Boating at Oroville
The lowest paved Bidwell Canyon Stage III Boat Ramp is closed due to low lake levels. A single-lane, gravel ramp adjacent to the Stage III ramp is available for boat launching with parking only on the concrete Stage III or Stage II parking lots. This single-lane gravel access located at Bidwell Canyon will be available for public boat launching until further notice. Closure of this access may occur at any time as low lake levels and undeveloped site conditions could prevent safe launching of vessels. 4WD vehicles are highly recommended – please use at your own risk.
Additionally, the gravel, single-lane boat ramp at the Spillway is open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. – gates to (and from) the Spillway Boat Ramp area close at 11 p.m.
Both of these auxiliary ramps are gravel on dirt which becomes slippery when wet, especially during times of heavy usage. To maintain the integrity of the 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.
Both the Lime Saddle and Bidwell Canyon marinas remain open from 8 a.m. until sundown with shuttle service and boat rentals available.
Power boats are allowed on the Thermalito South Forebay as well as the Thermalito Afterbay. A 5-miles per hour speed limit for all boats is enforced on the Afterbay north of the Highway 162 bridge and near the brood ponds on the east side of the reservoir. No motorized boating is allowed in the Thermalito North Forebay.
The Monument Hill facility at Thermalito Afterbay provides boat ramp access, restrooms, a picnic area, and a swim beach. The Thermalito South Forebay facility has a two-lane boat ramp, parking, restroom, picnic tables, BBQs, shade trees, and a fish cleaning station.
Floating Campsites are closed due limited launching access.
Visitors to the Thermalito North Forebay will find a full CA Parks facility with restrooms, picnic areas, a swim beach, and the Forebay Aquatic Center with kayaks, paddle boards, and other watercraft available for rent.
Numerous Day Use Area (DUA) facilities with picnic tables and restrooms at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) are open 8 a.m. to sunset. Bidwell, Lime Saddle, and Loafer Creek Recreation Areas are open 24 hours. The Oroville Dam Crest Road across Oroville Dam is available 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and open to pedestrians and bicyclists 24-hours a day. The Lake Oroville Visitor Center anticipates re-opening later this summer.
Visit the California Parks LOSRA webpage for current information on facility status and campground reservations. An interactive map of recreation facilities in DWR’s Oroville-Thermalito Complex is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. Information about the 11,000-acre Oroville Wildlife Area is available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage.
A map of the trails maintained by DWR, CA Parks, and CA DFW is now available at many Oroville locations including LOSRA kiosks, Oroville Wildlife Area office on Oro Dam Boulevard West, the Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Feather River Recreation and Parks District. The map is also available online at ExploreButteCounty.com and on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage.
The map, which folds to pocket size, provides information on permitted trail uses, elevation changes, trail length, and locations of more than 97 miles of trails around Lake Oroville, along the Feather River, Thermalito Forebays and Afterbay, and the Oroville Wildlife Area. Equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers are encouraged to take advantage of this new resource. A full list of locations is available on the Lake Oroville Recreation webpage.
Grebes Nest Receive Help from DWR
Western and Clark’s grebes, with their distinctive red eyes, graceful necks and long yellow bills, have returned to the Thermalito Afterbay for their nesting season. The shallow nature of the Afterbay is perfect for these two species of grebes who, along with only a few other aquatic bird species, actually nest on the water.
DWR voluntarily restricts the elevation of the Thermalito Afterbay because significant decreases in reservoir elevation could strand the nests out of the water or submerge them if elevations increase. Find more information about the grebes at the DWR Updates webpage. Photos can be found on DWR’s Pixel webpage – enter Grebes in the search bar after creating a user name and password to log in.
California is no stranger to drought; it is a recurring feature of our climate. Lake Oroville’s low lake levels are a reminder of this cycle of dry and wet years. This year’s drought conditions are being felt across the western United States, with many areas, including California’s Central Valley, identified as being in “extreme drought” - the highest category of drought conditions.
DWR has created a “Drought” webpage where definitions, historical trends, current information, and maps of California’s water systems can be found. Links to resources, DWR activities, research, and data are available. Read about how heatwaves are impacting drought conditions on the DWR Updates webpage.
The State of California recently launched a new website drought.ca.gov. This website will serve as the State’s primary location for public drought news and information.
DWR is encouraging water conservation efforts by all Californians. Find out ways you can help by visiting the “Save Our Water” website.
Blue Green Algae Monitoring
DWR environmental scientists regularly monitor for blue-green algae and their toxins during the summer months. There are currently no harmful algal bloom (HAB) advisories for Lake Oroville, the Thermalito Forebay, or the Thermalito Afterbay.
Water samples are taken at various locations regularly from Memorial Day through Labor Day and sent to a lab for toxin analysis. If elevated levels of cyanobacteria toxins are found while testing, DWR staff will work with California’s Regional Water Quality Control Board and recreation area managers to notify the public and post advisory signs at affected waterbodies. To learn more about HABs, or to report a HAB visit the Water Board’s website.
Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 665 feet elevation and storage is about 1 million acre-feet -- 27 percent full and 38 percent of historical average.
Total flow to the Feather River is currently at 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for meeting downstream water quality and flow requirements. Flow down the low flow channel, through the City of Oroville, is 2,550 cfs and flow through the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet is 450 cfs. Flows through the low flow channel are likely to be adjusted through the week of 7/19 for fisheries purposes.
Currently, these flow patterns will hold through the weekend. Current releases are re-assessed on a daily basis.
The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center at www.cdec.water.ca.gov. Lake Oroville is identified as “ORO”.
All data as of midnight 7/15/2021