Skip to main content

The Whiskeytown Glory Hole

08/21/2015 08:38AM ● Published by Brandi Barnett

In All It's Glory

September 2015
By Laura Christman
Photos: Manda Reed

Whiskeytown Lake's glory hole spillway is a concrete curiosity. From the surface, it looks like a hole in the lake. If you could view it from below, you’d see an enormous funnel.

Much of the time it doesn’t do much. But when the lake is deluged with rain, the glory hole reveals its true purpose and power: It swallows water. Very quickly. Picture an Olympic size swimming pool gulped in about three seconds.

The glory hole, next to Clair A. Hill Whiskeytown Dam, is basically a big overflow drain. Its 24½-foot-diameter inlet narrows to a 21-foot-wide concrete-lined tunnel that drops water vertically more than 200 feet. Intake can be as fast as 28,650 cubic feet of water per second.

“It’s quite a sight to see when it goes,” says Jim Milestone, superintendent of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. “You can feel the vibration.”

Water rushing through the glory hole goes to an outlet in the dam and is released into Clear Creek. “The water at the base of the dam shoots out like a jet for 100 feet. It’s amazing,” Milestone says.

That doesn’t happen often. Milestone has only witnessed the glory hole in flood-control mode three times during his 15 years at Whiskeytown.

The name comes from the morning glory flower, which has the same trumpet shape. The flood-control device also is called a bell-mouth spillway, drop inlet and shaft spillway. “It’s critical to the integrity of the dam,” Milestone says.


Regular, controlled releases from Whiskeytown Lake are through an outlet that sends water to Clear Creek, Clear Creek Community Service District or a small power plant at the base of the Whiskeytown Dam. Water also is discharged through Spring Creek Tunnel to Spring Creek Power Plant and Keswick Reservoir.

If a big storm pounds the Whiskeytown area, resulting in heavy runoff flowing into the lake, the glory hole provides backup. It slurps into action to prevent the lake from overfilling and slopping over the large earthen dam.

There’s no way to switch the glory-hole spillway on or off – or to regulate how much water goes in. The inlet draws water as soon as the lake rises above its circular opening.

“It’s an uncontrolled release when water is going over it,” Milestone says.

Spillway gates are a different flood-control method. Unlike the passive system of a glory-hole spillway, gates can be opened and shut to control how much water is released and when, but they require manpower.

John Ellingson, civil engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Denver, Colo., says glory-hole spillways are at 28 of the 475 dams the bureau maintains. They have been constructed throughout the bureau’s history and are found in lakes of various sizes with either concrete or earthen dams, he says.

Lake Berryessa in Napa County has one of the bureau’s larger gloryhole spillways, with a capacity of about 48,000 cubic feet per second. “I think it is a fairly unique structure,” says Peter Funkhouser, facility manager at the lake. Visitors often make a point to check it out, he says.

Milestone says Whiskeytown’s glory-hole spillway draws attention, too. There’s a sign explaining how it works near the John. F. Kennedy Memorial at the dam. The glory hole was part of the backdrop when Kennedy dedicated the dam in September 1963.

The area surrounding the glory hole is – no surprise – closed to boating and swimming.

“It’s a dangerous structure. We don’t want anyone near it,” Milestone says. “It’s a straight drop. It’s a huge hole.”

There haven’t been problems, he adds. The glory hole instills respect. There is a bit of an ominous vibe to the thing. Milestone says it reminds him of something from an old Prince Valiant comic strip – a deep, dark hole with a huge creature at the bottom.

“I imagine a giant squid arm coming out,” he says.


In Print, Life+Leisure
  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/22/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/22/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/24/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/24/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/29/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/30/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/31/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/31/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • The Peking Acrobats

    01/31/2018
    07:30PM

    For the last 30 years The Peking Acrobats have inspired fans young and old as they defy gravity w...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    02/01/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    02/01/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Vinyl Night! Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch ...


Enter to win!

 

Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living

 

Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors