Lake Berryessa, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - Central Valley -

Lake Berryessa, nestled into the heart of California’s wine country, is the largest lake in Napa County. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built the Monticello Dam on Putah Creek in 1957 for flood control, municipal and industrial water supply, and irrigation water supply. The reservoir filled to over 20,000 acres by 1963. Since that time, Lake Berryessa has developed into a recreation destination for area residents and over 1.5 million visitors that enjoy the offerings of this water playground each year.

Construction of the Monticello Power Plant at Lake Berryessa began in 1981, and the first electrical energy was generated in 1983. The Monticello Hydroelectric Power Plant is owned and operated by the Solano Irrigation District, and electricity is transmitted to the power grid of Pacific Gas and Electric.

The Bureau of Reclamation operates two day use parks, Oak Shores and Smittle Creek, which offer picnicking, swimming, hiking, non-motorized boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, and boat mooring for day use. The Bureau also operates a free boat launch at Capell Cove on the northwest shore of Lake Berryessa. Plan to arrive early on busy summer weekends, since trailer parking is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Bureau of Reclamation also contracts with private concessionaires to provide recreation support services at Lake Berryessa: Markley Cove Resort, Pleasure Cove Marine, and Steele Park Resort. Check each resort for specific services which include marinas, boat and jet ski rentals, houseboat rentals, boat gasoline, bait, fishing licenses, convenience stores, food services, camping, and RV hook-ups. Markley Cove Resort and Pleasure Cove Marine also offer cabin rentals. Other concessionaires are currently closed, so check the Bureau’s website (see link below) for current resort information.

Because of year-round good weather and lake temperatures that reach 75 degrees in the summer, Lake Berryessa is an ideal location for some much-needed rest and relaxation. During the warmer months, most of your time will be spent outside, enjoying the opportunities that lake living has to offer: brilliant sunrises and sunsets, incredible sunny days, and hours of water fun.

Boating is one of Lake Berryessa’s most enjoyable diversions, presenting you with the opportunity to view the lake its best vantage point, all the while enjoying a bit of speed and the option to spontaneously drop anchor wherever you choose for an impromptu swim or picnic. As you weave your way around the lake’s snaking 165 miles of shoreline, keep your eyes open for the migrating or nesting birds that are most populous in early spring and late fall, but present almost year-round.

If your system craves a surge of adrenaline, this California reservoir offers you several choices. If you have already rented a boat, hop into the refreshing water and take a spin on water skis. Push the envelope a bit further and have a go at either wakeboarding or kneeboarding, or just hop on a jet ski and enjoy speeding around a bit. As always though, please make sure to practice water safety.

Anglers will love to take a day or two to jump in a bass boat, bait a line, and troll in search of catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout. Lake Berryessa is said to have some of the best fishing in the state, and no matter when you visit, something is always in season. Before you bait that hook though, please note that you’ll need a valid California fishing license. Anglers should follow the California Sport Fish Consumption Advisories (see link at sidebar).

Surrounded by crystalline lake waters and rolling green hills, it’s nearly impossible not to be drawn into nature, obeying the call of the outdoors. Luckily, Lake Berryessa hosts a very healthy walking trail system that allows hikers — beginner through advanced — to enjoy the stunning views, diverse nature, and shy wildlife that make the lake so beautiful. Grab your camera and water bottle, and choose between the scenic North End Trail, bird-heavy Lake Berryessa Wildlife Area, gentle but beautiful Pope Canyon Trail, distant and dramatic Cedar Roughs Access Trail, waterside Smittle Creek Trail, looping Stebbins Cold Canyon Trail, or several water-to-land paddle-in hikes. Adventure is yours.

To further enjoy the blue skies and sparkling waters, visit one of the lake’s day use parks. Oak Shores and Smittle Creek, maintained by the Bureau of Reclamation, both offer picnicking with charcoal grills, swimming, non-motorized biking, beautiful views, and boat mooring. There are also several reserves around the lake, including Quail Ridge, the Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Reserve, the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, Cedar Roughs, and the Lake Berryessa State Wildlife Area, all which offer opportunities to learn about the local flora and fauna, while experiencing them first hand.

Lake Berryessa offers its visitors a chance at relaxation, sun, and a good dose of fun. So head out into the great outdoors and, unless you’re arriving by seaplane, make sure to pick up all your necessities before arriving. Due to the lake’s very peaceful setting, it’s about 45 minutes away from major cities or towns, so gasoline, groceries, and anything else you think you’ll need for your trip will be scarce on-site.

Things to do at Lake Berryessa

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Playground

Fish species found at Lake Berryessa

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Lake Berryessa Photo Gallery

Lake Berryessa Statistics & Helpful Links

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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