Lake Berryessa sits in the middle of Napa County’s wine country in Northern California. While it’s a beautiful lake and the scenery is breathtaking, it’s still just an ordinary lake. Or is it?
A Mysterious Hole
A mysterious hole was found one day by a man and his drone, and him, along with millions of people who saw the footage online, were in awe and no one knew what it was.
It’s as though this phenomenon appeared overnight. How does such a large body of water have a large hole in it and where is the water going? It looked like a vortex into another space. Evan Kilkus had to find out.
Evan Kilkus is a drone enthusiast and YouTube personality known as Evan K. He works at Lake Berryessa, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area of California. And one day on the job, he revealed a huge discovery that no one seemed to know about.
He took his drone for a “casual spin” one day, letting it fly above the serene lake. But suddenly it had a glitch. He figured it was something simple, a routine glitch of sorts.
But he had no idea he would stumble upon a real phenomenon.
The Coolest Toy
Evan Kilkus loved his drone and enjoyed playing around with the coolest toy he has. And living and working in that part of nature meant he wasn’t lacking the stuff to capture on camera.
Evan worked at the water sports rental shop at Lake Berryessa. He figured that he knew every nook and cranny of that lake, so he never expected to find anything new in it. But that was about to change.
A Double Take
When he flew his drone out that day, he reviewed the photos when it came back. And he did a double take. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
He was looking at this massive hole in the middle of the lake! He couldn’t take his eyes off the photo as it made no sense to him at all and defied all the laws of science that he knew.
He was about to start a journey into a vortex.
After staring at the drone’s footage for a while and considering the fact that he might be hallucinating, he realized that his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him and that there was, in fact, a large hole in the lake.
This hole ruptured the surface of Lake Berryessa and was sucking the water right down into it – like a vortex. But a vortex to where?
Like a Drain
The large hole made it look like the lake was one gigantic bathtub, and someone pulled the plug and all the water was going down some huge drain.
A Mommentary Life
Evan knew that he couldn’t just brush this site off. He discovered a real spectacle and wanted to show it to others. He needed to learn about it and do some investigating.
So, what would he discover?
At first, it was a tad scary to see that sinking hole. But after a little while, Evan had to go deeper. So he decided to fly his drone out again and get even closer to the hole than before.
As he flew the drone back over Lake Berryessa in the direction of the hole, he was hoping to find some clues on the way – something could possibly explain the strange thing.
The Edge of the Vortex
The drone suddenly came right up to the edge of the vortex and something even stranger started happening.
Evan’s drone hovered over the hole, inching really close to the edge, and all of a sudden the screen began to malfunction.
And Evan noticed the drone’s controls were flashing red.
Never Happened Before
Something was causing the drone to glitch, and he couldn’t figure out why since it’s never happened to the device before. He was worried the drone would fall into the hole.
My Little Weekend
Evan was wondering if the hole had some energy that was causing the drone to glitch and malfunction. Could it die and fall into this strange vortex and be lost forever?
He Sent it Back
Evan sent his drone back to the shore where he was standing, eagerly waiting to check it. He was as curious as he could be.
He saw that the drone’s battery was low. But he suspected that the problem was more than just a dying battery. He really felt as though the hole was pulling the drone in. regardless, he replaced the battery.
He ended up discovering more clues.
Evan’s drone managed to get a close-up shot of the hole before he had to fly it back to the shore. Although it was a close shot, he still couldn’t make out what he was actually seeing in the footage.
He knew that he was going to need to ask someone for help if he wanted to get to the bottom of this. He tended to live life on the edge, but he didn’t want to risk swimming out there and getting harmed while checking for himself.
One More Run
Evan decided to send the drone for one more run. But he was worried about the hole’s gravitational pull and didn’t want to lose his drone on the mission.
Now that he was aware of the strong pull, he would be wiser when flying it above the hole this time.
But before the last run, there was something he needed to do.
Evan wanted to do a bit of research and see what he could find about Lake Berryessa. He was curious to know if people had seen this hole before.
He scoured the internet and was getting frustrated as he wasn’t finding anything connected to it. But he did, however, find some information on the lake itself. He was learning some rather disturbing details about Lake Berryessa.
The History of Lake Berryessa
The lake has a history. Take this story for example. In 1997, Emily Schwalek was swimming in in the lake. She was suddenly sucked into a whirlpool, trying desperately to cling on to the stones around the edge.
Visit Napa Valley
Unfortunately, she was pulled under and drowned. After reading this chilling account, Evan knew that the hole existed for a while and took the life of someone.
The hole’s mystery grew even more.
Evan Kilkus flew the drone across the again for a final mission to try and get as close as possible. He was able to decipher roughly how large the hole was by seeing the aerial footage.
He figured that the hole was around 72 feet in diameter. But that was only one aspect of the thing. What about how deep it was? And most importantly, where did it lead to?
