Home | Columns | History Mystery | Books | Speeches | Time Capsules | Oral History | Biography | Links

Barry Schrader


I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Del Valle reservoir, park already 35 years old

By Barry Schrader.................................August 12, 2005

Campers and day visitors to Del Valle Regional Park south of Livermore probably don’t realize the magnitude and history of this 3,400 acre park and lake. The reservoir’s 16 mile shoreline isn’t totally visible, except from the air or by boating around its perimeter.

Our family enjoyed the new recreational attraction in the 1970s when we owned a 12-foot aluminum boat and took our sons out to fish or picnic. Later during their high school years both boys got summer jobs at the lake. Our son Darrin worked at the boat rental concession three summers and even learned to wind surf there.

Before crews started building the earthen dam in 1966, the Arroyo Del Valle meandered through the valley, and sheep grazed on the hillsides. Earlier in the 20th century there were fruit orchards—apples, almonds, prunes and pears. Going back even further, history books tell us that Costanoan Indians resided in the valley in the 1700s, living in makeshift huts and living off plant life and abundant game. They weaved the willows and grass for carrying roots and berries, animals were hunted for food plus the skins that would warm them in the winter. Also, flint was available for fire starting and arrow heads. Even in the US census of 1870 there were 110 Native Americans recorded as living in Murray Township. According to the book “Corridor Country” the last of the original Indian residents moved out of the valley in 1915 to relocate at an Indian settlement near Sonora.

The first water project began back in 1927 when the San Francisco Water Company undertook the massive aqueduct system that stretched from Hetch Hetchy Valley near Yosemite to the City, coming through this valley. Livermore served as the project’s division headquarters for the massive tunnel that ran from the Tesla Portal near Tracy to Irvington near Fremont. This portion of the aqueduct, which flows underground 21.6 miles, became famous as one of the longest continuous tunnels in the world at the time.

Then in 1966 the California Department of Water Resources decided it needed this additional reservoir as part of their system. The dam was completed in 1968 at a cost of $26 million. It took two more years to finish the surrounding park and camping amenities, so the official opening was April 1, 1970. The year before, the state offered the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District oversight of the park and lake, but LARPD turned the state down. So it became the responsibility of the East Bay Regional Park District.

Some statistics about the earthen dam: its length is 880 feet at the crest; the height is 773 feet; volume of fill in the dam over 4 million cubic yards; lake surface 1,060 acres; and water storage capacity 77,000 acre feet. Ceremonies to launch the project’s start in May 1966 featured Assemblyman Carlos Bee from Hayward, Alameda County Board of Supervisors chairman John D. Murphy of Pleasanton, and State Water Resources Director William Warne. At the outset Arroyo Road was kept open to the top of the dam for a scenic view of the lake. It became a popular lovers’ lane for Livermore’s teens at night so eventually the road was closed down at the base of the dam. But people can still park in the pay lot in the daytime and take a trail around the area.

* * *

Next Saturday at the Carnegie Building’s Livermore History Center an exhibit honoring the veterans of the Civil War from this area will be visited by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in uniform. Retired Livermore Fire Department Division Chief Lynn Owens, a local expert on Civil War matters, will also be there to talk with the public from 12 noon to 3 p.m. The exhibit is a joint effort of the Heritage Guild and the Gen. Alfred Pleasonton (spelling is correct) Camp #24 of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. They say that descendants of the Confederate Army are also welcome, but please leave your firearms outside….

* * *

The history mystery to solve this week: Radio Station KWGS in Tulsa is trying to find any descendant of Glenn Condon, a radio pioneer to be honored posthumously at an event there later this month. His last known daughter in the mid-1960s was a Mrs. Herbert Green of Livermore, plus five grandchildren. Can anyone help locate her or the grandchildren?


The columnist can be reached via email at :


or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

Home | Columns | History Mystery | Books | Speeches | Time Capsules | Oral History | Biography | Links