Napa Valley’s Living Landscapes: Hiking around Lake Hennessey – Napa Valley Register

What makes a hike at Lake Hennessey so special? Is it the spring greenery or the draw of the water?

Science backs up the benefits of both types of landscapes. In his book “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do,” Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, cites evidence from neuroscience that reveals how we benefit by being near water.

Benefits from being in proximity to a body of water include decreased stress, improved creativity and a sense of happiness.

Concurrently, there is a growing body of research in the field of ecopsychology, as reported by the Yale School of the Environment, which informs us of a variety of benefits from being in the natural environment, be it forest, park or water.

As little as two hours a week spent in nature can produce feelings of well-being, feeling healthy, and can lower your blood pressure. Studies show that other surprising benefits include lower stress hormone levels, enhanced immune system function, reduced anxiety and all-around improvement in mood.

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Lake Hennessey, technically a reservoir, is east of St. Helena in the Vaca Mountains. The lake takes its moniker from Edwin R. Hennessey, a past local civic leader.

The lake was formed when Conn Creek Dam was constructed in 1948. The Conn Creek Dam, a 125-foot high earthen dam, belongs to the city of Napa. The reservoir is capable of holding 31,000 acre-feet of water, while its tributary watershed, the Napa River, is around 35,000 acres.

In his highly engrossing book “Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas – Exploring a Hidden Landscape of Transformation and Resilience,” Robin Grossinger, who is also a senior adviser to the San Francisco Estuary Institute, explained that the need for this source of water, which Lake Hennessey provided, was made evident after World War II when the area’s population increased due to the proliferation of workers at nearby Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo.

The 5.5-mile hiking loop around Lake Hennessey follows the contours of the lake and is rife with calming scenery. The water’s …….


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