures and reuctions in service at non-peak times. This Prospectus will be open through August 10 in recognition of the complexities involved and the potential for individual Offerors to develop proposals.


Berryessa Pig Invasion Prompts Action

Those of us who live at the lake were shocked by what can only be called the Invasion of the Pigs when the lake re-opened a few weeks ago. The shoreline along Steele Canyon Road was inundated by trash left by the oinkers who went down to the lake to picnic.

Hundreds of complaints from local residents to  Bureau of Reclamation and Napa County officials about the porker tourist invasion resulted in dumpsters and porta-potties being placed along Steele Canyon Road below the Steele Canyon Recreation Area entrance.

The mess some of these jerks left behind was unconscionable. We've all had our fun times watching tourons at the launch ramps, but these piggy criminals don't deserve any laughter - just big fines.

Below is a report from the LBBO interns who usually provide invassive mussel inspection services at the recration areas. They also did their share to clean up the Steele Canyon shoreline last week.

Lake Berryessa Boater Outreach Program Cleanup

July 20-21, 2020

The Lake Berryessa interns spent a productive two days at the Steele Canyon pullouts collecting litter from along the road and by the lake shore. On Monday, the interns collected 238 pounds of litter and on Tuesday they collected 142 pounds with a two-day total of 380 pounds!

Highlights included finding an old mattress and an inflatable pool tube. They had the extraordinary help of Park Ranger Dave from the Bureau of Reclamation. On Monday, the group found a large jug (that was presumed to be filled with water) buried next to a drainage pipe.

Once it was brought to the rest of the collected garbage, it began leaking oil. The jug was quickly double-bagged so that Dave could dispose of it properly. The interns used an oil absorbent pillow and sheet to soak up as much leaked oil from the ground as they could. They will return next week to the north-end of the lake.


Solano County Water Agency Stops Mussel Contaminated Patio Boat

A 25-foot pontoon boat was bought in Chicago and then had transported to California. It somehow passed the state border inspection. Anyone who had walked by the boat may not have noticed the invasive mussels. That likely explains how the boat cleared the border inspection. The boat continued its journey down to Santa Rosa, and eventually was ready to be launched in Lake Sonoma.

It was there the boat owner learned he had some stowaways – and the kind of stowaways the Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) spends a considerable amount of funds on annually to keep out of Lake Berryessa. Invasive mussels had taken hold on the boat, and if allowed to launch, could have become the start of a serious problem for Lake Sonoma, or any waterway and the water users.

mussel map

The mussels have been known to destroy pumps and irrigation systems, causing millions of dollars in damage if not held in check. Water quality is also an issue. Zebra and Quagga mussels have been found in 29 waterways in California, predominantly in the southern part of the state. Millions of dollars have been spent in eradication efforts.

Lake Berryessa is completely free of the invasive species, and keeping the it clean is why the agency is working to develop a rapid response plan if the lake were to be compromised. Keeping the mussels from getting into lower Putah Creek is also a concern.

This episode is a good educational tale for the boaters who complain about the inspections before being allowed to launch onto Berryessa. The water agency hires 12 seasonal inspectors to man each boat launch at the lake. It also operates a decontamination center at Steel Canyon Recreation Area – and it was there the much traveled pontoon ended up. 

The boat went through three decontamination cycles, but a specially trained dog with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife still hit on mussels on the vessel. 

Mussel dog

With this boat in particular – they actually found closed shells still attached with moisture inside indicating some could have still been alive. Mussels can live up to 30 days out of water. With this boat  the first reason for concern was the possibility of water being taken on and sitting in the pontoons which mussels can grow and live in for as long as the water stands in them.

The second reason to try to remove as much dead mussels as possible is that too much dead mussel material released into a waterway can set off a false positive for DNA – which would change Lake Berryessa’s status of “mussel free” to “suspect waterbody”. They agency would have to act accordingly until they receive all negative results for the next two following years.

The boat’s engine was torn apart in hopes of completing the decontamination task. Live mussels were found in the engine by a Lake Berryessa Boat & Jet Ski Repair mechanic. Additional decontamination work was then completed on the pontoon boat. There was no cost to the boat owner. Because of SCWA’s grant funding, and because it is worth it to protect Lake Berryessa the service is free.

Mussels in Motor


Got this stream-of-consciousness report from my Texas cousin who found it on Facebook and said, 

"Told y'all 2020 sucks."

