Lake Oroville Community Update - December 2, 2022


Low water conditions at West Branch Feather River Bridge along Highway 70 at Lake Oroville in Butte County, California.

Low water conditions at West Branch Feather River Bridge along Highway 70 at Lake Oroville in Butte County. Photo taken October 4, 2022.

DWR Issues State Water Project Allocations


The Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued State Water Project allocations Thursday amounting to 5 percent of requested supplies for 2023. DWR is conserving existing storage in Lake Oroville in the event dry conditions continue. The initial 5 percent allocation would be met by flows from winter storms entering the Delta as well as stored water in San Luis Reservoir.


“This early in California’s traditional wet season, water allocations are typically low due to uncertainty in hydrologic forecasting. But the degree to which hotter and drier conditions are reducing runoff into rivers, streams and reservoirs means we have to be prepared for all possible outcomes,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.


Each year, DWR provides the initial State Water Project allocation by December 1 based on available water storage, projected water supply, and water demands. Allocations are updated monthly as snowpack and runoff information is assessed, with a final allocation typically determined in May or June. Read the full news release on the DWR News webpage.


Lake Oroville Boat Ramp


As a result of the continued drought plaguing the State of California, Lake Oroville has dropped to a level below the paved boat ramps requiring them to be temporarily closed. DWR has worked with the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) to provide a gravel launch ramp near the Spillway Boat Ramp until the lake level rises with winter storms. This gravel launch ramp may be accessed from the Lakeside Access Road between Oroville Dam and the Spillway Day Use Area and Boat Launch. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are highly recommended – please use at your own risk.


The temporary launch ramp is gravel on dirt which becomes slippery when wet, especially during times of heavy usage. To maintain the integrity of the steep ramp, drivers are encouraged to avoid tire spin by engaging vehicles in 4-wheel drive and accelerating slowly when exiting the ramp, with or without a loaded trailer.


The Spillway gravel boat ramp is open 24-hours a day. Both the Lime Saddle and Bidwell Canyon marinas remain open from 8 a.m. until sundown with shuttle service and boat rentals available.


DWR has plans to extend paved boat ramps at Lake Oroville deeper into the lakebed, however, the lake did not drop low enough this year to facilitate construction. Paved boat ramps continue to be available at the Thermalito Afterbay and the Thermalito South Forebay.


Pile Burning at Loafer Creek


CAL FIRE, Butte County Fire Department, Plumas National Forest, and DWR completed prescribed burn activities at the Loafer Creek Recreation Area near Lake Oroville last month. Clean up in those areas continues as CAL FIRE and California Conservation Corps (CCC) crews pile gathered vegetation, not consumed by the initial treatment, to be burned. Prescribed burns and pile burning activities remove overgrown ladder fuels and dead and dying vegetation to minimize ground fuels and create a more wildfire resistant landscape.


Pile burning in the Loafer Creek area, along State Route 162, and along Oro Dam Boulevard East began this week. Activities will continue through the winter, weather permitting. Some intermittent trail closures in the Loafer Creek Recreation Area may occur. Trail users are advised to be “safety-aware” and are required to obey posted trail closure signage. Smoke from the activity has been, and may continue to be, visible in the Oroville area.


DWR’s Fuel Load Management Plan (FLMP) works to reduce wildfire risk and increase public safety around Lake Oroville. Previous FLMP projects in the Loafer Creek Recreation Area have been identified as contributing to the slowing of the 2020 North Complex Fire as it approached Kelly Ridge, increasing firefighters’ ability to establish a secure fire line and preventing the fire from progressing. Ongoing management of this critical area remains a high priority for the FLMP.


Oroville Recreation


The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers visitors numerous educational exhibits, a theater featuring videos about the building of Oroville Dam, walking and hiking trails, and a 47-foot-tall observation tower providing unsurpassed panoramic views of Lake Oroville, the valley, the foothills and Sierra Nevada, and the Sutter Buttes, known as the smallest mountain range in the world. Free guided tours for school and community groups are available by reservation. A free teacher’s guide and student passports are available upon request for field trips.


Lake Oroville is one of the State Water Project’s premier recreational destinations and one of California’s best fishing spots. The lake provides both warm-water and cold-water fisheries. Below the Oroville Dam, the Thermalito Forebay, Thermalito Afterbay and the Feather River offer additional excellent fishing opportunities for Chinook salmon and steelhead. Check with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California State Parks for up-to-date information on fishing license requirements, regulations and lake access.


DWR and State Parks maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. Trails and their permitted uses (hike, bike, horse, multi), day use areas, boat ramps, and other recreation facilities are featured on DWR’s interactive Lake Oroville Recreation webpage.


The Feather River Fish Hatchery is open daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the Fish Barrier Dam Overlook area and underwater viewing window open sunrise to sunset.


Current Lake Operations


Oroville’s reservoir is about 658 feet elevation and storage is approximately 960,000 acre-feet (AF), which is 27 percent of its total capacity and 55 percent of the historical average. Wet weather systems have brought cooler temperatures to northern California. Temperatures in the high-40s to mid-50s are expected through the weekend and into next week, with intermittent rain showers and wind gusts of 25-30 mph in valley areas.


The Feather River releases are currently at 1,400 cubic feet per second (cfs) and meet the downstream Delta water quality and outflow needs. Flows through the City of Oroville are 650 cfs with 750 cfs released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 1,400 cfs downstream of the Outlet. DWR continues to assess releases to the Feather River daily.


The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center. The Lake Oroville gage station is identified as “ORO”.


All data as of midnight 12/01/2022