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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lake Berryessa
Satellite photo
Location Napa County, California
Coordinates 38°34′15″N 122°14′07″W / 38.570938°N 122.23526°W / 38.570938; -122.23526Coordinates: 38°34′15″N 122°14′07″W / 38.570938°N 122.23526°W / 38.570938; -122.23526
Lake type reservoir
Primary outflows Putah Creek[1]
Catchment area 576 sq mi (1,490 km2)[1]
Basin countries United States
Max. length 15.5 mi (24.9 km)[2]
Max. width 3 mi (4.8 km)
Surface area 20,700 acres (8,400 ha)[1]
Max. depth 275 ft (84 m)
Water volume 1,602,000 acre·ft (1.976 km3)[1]
Shore length1 165 mi (266 km)
Surface elevation 213 ft (65 m)[2]
References [1][2]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County, California. This reservoir is formed by the Monticello Dam, which provides water and hydroelectricity to the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The lake was named for the first European settlers in the Berryessa Valley, José Jesús and Sexto "Sisto" Berrelleza (a Basque surname, Anglicized to Berreyesa then later respelled Berryessa), who were granted Rancho Las Putas in 1843.

Prior to its inundation, the valley was an agricultural region, whose soils were considered among the finest in the country. The main town in the valley, Monticello, was abandoned in order to construct the reservoir. This abandonment was chronicled by the photographers Dorothea Lange and Pirkle Jones in their book Death of a Valley. Construction of Monticello Dam was begun in 1953,[3] and the reservoir filled by 1963, creating what at the time was the second-largest reservoir in California after Shasta Lake.

The lake is heavily used for recreational purposes and encompases over 20,000 acres (80 km²) when full. The reservoir is approximately 15.5 miles (25 km) long, but only 3 miles (5 km) wide. It has approximately 165 miles (265 km) of shoreline. It has a seaplane landing area that is open to the public. One of the larger islands supported a small plane landing area, but was closed down in the early 1970s after the FAA issued a safety report.

The area was also the site of one of the infamous Zodiac Killer's murders.



The lake is fed by the head waters to the 576 square mile (1,490 km²) Putah Creek watershed. It has a storage capacity of 1,602,000 acre feet (1.98 km³), making it one of the larger reservoirs in California.

Though the land behind the Monticello Dam is in Napa County, the water contained above is essentially owned by Solano County. The water is used for hydroelectric and agricultural purposes outside of Napa County, CA.


Popular activities include waterskiing, jet skiing, pleasure boating, kayaking and canoeing, hiking, road bicycling, motorcycle pleasure biking, birding, wildlife observation, picnicking, and swimming.

Lake Berryessa is a swimming and water skiing site for enthusiasts. The narrow portion of the reservoir, nearest to the Monticello Dam, is referred to as the "Narrows," and is sometimes busy with boaters on holidays and weekends.

There are several resorts with marinas at the lake, as well as nearby Lake Solano County Park located west of Winters, California. Day use areas include Oak Shores and Smittle Creek. There are swimming areas closed to boats and other watercraft, as well as several hiking trails.


Cedar Roughs Wilderness

Adjoining the Lake Berryessa Recreational Area is the recently designated Cedar Roughs Wilderness. The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2006 set aside the former study area of 6,350 acres located 1.8 miles past Pope Creek bridge on the Pope Creek arm of Lake Berryessa. The wilderness can be accessed by car or boat, although there are no maintained trails (as yet). Hiking can be difficult as more than half of the wilderness consists of Sargent cypress, which covers 3,000 acres and is relatively pure genetically. It is the second most widely distributed cypress in California, and was named for Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927), the founder and director of Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum and author of the 14-volume Silva of North America. The area is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and California Department of Fish and Game. [4]

Flora and fauna

Notable plants in the area include sargent cypress, white alder, leather oak, Jepson's navarretia, and Bridge's brodiaea.

Fish species in Lake Berryessa include bluegill, brown trout, channel catfish, chinook salmon, green sunfish, kokanee, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, spotted bass, white catfish Sacramento squawfish and landlocked steelhead. The introduced species of carp, is also present and feeds on organic matter as well as fish eggs. [5]

The east side of the lake has a 2,000-acre Wildlife Management Area that protects wildlife habitats for such species as mountain lion, black-tailed deer, western rattlesnake, raccoon, skunk, osprey and golden eagle.

See also

A panorama of Lake Berryessa


External links


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