Lake Oroville Community Update - October 15, 2021
The Spillway Day Use Area, trailhead, and car-top launch ramp are now on winter hours, open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Launching of trailered boats at Lake Oroville’s temporary single-lane boat ramp at the Spillway Boat Ramp area remains closed due to unsafe conditions. Hand launching of small boats such as canoes or kayaks is permitted. As lake levels change, the condition of the ramp continues to be reassessed for future use.
The Bidwell Canyon Marina at Lake Oroville remains open and is providing shuttle service to boat owners from 8 a.m. until sundown. Boaters are advised to be aware of hazards now that lake levels have reached historic lows. The Thermalito Afterbay and Thermalito South Forebay are open to power boating. The Forebay Aquatic Center at the North Forebay recreation area has closed for the season but the recreation area remains open with picnic tables, restrooms, and beach facilities.
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 year.
Over 97 miles of trails around Lake Oroville, along the Feather River, Thermalito Diversion Pool, Forebays and Afterbay, and the Oroville Wildlife Area are available to equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers wishing to explore Oroville’s natural beauty in the cooler fall weather. Trail maps are available at many Oroville locations including Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) kiosks, Oroville Wildlife Area office on Oro Dam Boulevard West, the Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Feather River Recreation and Parks District.
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.
Bryozoans at Lake Oroville and Thermalito Afterbay
DWR environmental scientists have found bryozoans at the Thermalito Afterbay and in Lake Oroville. Bryozoans are freshwater, aquatic invertebrates. There are nearly 5,000 species of bryozoans found throughout the world, and the majority are marine animals. Instead of being a single organism like a jellyfish, bryozoans are made up of thousands of individual microscopic animals called zooids, living in a colony. A single colony will vary in size from approximately 12 to 20 inches but some can grow bigger in diameter.
These jelly-like colonies can be found attached to submerged branches, rocks, ropes, and even on houseboat pontoons and motors. They typically appear during the summer and fall months when lake levels are low. Freshwater bryozoans are harmless and non-toxic, though they can occasionally clog underwater objects.
Chinook Salmon Spawning in 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 continues to be closed. Visitors can still enjoy seeing salmon climb the fish ladder at the Underwater Viewing Area and Overlook near the Feather River’s Fish Diversion Dam north of the hatchery. The public is urged to maintain physical distancing and abide by Butte County requirements for mask-wearing to protect personal health and the health of others.
Loafer Point Stage II Boat Ramp Extension
Construction work to extend three lanes of the Loafer Point Stage II boat ramp farther into the dry lakebed of Lake Oroville continues. Earthwork and ramp construction will continue until winter precipitation causes lake levels to rise. The existing Stage II facility was completed this spring, providing six new boat launch lanes extending to elevation 702 feet and 180 trailered parking spaces. The new launch lanes are anticipated to go as low as 640 feet elevation.
Visitors and nearby residents are reminded to be aware of construction equipment and vehicles, including those entering and exiting the Loafer Creek recreation area at Oro-Quincy Highway.
Fuel Load Management Continues
Fuel reduction hand crews and heavy equipment operators from Butte Fire Center and CAL FIRE continue working at the Loafer Creek Recreation Area. Crews will be cutting, chipping, and piling burnt vegetation and hazard trees within the North Complex burn scar. Piles will be burned later this season when weather conditions are favorable. Heavy equipment and crews may be visible from Highway 162. Crews will also be prepping previously treated areas throughout Loafer Creek for a possible prescribed burn later this season.
The DWR Fuel Load Management Plan (FLMP) goal is to reduce wildfire risk and increase public safety around the FERC project boundary including Lake Oroville. With help from area partners, approximately 840 acres have been manually thinned, re-thinned, grazed, and/or treated with prescribed fire since November 2012. DWR’s goal is to treat 150 acres this season.
Cold Water Temperatures
Water temperatures in the Feather River and the Thermalito Diversion Pool, Forebay, and Afterbay continue to range between 48- and 58-degrees Fahrenheit as very cold water from the bottom of Lake Oroville is released through Oroville Dam’s River Valve Outlet System (RVOS). Persons recreating on these waterbodies are advised to wear life jackets.
Entering cold water on hot summer days can result in “cold water shock”, causing breathing difficulties as well as changes in heart rate and blood pressure and can be life threatening, especially without a life jacket to help stay afloat. Find cold-water safety tips at the National Weather Service’s Safety webpage.
Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 629 feet elevation and storage is about 791,000-acre-feet, which is 22 percent of its total capacity and 37 percent of historical average. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the low-80s this weekend and cooling into the 70s during the following week. Chance of precipitation in the Feather River watershed Sunday and early next week.
Total flows to the Feather River are 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) for meeting downstream water quality and flow requirements. Flow in the low-flow channel, through the City of Oroville, is 650 cfs and flow through the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet is 600 cfs. Total releases to the Feather River are assessed daily.
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 10/14/2021