Hole In Lake Sparks Curiosity So Man Flies Drone Over And Captures Stunning Footage!

When the water is high enough, Lake Berryessa draws thousands of tourists to Napa County, California, every year. However, these Berryessa enthusiasts don’t come just to swim or sail. They travel to the lake’s southeast side for something more unusual: a 72-foot wide “Glory Hole.”

In February 2019, the lake was high enough that water began to spill over the sides of this massive pipe, which created quite the spectacle. As thousands of gallons of the lake's water poured into the gaping tunnel, the Glory Hole looked less like a pipe and more like a vortex or a portal to another world.

That’s what makes videos like the one below — it has accumulated more than 7 million views and 15,000 likes — so fascinating. Not only do they show what the hole looks like from the road, but they also provide rare aerial footage of the tunnel, which is officially called the Morning Glory Spillway.

The gargantuan pipe has a straight drop of 200 feet before its diameter shrinks from 72 to 28 feet. But what accounts for this bell-mouth spillway? Why build a giant tunnel in the middle of a massive lake that already has a dam.

According to ABC 10, a local news station, the Morning Glory Spillway helps to drain away some of Berryessa’s water when its water levels are higher than 440 feet. It acts like a drain, and water that pours into the massive pipe finds its way into Putah Creek, which is hundreds of feet below the lake and the Monticello Dam.
The Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) reports that Lake Berryessa’s water level is currently at around 404 feet. However, in February 2019, heavy rains caused the most recent glory hole spill.

It always depends on the upper watershed, how much water we’re going to see come through here,” said Melissa Vignau, Solano Project supervisor, in a 2019 interview with ABC 10. “But it could be a few months. In 2017, we had similar precipitation, and we started in February and went through May with spilling. It very likely could be that case this year, again.”

Beyond the spectacle of the tunnel’s opening, the structure itself is quite impressive.

“It’s all curved, so you have the least resistance for the water to go down The Glory Hole,” said Jim Daniels, District Engineer for Solano Irrigation District, in his interview with ABC 10. “And it’s very efficient. It’s not very turbulent. It’s actually rather placid. It’s not that placid down inside The Glory Hole itself.”

As to why engineers built the hole rather than a more typical spillway, ABC 10 reports that space constraints meant that it made sense to build the massive pipe.

“The Monticello Dam sits at the Devil’s Gate in a narrow canyon. While the site was a good spot to build the dam, it did not have enough space to build a big channel and overflow berm. So, engineers decided the best way to get water to the other side of the dam was to dig down. They tunneled through rock to reach a tunnel that had already been built to divert Putah Creek during dam construction. That original tunnel now acts as the spillway for The Glory Hole,” Josh Lyle writes for the local news outlet.
Since the Glory Hole’s construction, it’s fascinated people both in-person and online. In another popular video of the spillway, Rick Fowler captured a video of a duck getting sucked into the vortex. Luckily, the duck — which is actually a cormorant, an aquatic diving bird — survived.

“I ran immediately to the other end to see if he came out and what happened. He blew out the other end like a rag doll and I assumed it was dead at that point, but it was not. It was blown to the other side and after a minute or two that thing flew up and landed downstream in calmer water and just shook it off,” Fowler explained in an interview with ABC 10.

However, according to ABC 7, some experts disagree with Fowler and say that there’s no way that the animal could have survived such a massive plunge.

In any case, the Morning Glory Spillway has attracted fans from all over the world, and it continues to light up the internet.

“I once went waterskiing on Lake Berryessa with my cousins. I am very glad we didn’t go anywhere near this spot!” one apost.com reader wrote.

“Maybe the Lochness Monster is down there,” another reader joked.

Unfortunately, however, most of California is experiencing severe drought — 100% of the state is experiencing at least moderate drought, and 92% is experiencing severe drought — and so it’s unlikely that the spillway will be visible in the near future. Tourists who wish to see the spillway in person can check the SCWA’s website to check the lake’s water level.


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