Dear Diary, 2020 Edition,

In January, Australia caught on fire. I don’t even know if that fire was put out, because we straight up almost went to war with Iran. We might actually still be almost at war with them. I don’t know, because Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt spoke to one another at an awards show and everyone flipped out, but then Netflix released Cheer and everyone fell in love with Jerry, but then there was thing happening in China, then Prince Harry and Megan peaced out of the Royal family, and there was the whole impeachment trial, and then corona virus showed up in the US “officially,” but then Kobe died and UK peaced out of the European Union.

In February, Iowa crapped itself with the caucus results and the president was acquitted and the Speaker of the House took ten years to rip up a speech, but then WHO decided to give this virus a name COVID-19, which confused some really important people in charge of, like, our lives, into thinking there were 18 other versions before it, but then Harvey Weinstein was found guilty, and Americans started asking if Corona beer was safe to drink, and everyone on Facebook became a doctor who just knew the flu like killed way more people than COVID 1 through 18.

In March, you know what hit the fan. Warren dropped out of the presidential race and Sanders was like Bernie or bust, but then Italy shut its whole butt down, and then COVID Not 1 through 18 officially become what everyone already realized, a pandemic and then a nationwide state of emergency was declared in US, but it didn’t really change anything, so everyone was confused or thought it was still just a flu, but then COVID Not 18 was like ya’ll not taking me seriously? I’m gonna infect the one celebrity everyone loves and totally infected Tom Hanks, but then the DOW took a s%#& on itself, and most of us still don’t understand why the stock market is so important or even a thing (I still don’t), but then we were all introduced to Tiger King. (Carol totally killed her husband), and Netflix was like you’re welcome, and we all realized there was no way we were washing our hands enough in the first place because all of our hands are now dry and gross.

In April, Bernie finally busted himself out of the presidential race, but then NYC became the set of The Walking Dead and we learn that no one has face masks, ventilators, or toilet paper, or THE DAMN SWIFTER WET JET LIQUID, but then Kim Jong-Un died, but then he came back to life… or did he? Who knows, because then the Pentagon released videos of UFOs, and we were like man, it’s only April….

In May, the biblical end times kicked off historical locust swarms and then we learned of murder hornets and realized that 2020 was the start of the Hunger Games but people forgot to let us know, but then people legit protested lockdown measures with AR-15s, and then sports events were cancelled everywhere, But then people all over America finally reached a breaking point with race issues and violence. There were protests in every city, but then people totes forgot about the pandemic called COVID Not One Through 18. Media struggled with how to focus on two important things at once, but then people in general struggle to focus on more than one important thing, and a dead whale was found in the middle of the Amazon rain forest after monkeys stole COVID 1 Through 19 from a lab and ran off with them, and either in May or April (no one is keeping track of time now) that a giant asteroid narrowly missed earth.

In June, science and common sense just got thrown straight out the window and somehow wearing masks became a political thing, but then a whole lot of people realized the south was actually the most unpatriotic thing ever and actually lost the civil war, and there is a large amount of people who feel that statues they don’t even know the name of are needed for … history reasons, but then everyone sort of remembered there was a pandemic, but then decided that not wearing a mask was somehow a god given right (still haven't found that part in the bible or even in the constitution), but then scientists announced they found a mysterious undiscovered mass at the center of the earth, and everyone was like DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH IT, but then everyone took a pause to realize that people actually believed Gone With The Wind was like non-fiction, but then it was also announced that there is a strange radio signal coming from somewhere in the universe that repeats itself every so many days, and everyone was like DON’T YOU DARE ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH. IT, but then America reopened from the shut down that actually wasn’t even a shut down, and so far, things have gone spectacularly not that great, but everyone is on Facebook arguing that masks kill because no one knows how breathing works, but then Florida was like hold my beer and let me show you how we’re number one in all things, including new Not Corona Beer Corona Virus, Trump decides now is a good time to ask the Supreme Court to shut down Obama Care because what better time to do so than in the middle of a pandemic, but then we learned there was a massive dust cloud coming straight at us from the Sahara Desert, which is totally normal, but this is 2020, so the ghost mummy thing is most likely in that dust cloud, but then I learned of meth-gators, and I'm like that is so not on my frappin' 2020 Bingo card, but then we learned that the Congo's worse ever Ebola outbreak is over, and we were all like, there was an ebola outbreak that was the worse ever?

