Lake Oroville Community Update - October 9, 2020


Boater on Lake Oroville.

Boater on Lake Oroville. DWR/2019

Butte County’s “North Complex – West Zone Fire” is now 98 percent contained with over 84,595 acres burned as of Friday, Oct. 9. The fire severely damaged communities around Lake Oroville. Several Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) facilities were also damaged including Loafer Creek Recreation Area which remains closed.


The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is working closely with California State Parks (CA Parks), CALFIRE, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and wildfire response partners in fire recovery efforts and in planning for winter precipitation impacts in burn scar areas.


Oroville Recreation Openings Update

The Lime Saddle and Oroville Dam Spillway boat ramps are open and the Bidwell Canyon boat launch is open on weekends while construction, expected to be completed in November, is underway. (See below for information.) Bidwell Canyon and Lake Oroville (Lime Saddle) marinas are open for normal operation under regular winter schedules. Visit the CA Parks LOSRA webpage for current information on facility status as well as current requirements to protect public health during the COVID pandemic.


Area trails, including a newly opened portion of the Brad Freeman Trail from the Spillway boat ramp area to the Thermalito Diversion Pool, are open. Exceptions are the Potter’s Ravine and North Fork trails near the Spillway boat launch area and trails in the Loafer Creek recreation area, which will remain closed through the winter to repair fire damage. Enterprise, Stringtown, and Foreman Creek boat ramp 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 Boat Ramp Closed Weekdays for Facility Improvements

The Bidwell Canyon boat ramp will be closed weekdays, Monday through Friday, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 18 to continue construction started in 2018 to expand the parking area and provide two additional boat ramp lanes to 700 feet. The boat ramp will open at 5 a.m. on Saturdays and close at midnight Sundays. 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, and the Bidwell Canyon Stage One boat ramp is now out of the water. Both the Lime Saddle and Spillway boat ramps are available for use during Stage Two construction activities. The Bidwell Canyon Marina and shuttle services remain open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Loafer Creek Recreation Area remains closed for fire recovery and its boat ramps are also out of the water.


Installation of Piezometers Completed at Oroville Dam 

Four new piezometers have been installed at the headworks of Oroville Dam’s main, or flood control outlet (FCO), spillway. The piezometers will collect data from the FCO foundation which houses the spillway’s eight gates which control water flow down the main spillway. The data will be used to confirm drain performance, inform on-going structural modeling and analyses, and inform future improvements to the structure.


This work, completed on Oct. 5, is part of early implementation of the Oroville Dam Safety Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA), which is focused on identifying priorities and appropriate solutions to bolster the integrity and resiliency of the Oroville Dam complex to ensure public safety. Several piezometers were originally installed in the dam over fifty years ago which, as anticipated, have since stopped functioning. DWR continues its work to install additional instrumentation throughout the facility to provide ongoing, real-time data to DWR engineers, including eight new piezometers installed earlier this year at the base of Oroville Dam.


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. DWR’s Water Wednesdays program is currently focusing 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 741 feet and storage is about 1.60 million acre-feet. Daily average inflows to the lake have ranged between 1,035 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 2,295 over the past week. Weather will be cloudy with a slight chance of rainfall Oct. 10-11.  During the week of Oct. 12, temperatures are projected to warm into the mid to high 80’s.   

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 (Outlet) for a total of 2,600 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the Outlet.  During the week of Oct. 12, total releases to the Feather River will be slightly reduced.  The reduction will be from the Outlet - the Low Flow Channel will be maintained at 800 cfs.

All data as of midnight 10/8/2020