A very active glory hole (pic by Eric)

These are the times, my friend! February 2017!

Look here to see when The Morning Glory Spillway is actually going to do it again: Spill!

Enjoy, we are almost there! - a drone will take you there!

February 18, 2017 - It'sgoing!

The Monticello Dam, which holds back Lake Berryessa, features a morning glory spillway. This type of spillway is basically a giant cement funnel. Rather than spilling over the dam, high waters spill into the funnel. Morning glory spillways are also known as bell-mouth spillways.

The glory hole seen from afar. The glory hole seen from (err...) aclose.

The glory hole during a dry season

The Monticello Dam's spillway is otherwise (and affectionately) known as The Glory Hole (not to be confused with this type of glory hole). The glory hole is located about 200 feet from the dam. Water spills over its lip when the lake reaches 1,602,000 acre-feet and a reservoir elevation of 440 feet above sea level. The funnel's largest diameter is 72 feet and narrows to about 28 feet. It is designed to handle a maximum of 362,000 gallons of water per second, which occurs when the lake level rises to 15.5 feet above the level of the funnel. The last time the reservoir spilled through the glory hole was on the morning of May 18, 2006.

For obvious reasons, swimming near the glory hole is both prohibited and stupid. There are buoys strung across the lake to discourage boaters and swimmers from approaching the glory hole and the dam. Furthermore, the glory hole is well fenced off from the land. In 1997, a UC Davis graduate student was pulled into the glory hole while swimming and drowned.

Suicide at the glory hole is featured in the book "Intent to Defraud" by author Mark Travis.

The Glory Hole's Other End

Riding the glory hole (pic by Edgar) The other end (pic by Jennifer)

During the drier months, when Lake Berryessa's water level is well below the rim of the glory hole, skateboarders and bikers sometimes use the spillway's horizontal exit as a half-pipe (or, more aptly, a full-pipe).

DanFisher offers the following advice on skating the glory hole: Unless you want to swim there, you will have to use a raft to go the last 15 feet or so. If there is a trickle of water collected at the bottom of the pipe, bring kitty litter and a push broom to keep it dry from where you're skateboarding. It's fun at night, but very very creepy!

A Davisite who is a hardcore sponsored BMX rider went to the bottom of the dam a year ago when the glory hole wasn't running, and went inside it from the bottom and had a rather intense session of riding with his buddies. One of them fell and broke an arm and has some rather nasty scars on his face now. There is videotape of the session. When asked about riding it, he said you would go up a wall for 40 feet, and then come back down like a huge vert. Intense! —StevenDaubert

The Morning Glory Spillway in times of extreme drought: September 2014

In times of extreme drought, September 21, 2014, at sunset, photo by CO


Photo taken June 11, 2016
After the 2015-2016 El Niño, water level's up, but still in drought
Photo courtesy CO


Morning Glory Spillway February 18, 2017, Back In Business!


This series of ten photos: Feb. 28, 2017, photo courtesy CO


"It's golden!" - Morning Glory Spillway, February 28, 2017, photo courtesy Constantia Oomen


Spillway, March 12, 2017 still well in business

(though water on the other side not spraying out anymore)


This series of seven photos: March 12, 2017, photo courtesy CO


Spillway May 14, 2017, at his last breath of 2017, but still very beautiful


This series of ten photos: May 14, 2017, photo courtesy CO


And look at the YouTube of May 14, 2017 clip too!


Visiting The Glory Hole

In low water (pic by Charyn) Go check out this engineering marvel! While the glory hole is not in Davis, it is cool enough and close enough that every Davisite should drive out to see it. However, if you want to see the glory hole in action (with high water), make sure to visit after a lot of rain. You can check the conditions at the Solano County Water Agency site. As mentioned at the linked URL, the lake spills at 439.74 feet.

Directions: Drive west on Covell Boulevard or Russell Boulevard. (After becoming County Road 93A, Covell eventually meets up with Russell.) In Winters, Russell becomes 128, which will take you to the top of Monticello Dam. There's a turn out right at the top of the dam where you can safely park. From Davis, it's about a half hour drive. Alternatively, you can bike up to the dam. For more information, visit the Bicycle Rides page.


Feb 22, 2017 "Lake Berryessa’s Spiraling Floodwater Mesmerizes the Locals" - New York Times article, also featuring drone footage

POOR Magazine

10/4/2013: The Glory Hole was featured on the popular Facebook page I Fucking Love Science


You must be logged in to comment on this page. Please log in.

2006-03-19 13:30:13   Whiskeytown Lake near Redding, CA also has a similar spillway known as "The Glory Hole" —ErikAnderson

2006-03-23 13:49:12   Damn, looks scary. I'd hate to get sucked down there... —KareemKhan

2006-03-30 17:44:51   Erik: USBR was mighty fond of this spillway/outlet arrangment, you see them on Bureau dams all over the West. :) —RussBowlus

2006-06-26 14:02:55   The Glory Hole has always terrified me. I generally try to avoid the Glory Hole. —CameronMenezes

2007-04-30 09:58:35   Haven't a couple people hit the fence and swam out to the glory hole to jump in as a means of suicide? —StevenDaubert

I don't know the circumstances of Emily Schwalen's Glory Hole encounter in 1997, but hanging on for 20 minutes sounds more like an accident than a suicide. —MattJurach

2011-03-18 23:00:43   Wondering how close we are to glory with all the rain we're getting this year... —CovertProfessor

2011-04-09 12:25:47   Can anyone confirm if the water level has risen high enough for this thing to be cool again? —JamesGallerani

  • According to the link above, it's been at 434 feet for early June 2011, a period when we are still getting relatively heavy rains. So, we're about 6 feet from spillage. —CovertProfessor

2013-11-09 15:37:23   What happens if a tree goes down in the spillway or some other natural wastes? How they resolve if it block the entrance of the spillway? What are the hazards? —glorimartorres

It's big enough to allow a pretty massive tree to just flow thru with no problems. The floating line is also a net of sorts preventing detritus from reaching the spillway ~SD

2014-04-03 17:21:34   what's in the other side ? is it a closed end? i mean where does the water go? or does it remain in it? if it remains in it, what will happen if the tunnel is full? —farzana

- the water comes out of the bottom of the dam, if you look you can see the picture with the bmx rider in the outlet. ~SD