In July/August…. Aliens? Zeus? Asteroids? 

Artificial Intelligence becomes self aware?


Beautiful Berryessa Book Released

For those of  us who love Lake Berryessa and the Greater Lake Berryessa Region, a new book has just been published that gives amazing descrptions of  the geologic and biological makeup of the region, including  beautiful maps. The Lake Berryessa News highly recommends it. 

The book is available in print and ebook format at: https://backcountrypress.com/book/exploring-the-berryessa-region/

Exploring the Berryessa Region

A Geology, Nature, and History Tour


Eldridge and Judith Moores

Marc Hoshovsky

Peter Schiffman

Bob Scneider

“Here, in the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument region, is the best place in the world to see plate tectonics.”

—Dr. Eldridge Moores, (1938–2018), Professor Emeritus, Geology, University of California, Davis

We dedicate this book to our dear friend Eldridge Moores, who recently passed away. Eldridge and Judy Moores, his wife and partner, are the inspiration for this work. It is based on many of the field trips that they led, during which they shared their love for geology and this land.

Berryessa region map from book copy

Eldridge was a leader in the plate tectonics revolution. He contributed to our emerging understanding of how oceanic crust develops by seafloor spreading, how oceanic crust has varied through time, how it’s emplaced on land, and the tectonic significance of that emplacement, knowledge that is still regarded as foundational. It is these foundational elements and more that we see in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region.

John McPhee’s book Assembling California introduced Eldridge’s work to people all across the country. After its publication, he had so many requests from the public for fieldtrips that he and Judy began to lead them regularly as fund-raisers for local non-profit organizations. 

Over the past 20 or so years, they led up to 50- plus folks at a time on car-pool trips all around Northern California. In total, several thousand enthusiastic people went on these daylong adventures. Judy and Eldridge came home exhausted and exhilarated by the success of every trip.

Eldridge was a professor of geology at UC Davis, the geology department chair, the editor of the earth science journal Geology, the president of the Geological Society of America, and the vice president of the International

Union of Geological Sciences, where he provided vital leadership. He long promoted education in the earth sciences in schools. He was also a father, a concert cello player, and—to so many—a friend.

Exploring the Berryessa Region tells the story of a landscape, just west of Sacramento and north of San Francisco, born through plate tectonic forces.

The Berryessa Region anchors the southern end of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and holds geologic wonders including subduction zones, thrust faults, ophiolites, turbidites, mud volcanoes, and pull apart basins. These features nurture world-renowned biological diversity which, over time, has fostered a rich history of human cultures—including Native Americans.

Today recreational opportunities draw new visitors with hiking, camping, birding, botanizing, horse riding, boating, and managed off-highway vehicle use. Regional ecosystem services include water, forests, and ranchlands.

Full of rich details, this book helps visitors explore this fascinating region by car and discover how regional diversity developed. Readers can use the mile by mile descriptions as a field guide to explore these geological, ecological, and historical features for themselves.

Inside the pages:

> Mile by mile driving descriptions showcasing geologic highlights

> 70+ full-color figures and maps

> Lively sidebars exploring region natural and cultural history

> Introduction to regional geological concepts


The Lake Berryessa Watershed

by Paige Norberg, Lake Berryessa Watershed Partnership

Did you know that Lake Berryessa is a reservoir and that its water is used for recreation, habitat for fish and wildlife, irrigation for farming, AND as a drinking water source for Solano County? Many people are surprised to learn that the water that they boat on has such a wide array of uses and that they personally are affected by the water quality, either directly when they drink it, or indirectly as it is used on local farms. As the water in the lake is delivered across a network of creeks, canals and pipes to the surrounding community, this watershed is critical for our region.

-Lake Berryessa Watershed

A watershed is an area where water is carried in the form of rain and snow through groundwater and runoff on roads to a network of storm drains, creeks and rivers that eventually converge into one water source. Lake Berryesssa naturally drains into Putah Creek and travels through Davis and into the Sacramento River and eventually into the ocean. The constructed watershed brings water from Lake Berryessa to the Putah South Canal and into Solano County.

The water supply for Lake Berryessa is derived from the 568 square mile drainage basin above the dam. (See map on Page 6.) There is no connection to the snowmelt from the Sierras. The elevation of the basin ranges from 182 feet at the dam to 4,722 feet at the upper end of Putah Creek with most of the basin lying below 1,500 feet. There are four principal creeks that flow into Lake Berryessa: Capell Creek, Pope Creek, Eticuera Creek, and Putah Creek, the main drainage of the basin.

The lake is 23 miles long, 3 miles wide, with 165 miles of shoreline and is fed by the headwaters to the 576 square mile Putah Creek watershed. Rainfall levels vary significantly by location. Moskowite Corners is usually about 10% - 20% higher in rain totals than the nearby (7 miles) Berryessa Highlands. Calistoga, Angwin, and Napa provide an interesting precipitation comparison, but they are not within the Putah Creek Watershed. Middletown rainfall is a better comparison since it is really the headwaters to Putah Creek and flows directly into the lake

The water cycle plays a crucial part in a watershed as the evaporation from the bodies of water eventually make it back into the entire ecosystem in the form of rain or snow. As John Wesley Powell, a geologist, said, a watershed is “that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."

It is this connection to all living things that is so important to remember when thinking about Lake Berryessa as a watershed. Trash, oil, or other chemicals dumped in the surrounding areas will eventually make their way into the storm drains that connect to the creeks that flow into Berryessa. From there the water will either be consumed by humans, used for irrigation, or make its way to the Pacific Ocean. Marine debris, or trash, can then be consumed by life at sea or end up in the North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This swirling mass collects trash from all over the world.

This is why the Lake Berryessa Watershed Partnership is working so hard to educate boaters and recreationists about keeping the lake clean. Our watershed and our entire region will benefit if each one of us do our part by not polluting and picking up litter. Remember, if you wouldn’t want to drink it, don’t put it in the lake! 


Policy and Politics Betray the People: 

The Lake Berryessa Saga: 1958 - 2020

 (Introduction from my new book “in progress”)

A draft version is available for review and comment at:

Policy and Politics Betray the People: 

The Four Tragedies of the Berryessa Valley: A History of Heartbreak

As I stood with Brian Hackney of KPIX’s Eye on the Bay looking out at the fantastic view of Lake Berryessa from the site of the demolished Steele Park Resort’s Boathouse Restaurant (https://youtu.be/nP9K8Ai0Lkc), I was struck by the many levels of history we were witness to. And much of that history, unfortunately, was filled with heartbreak.

The First Tragedy: The Destruction of Native American Culture

Formerly known as Talahalusi (Beautiful Land), the Napa Valley is one of California's longest inhabited areas. Archaeological surveys indicate 10,000 years of uninterrupted habitation. "It was a paradise - a cultivated paradise where one only had to reach out their hand to eat. A place rich in beauty, water and food," stated the oral history of Native American Elder Jim Big Bear King.

Native Americans lived peacefully in pole houses, using clamshell beads and magnesite cylinders for money and jewelry. They processed obsidian into shafts, spears and arrowheads, which were used for hunting and export. Acorns, perennial grasses, wild berries, freshwater shellfish, salmon, fowl and game were their diet. These hunter-gatherers lived in a rich environment with a capacity for a dense, socially complex population of 35,000-40,000 people. They established large permanent villages with nearby seasonal resource and task-specific camps.

In 1976 an archaeological survey of lands slated for development for recreational purposes (Oak Shores) resulted in the discovery of a number of prehistoric artifacts along the shoreline of Lake Berryessa. Although the study area (Oakshores Park) is contiguous to Lake Berryessa and appears (at the present time) to be a favorable place for human occupance, prior to the construction of Monticello Dam it was a considerable distance from the principal stream draining the area (Putah Creek).

Spain claimed the land that included California in about 1530.  It stayed in Spanish hands until Mexican independence in 1821 when it became part of Mexico—Alta California as it was called by the Mexicans to distinguish it from Baja California.

After the Spanish and Mexican invasion in 1823, the tribes were nearly decimated by forced marches and smallpox. When forced to relocate to various missions for religious indoctrination, many fled to friendlier territory.

The Second Tragedy: The Destruction of Spanish Culture

Alta California stayed in Mexican hands until an infamous incident in 1846.  John C. Fremont led a group of American adventurers and earlier American immigrants in an uprising to try and free Alta California from Mexican hands.  On 14 June 1846 Fremont and company declared California to be an independent state:  the Bear Flag Republic. What so stains the Bear Flag Republic is the killing by some of Fremont’s men, lead by the famous Kit Carson, of three innocent Mexicans—Jose de los Reyes Berryessa and two of his nephews.

