The “Local Area” Maps

By Peter Kelly, March 15, 2012

Jump to section of this page


The term “Local Area” is defined by your level of experience.  A pilot who has only recently soloed will consider anything outside of 10 or 15 miles from the airport NOT to be in the local area, where as, many cross country pilots consider nearly all of the turn point in the Williams Turn Point file as the “Local Area”.  Whether you are just learning to fly cross country or are new to Williams, this page may help you to become familiar with the local area, regardless of how you define it.

Some of the usual questions that are asked:

  • Where do people get off tow?
  • How high do you tow?
  • Where is the lift?
  • Where can you find on wave days – with a north wind?
  • How about wave on days with a west wind?
  • Where are the trouble spots?
  • Where are the land out fields, and which ones have been used lately?
  • Are there some fields we should avoid?
  • From which fields can you get an aero tow?
  • What are the cross country “milk runs”?
  • Where will most people fly to today?
  • etc

The information presented on the maps below will begin to answer many of your questions, but it is always in need of updating and these products and pages can always be improved with additional information.  If you are able to contribute some comments and/or suggestions, based on your own experience, then please edit the maps as necessary.  However, before you even consider flying at Williams, you must first read and understand the WSC Operations Procedures.  It is important to note that the info found on these pages at Valley Soaring (the VSA web site) are not written or approved by Williams Soaring Center (WSC).  These VSA pages are written by local pilots, few of which, if any even instructor qualified.  These local pilots, such as myself are merely trying to pass along essential info to help others enjoy the sport.  If there is any conflict between what is found on the VSA pages versus info on the WSC pages, then please ignore the VSA comments or information.  The WSC pages take priority in all matters related to flying and operations.

You must visit the pages of Williams Soaring Center that contain valuable information about flying at Williams.  All pilots are required to read and comply with the contents of WSC Operations Procedures.  See the required reading at

After you have studied all of the information on the pilot-info pages of Williams Soaring Center you will undoubtedly find the following maps to be helpful.

As you look at this first map. please note the top right side of the map.  You may also view the same map data using either Satellite – Terrain – or Google Earth.  Select your choice of viewing by clicking on one of the boxes:

  • Sat   Ter   Earth.

The Flag  Markers on each map represent locations found in the Williams Data Base of Turn Points.  Those points are used for common references between pilots.  If you are announcing your position, it is best to reference one of these common Turn Points.   Click on any of the markers or graphics on the maps to gather more information.


Map of common tows

The following is the first of several maps and the info is limited to the following “normal” tow areas.

  • 3 Sisters Tow
  • Walker Tow
  • Tree Farm Tow
  • South Goat Tow
  • North Tow
  • Colusa Tow
  • Sutter Buttes Tow

The normal practice is to tow into the wind on strong wind days.  The best example of that is the North Tow.  The Sutter Buttes Tow is usually only used on north wind days as well, but that one is usually taken to higher altitudes ( above 4,000 ft) as pilots will be expecting wave above the Buttes.  The Colusa Tow, also to the east is not particular to north wind days, and would be used on a non-wave day, if that is where the lift looked to be the best.

The most popular tow is the 3 Sisters Tow, and the release altitude will range anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 ft, with the Walker Tow being maybe the second most popular, releasing between 5,000 and 6,000 ft.  The Tree Farm Tow is routinely used when there is little chance of lift in the valley or on the first ridge ( the Cortina ridge).  The tow pilot will target your desired release altitude while enroute to the Tree Farm area, by adjusting the achieved climb rate.  The tow plane cannot be expected to be any lower than 5,500 ft at the Tree Farm, and even then such a low altitude will only have been achieved with a faster than normal forward speed during the tow.  The normal request is for 6,000 to 7,000 ft at the Tree Farm.   If you request a target of 7,000 ft at the Tree Farm, the tow pilot can usually accommodate you, depending on the wind.  However, if you reach 7,000 before the Tree Farm due to good lift then it is reasonable to release when reaching 7,000 ft.  Or, if you just want to release at a lower altitude before arriving at the Tree Farm, that is appreciated by the FBO since it saves wear and tear on the tow planes. In most cases a tow above 7,000 ft or not releasing soon after reaching 7,000 ft will sometimes prompt question from others, asking why it is that you did what you did  – that’s just my commentary based on what I have observed.  Of course, if no one talks to you about it, the reasoning may be obvious to them as well or they just might have decided you are hopeless. now that’s some personal commentary – Peter.

Here is a Google map of the Williams tow areas

View Tows from Williams in a larger map


Here is a link to the above map that will open in a new browser window – which may be more convenient for you.

Map of the Walker/3 Sisters Tow

The most common of all tows is the one to Walker via 3 Sisters.

Here is a special map dedicated to that tow, with the green dots detailing the route and offering comments:

View Tow-Walker at 6 or 3Sisters at 3 in a larger map
Here is a link to that same map – opening in a new tab/window:,-122.271652&spn=0.361517,0.764923


Map of the South Area

Here is a link to a map ( again, in a new browser window) that details the area to the south:




Map of the Ridge in the south area

Also in the south there is the opportunity to fly along the ridge that runs 50 to 60 miles southward from the gap at highway 20 ( at Three sisters) all the way to Vacaville.

Since it is such a well defined route, it is easier to display some flight tracks by local pilots to illustrate the path of the lift, and the pilot who routinely flies the longest distance flights from Williams is Sergio, call sign Charlie Two – C2 for short.

On the weekend 10 and 11 March 2012 the wind was from the southwest and west at 10 to 20 knots.  The Ridge was working, and it worked better on Sunday the 11th than it did on the 10th.  Here is Sergio’s flight track:

Sergio – C2 Flying the full length of the ridge from Hwy 20 to I-80, a 337 km long flight

Luke – flying in SD flew with Sergio on the 11th and logged 280 km.  On the 10th, Ray- flying 7V, Pete-flying 98, Jim-flying 1B, and myself, Peter-flying PK also had long flights along the ridge, but on the 10th of March, none of us ventured south of the Rdige South Turn Point.



Here is that map of the Ridge that travels from the gap at highway 20 all the way to Vacaville.

View Ridge Soaring from WSC to Lake Berryessa in a larger map

Here is a link to that map in a new browser window:,-122.279205&spn=0.725812,1.757813


Map of the North Area

And finally, here is a link to a map ( again, in a new browser window) that details the area to the north of Williams

View N of St Johns and N of WSC in a larger map

Here is a link to that map in a new browser window:



Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.