Dark Resort: A nocturnal survey of Lake Berryessa in transition

Resort -- by Joe Reifer
Resort -- by Joe Reifer

Dark Resort: A nocturnal survey of Lake Berryessa in transitionPhotographs by Riki Feldmann, Stephen Walsh, and Joe Reifer November 5-30th, 2010 Opening Friday, November 5th from 7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Pacific Pinball Museum (Lucky Ju Ju) 1510 Webster Street, Alameda, CA [Map] The art show is free. No host bar and special $10 admission to play pinball on the night of the opening.

The demand for water in Northern California led to the construction of the Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa in 1957. Photographers Dorothea Lange and Pirkle Jones documented the end of the town of Monticello in their acclaimed 1960 monograph, Death of a Valley.

Lake Berryessa provides flood control protection, municipal and industrial water supply, and hydroelectric power. The lake is a popular spot for recreation, hosting up to 1.5 million visitors per year who enjoy activities such as fishing, boating, waterskiing, and camping.

In a controversial 2006 decision, the Bureau of Reclamation ordered the removal of over 1000 privately owned trailers from the 7 resorts at Lake Berryessa. The 50-year lease between the government and the resort concessionaires expired in 2008, and most of the resorts were closed.

Fifty years after the Death of a Valley, the Berryessa region once again entered a time of transition. Riki Feldmann started photographing the abandoned resorts along the western shore of Lake Berryessa in 2008, and invited photographers Stephen Walsh and Joe Reifer to join him. Under the cover of night, they made numerous trips to the lake over the last 2 years to explore the abandoned resorts under the light of the full moon.

The nocturnal images of abandoned lakeside trailers, concessions, and boating facilities are suffused with a post-apocalyptic feel. Where did everyone go? The melancholy of night is balanced by subtle humor documenting the curious artifacts of recent habitation.

In late 2010, the old trailers are gone, a new concessionaire is in place, the resorts have been renamed, and there are plans for new camping and recreation facilities. These mysterious night images of Lake Berryessa in transition help convey a deeper historical perspective on this brief, but fascinating piece of California history.

View a gallery of Lake Berryessa night photography For press inquiries about the show, please contact Joe Reifer