This “republic” only lasted until 7 July 1846.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American war and ceded northern Mexico to the U.S.  California, then, became a territory of the U.S.  In 1850 California was admitted to the Union as a state and stayed in the Union during the Civil War.

What, though, of the people of Alta California?  Who were they, where did they come from, and how did they change over time?  Particularly what of the people of Berryessa Valley?

The first people known to reside in the valley were American Indians from the Southern Wintun tribe.  Up until about 1800 members of the Southern Wintun tribe lived in a village in Berryessa Valley named Topai.  Their main diet was acorns which normally grew abundantly.  Unfortunately, no members of the Southern Wintun tribe survive. 

The next known inhabitants of the valley were two Mexican brothers, the Berryessas (Berryessa is a corruption of their actual name—Berelleza).  The Berryessa brothers, Sisto and Jose, received the valley as part of a land grant to them in 1843 from the newly independent Mexican government.  When California became a state in 1850 the Berryessas petitioned to have their land grant recognized by the United States government.

However, by the time Lincoln finalized the Berryessa brothers’ right to the land almost none of the land was still in Berryessa hands.  The Berryessas had sold the vast majority of the land in order to cover their plentiful debts, particularly gambling debts.  It seems that Sisto and Jose were overly fond of Three Card Monte and horse racing.  In 1879, the last Berryessa homesteader, Nicholosa Higuera, wife of Sisto Berryessa, died.  Her husband died the year before in 1878.  Both were buried in the valley.  Sisto’s body, unlike that of many of the other homesteaders, was not recovered when the cemetery in Monticello was relocated to Spanish Flat.  Sisto lies beneath the waters of Lake Berryessa even today.

The Third Tragedy: The Destruction of Rural Culture

The town of Monticello was born the next year, 1867, when B.F. Davis built a blacksmith shop.  It became the center of a prosperous agricultural community and was located somewhat in the middle of the valley, along Putah Creek.  The valley itself was flat and fertile and was considered to have some of the best soil in the country.

Monticello was always a fairly small town, usually two to three hundred residents.  The town at different times had a hotel, a school, two gas pumps, a general store, a community hall, and a bar (a roadside spot called “The Hub”).  McKenzie and Sons store (originally McKenzie and Cook) was a center point for much of the activity in the town.  Albert McKenzie, who ran the store for many years, was the grocery clerk, postmaster, community telephone switchboard operator, notary public, crop insurance man as well as the person to go to for free farming and income tax advice.  He was a man who wore many hats.  Monticello became a popular venue for rodeos, baseball games, and “cow roasts” drawing people from miles around. 

The town enjoyed the distinction of being the first community in the state to have a telephone system installed (around 1905).  In 1896 the famous Monticello Bridge over Putah Creek, was built.  It was considered the grandest stone masonry bridge ever built in California, consisting of three 70 foot spans.  Some claim it was the largest stone bridge in the Western United States.  The Bridge is the only thing that remains of Monticello beneath the waters of Lake Berryessa—everything else was either burnt to the ground or carted off. 

Monticello store demolished
Burning house again1
Burning house again

The Solano County Irrigation District was formed in 1948 to obtain irrigation water from a proposed multiple-purpose Solano Project and included the damming of Berryessa Valley at Devil’s Gate.  Shortly thereafter Bureau of Reclamation included the Solano Project as part of its plan to develop water resources in the Central Valley Basin of California.

In 1953 construction began on Monticello Dam.  The rest of the Solano Project includes a diversion dam on lower Putah Creek (creating Lake Solano) and an open waterway stretching 33 miles named the Putah South Canal.

By 1956 all the trees, homes, barns, and other structures were dismantled, burned, or removed from the valley in preparation for its inundation.  Because the land was condemned, compensation for people’s property was minimal. 

The Dam was completed in 1957 and the former valley, now a reservoir, filled within two years leaving no clues that Monticello and Berryessa Valley were once populated.

The Fourth Tragedy: Destruction of  Lake Berryessa Family Recreation

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.

Steele Park Restaurant from lake

The goal of my new  book is to provide the history and the context within which such an incredibly destructive course of action took place. The book is dedicated to documenting this final tragedy - and, hopefully, the promised revitalization.



