Drone Captures Aerial Footage Of Lake Berryessa Glory Hole
Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County, California. This reservoir in the Vaca Mountains is formed by the Monticello Dam, which provides water and hydroelectricity to the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.
For the most part, the lake is occupied by swimmers, fishermen, water skiers, kayakers and other enjoyers of aquatic sports. Californians love the place! But after a long period of drought, a concrete tower near the dam that no one really knows what it is for becomes a drain for the excess water that fills the lake. Locals call it the ‘glory hole’.
The design for Lake Berryessa’s spillway, also called morning glory or a bell-mouth, is essentially a giant concrete funnel that on regular days sticks out of the surface of the water, 75 feet in diameter at the top and 28 feet at the base. When the lake’s surface level exceeds over 440 feet above sea level, which is close to overflowing the dam, the excess water drains down the glory hole, creating a mesmerizing whirlpool. It attracts visitors like the great attraction it is. Still, in all its six decades of existence, the lake only topped 26 times.
The operations manager for Solano Irrigation District confirms our findings that it is quite dramatic to watch when the lake overflows. When the glory hole was last in use in February 2017, some 15 drones were reported hovering over the glory hole, capturing the mesmerizing moment.
This mysterious hole is not a supernatural whirlpool, a demon’s mouth, or a portal into hell or a fourth dimension. The creepy thing probably won’t suck you into it either. It is just a really big drain called a spillway. And once you see it full of spiraling water, it is hard to take your eyes off it. Spillways come in many shapes and sizes. The one at Berryessa is of the “bellmouth” persuasion, which is also called a morning glory, plug hole or a glory hole, as the locals refer to it. The structure works a lot like the hole in the side of your sink or bathtub, which keeps water from spilling out onto the floor if someone leaves the faucet running. Only with a reservoir, it works when the rain won’t stop, as has been the case in this area, which has seen four wet storms known as atmospheric rivers so far this year.
Powerful as it looks, the spillway probably wouldn’t pull you down to the netherworld if for some reason you found yourself in the lake. Although it could still be dangerous (and there are safety barriers and buoys to keep people away), you could probably swim away from the current. It’s a lot of water, but not a lot of velocity. It can flow a lot faster but at the moment the chances of ending up in another dimension are very low - the pull of the current around the drain is so slow that the average swimmer could swim away from it. It's a drone lover's dream.