But the residents of Monticello tried. In the 1940s, when the government announced it was going to condemn the town and build a dam and reservoir project, the town sent a delegation of local politicians to Washington and implored the governor to intervene and save the town.
"We were just a bunch of farmers and small-town businessmen," said Bob McKenzie, 70. "We didn't have enough clout."
Mr. McKenzie, like many young soldiers after World War II, had returned home to Monticello to discover the small town was doomed. He had planned to take over his father's general store, but suddenly, he said, he had to find another job and another home.
Mr. McKenzie moved to Napa, found work as a newspaper photographer and thought he had seen the last of Monticello. But the drought has been so severe for Lake Berryessa that it has shrunk from 26 miles long to 18 miles, and vestiges of the old town have emerged.
A cement bridge, built in 1941, appeared last summer. The 80-foot bridge has become a tourist attraction, and dozens of people a day walk down boat ramps, now hundreds of feet from shore, and hike across the dry, cracked lake bed to the bridge.
On the eastern shore of the lake, the old Monticello Road, its yellow center line still intact, has surfaced. A blue-tiled swimming pool behind an old ranch house -- where Mr. McKenzie swam as a child -- and the foundation of a large grain silo have also emerged from the lake bottom.
Returning to Monticello brings back bittersweet memories for Mr. McKenzie that he calls "ghosts in my head."
He has fond boyhood recollections, but he still is disturbed that the town and the fertile Berryessa Valley were destroyed. Water was needed, he acknowledged, but several smaller dams could have been built upriver, and the town of Monticello could have been saved.
But property owners were simply paid off by the government, he said, and buildings were either bulldozed or cables were tied around them and they were pulled down. The piles of rubble were then burned. Trees were cut down, 6 inches from the ground. The town's 100-year-old graveyard was moved to higher ground.
While the outskirts of Monticello are now visible, the small downtown is still 50 feet underwater. But few former residents, Mr. McKenzie said, are eager to see it again.
"The emergence of all these foundations and bridges is just a graphic indication of how serious this drought is," Mr. McKenzie said. "It's been interesting visiting the area again, but it doesn't bring us much joy. What we want is rain."