 (Final Lake Berryessa Ragatz Report)


Ragatz Report Summary and Recommendations


Napa County Request for Information & Interest

 for Lake Berryessa Concessions

Managing Partner Agreement (MPA) between Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation


New Book on Amazon

-Kindle cover

Amazon Kindle - $2.99

I've just released my new book: Conspiracy Theory or Automatic Pilot: The Economic Roots of Environmental Destruction. Available on Amazon in Kindle (above) or Paperback (below).

Classical economics is a mythology. Predatory capitalism is a fundamentalist religion based on this mythology. Environmental destruction and income inequality are results of the practice of this mythical religion. But is the present economic and environmental situation a conscious conspiracy or an unintended consequence of simplistic beliefs supported by basic human greed?

Serfs Up for book

This book provides the basics of classical economic theory and the description of the intended or unintended consequences of predatory capitalism based on this theory. It contrasts these to sustainability principles underpinning modern environmental economic theory and the various movement towards corporate responsibility.

Fishing Financial System

The book is not meant to be an academic or scientific exercise for economists or policy makers. The concepts discussed are easily accessible to thoughtful readers. My objective was to explain to myself the structure of economic influence that is at the heart of environmental degradation (including the welfare of individual human beings). Understanding is the foundation of action.


Lake Berryessa Interview with Peter Kilkus on KVON Radio with Larry Kramer


Lake Berryessa issues - 1971

In my research of the history of Lake Berryessa I came upon this interesting publication from 1971 documenting the situation at the lake. It mirrors the same controversy that occurred in the early 2000s. There were people spreading falsehoods about the lake’s water quality then as there were in 2001 and later. 

Lake Berryessa is and always was the cleanest lake in northern California. The mobile homes never caused any pollution of the lake. This statement is not an opinion - it is supported by all the relevant facts and data. At that time the National Park Service was pushing a plan to develop Lake Berryessa to serve 8 million visitors per year at more than 12 public sites all around the lake.    

Download the full four page bulletin here...


See my detailed report on how Lake Berryessa and Monticello Dam function at:



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...


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
Lake Levels 1990 2017



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.



Policy and Politics Betray the People 

The Lake Berryessa Saga: 1958 - 2020 (draft)

by Peter Kilkus

(Click here to Download the PDF)


Lake Berryessa Project Primary Document Index

Table Of Contents


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

April Fools 2020 Edition Stories

Grass-Fed People to Replace Grass-Fed Beef

Triploid Trout Getting Bigger and Smarter in Lake Berryessa

Becoming REALLY Green to Help Our Planet

Chlorophyll skin to help solve climate crisis

University of Lake Berryessa Promotes Solutions to Climate Change, 

Global Food Security, and Animal Cruelty Prevention

The meat grape, steak potato, chicken nugget bush,and braunschweiger avocado


January 16, 2020 - KVON Radio Interview

Larry Kamer talks w/ author Peter Kilkus, about the many aspects of the Lake Berryessa Saga

Download the interview here...

The Stock Market IS NOT the Economy, Stupid!

Bird Goes Over the Glory Hole Waterfall Without A Barrel

Glory Hole: Awesome, Frightening, But Dangerous?

February 2019: 2nd Anniversary of Glory Hole Spilling

My First Fishing Trip on Lake Berryessa

Berryesa Oil Rush 1900 & 1920

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

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


Special Publications (PDF)


 (Final Lake Berryessa Ragatz Report)


Ragatz Report Summary and Recommendations


Napa County Request for Information & Interest

 for Lake Berryessa Concessions


As Lake Berryessa Flows:

The Science and Engineering Elements of a Major Natural Resource (Combined Reports)

Combined Report Title Page and Index


As Lake Berryessa Flows: 

A Combination of Science, Engineering, and Natural Beauty 

(Single Report)


As Lake Berryessa Turns!

Temperature and Fishing in a Warm, Monomictic Lake 

(Single Report)  


Seeing Underwater at Lake Berryessa 

(Single Report)


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

By Peter Kilkus (6/20/17)

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.


Chef Neiman Marxist French

The Amazing Foods of Chef Neiman Marxist


Glory Hole Overflows: February, 2017 (ACDC version)

Bird Down Glory Hole (video)

ACDC Intros mix



Hot Tramp 1000 Video 

World’s Largest Rock and Roll Band!

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018