Lake Oroville Community Update - October 2, 2020


boats on Lake Oroville

Boats on Lake Oroville. DWR/2019

Bear/North Complex Fire Impacts Oroville

The Butte County’s Bear Fire, called “North Complex – West Zone Fire” is now 95 percent contained with over 84,595 acres burned as of Friday, Oct. 2. The fire severely damaged communities around Lake Oroville, including several Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) facilities including Loafer Creek Recreation Area which remains closed.


The Bidwell Canyon Marina and Lime Saddle Marina have not sustained damage and there are currently no risks to Oroville Dam or its related structures. The fire remains active near the upper reaches of Lake Oroville’s North Fork of the Feather River. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is working closely with California State Parks (CA Parks), CALFIRE, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E,) and local law enforcement partners in fire recovery efforts. DWR’s water delivery and other critical operations are ongoing with essential staff on site.


Oroville Recreation Openings Update

As containment of the North Complex – West Zone grows, fire risks to Lake Oroville recreation facilities have decreased. Effective Friday, Oct. 2, the Bidwell Canyon, Lime Saddle, and Oroville Dam Spillway boat launches are open. (See below for upcoming closure of Bidwell Canyon boat ramp.) Bidwell Canyon and Lake Oroville (Lime Saddle) marinas are open for normal operation under regular winter schedules. Please visit the CA Parks LOSRA webpage for information on current status of all LOSRA facilities.


Oroville Dam Crest Road across the top of Oroville Dam is open to bicyclists and pedestrians. The newly opened Brad Freeman Trail down to the now open Thermalito Diversion Pool may be accessed from the new gravel parking lot at the north side of the Spillway Day Use Area. The Dan Beebe Trail on the south side of the Diversion Pool; the North and South Forebay Recreation Areas; the Clay Pit State Vehicular Recreation Area; and the Saddle Dam trailhead are all open. Potter’s Ravine and North Fork trails near the Spillway boat launch will remain closed through the winter to repair fire damage. Enterprise, Stringtown, and Foreman Creek boat launch areas, the Loafer Creek Recreation Area, and Lake Oroville Visitor Center also remain closed.


The Oroville Wildlife Area, including the Thermalito Afterbay, remains open from 1.5 hours before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Current recreation facility information can be found on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage, CA Parks LOSRA webpage, and the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage.


Bidwell Canyon Stage Two Boat Ramp to Close for Facility Improvements

The Bidwell Canyon Boat Ramp Stage Two Improvement Project resumed work on Sept. 23 after being temporarily halted due to the North Complex – West Zone fire. The Project continues construction started in 2018 to expand the parking area and provide two additional boat ramp lanes to 700 feet. The Stage Two boat ramps will be closed weekdays, Monday through Friday, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 18. Kelly Ridge and Arroyo Drive residents should anticipate large construction equipment and rock and concrete deliveries in the area.


As they do every fall, lake levels are decreasing, leaving the Bidwell Canyon Stage One boat ramps with only a few days left for access. It is anticipated that lake levels will drop below the boat ramp between Oct. 5 and Oct. 7. Both the Lime Saddle and Spillway boat ramps will be available for use. Loafer Creek Recreation Area remains closed for fire recovery and its boat ramps are out of the water.


The Bidwell Canyon Marina and shuttle services remain open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors are reminded to be safe and obey access restrictions.


Chinook Salmon Return to the Feather River

Chinook salmon are completing their life cycle and returning home to the Feather River to lay eggs for the next generation of salmon. The Feather River Fish Hatchery’s fish ladder is open and hatchery spawning operations – which enable millions of Chinook salmon to be released to the river every spring – are underway. To protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hatchery will not be open for tours this year. Visitors can still enjoy seeing salmon climb the fish ladder at the Viewing Area near the Feather River’s Fish Diversion Dam north of the Hatchery. The public is urged to maintain physical distancing and abide by requirements for mask-wearing to protect personal health and the health of others.


DWR’s Water Wednesdays Feature Flood Preparedness

It’s not too early to start thinking about winter storms and flood risk. Over the next few weeks, DWR’s Water Wednesdays program will focus on how DWR prepares for severe winter storms and flood events, and how you can be prepared too. These family-friendly programs are designed for kids 10 to 14 but are appropriate for anyone who would like to learn more about California’s water resources. The episodes are live, allowing participants who have signed up on Zoom to ask real time questions of the speaker.


Visit the DWR Events webpage at to join or register for next Wednesday’s chat. Information will also be posted on DWR’s social media pages at @CA_DWR (Twitter) and @CADWR (Facebook). Water Wednesdays began in May 2020 and previous episodes are available on DWR’s YouTube channel – enter Water Wednesdays in the search bar.


Current Lake Operations

The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 744 feet and storage is about 1.62 million acre-feet. Daily average inflows to the lake have ranged between 864 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 1,499 over the past week. During the week of Oct. 5, temperatures are projected to drop from the mid-90s to the low 80s by the end of the week. The water year begins Oct. 1 and with no measurable precipitation, the Northern Sierra Basin rainfall totals begin at zero percent. 

The total releases to Feather River continue at 2,600 cfs to meet downstream Bay-Delta water quality and flow standards. The Feather River flows consist of 800 cfs through the Low Flow Channel adjacent to the City of Oroville, and 1,800 cfs from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet for a total of 2,600 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the Outlet. 


All data as of midnight 10/1/2020