Not the Only One
As it turns out, Evan wasn’t the only one. More and more people who would drive on the road along the shore of Lake Berryessa would notice the incredible phenomenon and stop to see what it was.
Could you blame them? How often do you see what looks like a vortex into another dimension? In California!
And quickly word started to spread.
Word Got Out
Soon enough, word got out in the area that there was a unique phenomenon happening in the lake. And then Kevin King, an operations manager for the county’s water facilities, heard about it.
King saw the unusual circumstances and noticed how the phenomenon became the local news. He said, “I went up there the other day and there were about 15 drones flying around and people taking videos It’s really dramatic to watch.”
Impressed by the Power
Kevin King was really impressed by the vortex’s power. And so King and the local authorities needed to shed light on what this perplexing hole in the lake really was.
Finally, the reason for the lake’s marvel would be discovered. And Evan along with all the intrigued people in the area would figure it out.
The secret was about to be revealed.
Lake Berryessa was originally man-made and is actually one of the largest artificial lakes in America. It was designed in along with Napa County’s Monticello Dam.
And as it turns out, the lake came with its own special feature. The engineers who worked on the lake were responsible for the vortex. And there was a reason why it was needed.
The Monticello Dam
The water from Monticello Dam is crucial to those who live in the towns surrounding the area. 526 billion gallons of water are held in the dam and the water isn’t only for drinking and irrigation.
It has another purpose that aims to assist a large portion of northern California’s population. The water from the dam provides power for over 600,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the Sacramento River Valley.
But how did the mysterious hole tie into the story?
To Prevent Flooding
Engineers had to come up with a solution to prevent flooding if the water levels were to rise dramatically. So they included what is known as a spillway.
Bureau of Reclamation
Usually, a spillway is set into the walls of a dam, and therefore unnoticeable. But, clearly, this spillway was quite different.
A Narrow Lake
Lake Berryessa was very narrow and so a normal dam wall that was fitted with a spillway would have been too big. It would also cost too much money to make a hole in the side of the mountain surrounding the lake.
Napa Valley Register
The engineers who built the lake had to ensure that water wouldn’t run out and that it would continuously flow, running out of the dam and into the nearby Putah Creek.
Everything depended on this one feature.
The Whole System
The entire system was at the mercy of this one featured spillway and it had to work flawlessly.
In its normal conditions, Lake Berryessa’s water was low enough and didn’t flood into the spillway. California was already known for its dry climate and lack of rainfall, and the state was experiencing a record drought for the last 10 years.
Water levels in the lake were abnormally lower than usual. As a result, the stone “bell-mouth” entrance to the spillway above the dam was exposed and was thus more noticeable than usual.
It turns out that skateboarders even used it for practice. The people in the area got so used to seeing the spillway without any water because of the drought.
But they never imagined what the end of a draught would bring.
Eventually, the drought in California finally ended and a rush of torrential rains began. And the Napa region around Lake Berryessa was hit pretty hard by the drought, causing problems with all the wine production.
So the sudden hit of intense rain was a cause for celebration in the region.
Out of Sight
When the lake’s water reaches more than 440 feet above sea level, it covers the spillway funnel and disappears out of sight.
And the effect causes a giant hole in the lake measuring 28 feet at its base, 75 feet across.
So how far does the water go?
When water passes through the funnel, it plunges deep down to more than 200 feet. And then the water is almost miraculously drained out of Lake Berryessa.
By looking at it, the hole looks pretty scary. Even the people who built the lake itself had the human risk factor in mind. But there are buoys and guard barriers that surround it to ward people off.
Despite its History
Anyone who sees the spillway at work wouldn’t see the safety barriers and the hole does indeed have a deadly past.
Despite its dangerous appearance, and despite the fact that one woman actually died, experts still say that the hole is not too much of a threat.
Don’t Get Too Close
The catch is not to get too close to the barrier if you’re swimming in the area. Normally, under normal conditions, most swimmers should be strong enough to avoid spillway’s force.
But the torrential rains produced over 30 feet of water and so it was abnormally stronger than usual.
Remember Evan and the start of this whole story? Well, he posted his footage on YouTube.
Uploaded to YouTube
Evan Kilkus uploaded his drone footage to his YouTube page for millions to see the phenomenon.
Spillways aren’t unheard of, but the bell-mouth shaped funnel is actually quite rare. And there are only a handful similar spillways around the world, in places such as England, Montana, Hong Kong, and Japan.
While most spillways are not dangerous, one spillway became an absolute disaster.
During the same time that the heavy rains caused the vortex to appear in Lake Berryessa, the weather had catastrophic results in a nearby lake.
The Sacramento area’s Lake Oroville had the same features as Lake Berryessa: a man-made body of water, a large dam, and a spillway. But the spillway was designed differently. And with the increase in water, the threat became imminent. 18,000 people along the river had to evacuate their homes and the entire area.