Lake Oroville Community Update - September 24, 2021


An aerial drone view at Bidwell Bar Bridge showing Lake Oroville at an elevation of 659 feet, 27 percent of total capacity or 36 percent of average capacity for this time or year, on July 20, 2021 in Butte County, California.

Aerial view of Lake Oroville on July 20, 2021.

Salmon Festival

The Oroville Salmon Festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 25 to celebrate the return of salmon to the Feather River. Always held on the last Saturday in September, the celebration was canceled in 2020. Due to the ongoing pandemic, additional hand washing/sanitizing stations and free masks will be provided to promote public health and safety at this year’s event. Attendees are required to follow all Butte County public health guidelines relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The event will be centered around historic downtown Oroville and the newly renovated Oroville Convention Center (formerly Memorial Auditorium) with an activity zone, food vendors, music, craft fair, car show, a downtown street fair, and informational booths. No tours will be provided at the Feather River Fish Hatchery (FRFH) but the Fish Barrier Dam Overlook, fish ladder, and underwater viewing window remain open to the public. A video virtual tour of the hatchery will be shown at the convention center.


Those wanting to see the salmon in their natural habitat can sign up for “Float with the Salmon” kayak trips down the Feather River. DWR biologists will offer “on-the-water” education about the salmonid life cycle and river habitat. For details, visit the Salmon Festival’s website.


Annual Spillways Inspection

Engineers will be performing their annual inspection of Oroville Dam’s main flood control outlet spillway and adjacent emergency spillway beginning Monday, Sept. 27. The routine inspection is performed yearly to ensure continued safe operation of the spillways. Staff in orange vests will be visible on the spillway structures through Thursday, Sept. 30.


Palermo Tunnel Bulkhead Project

DWR engineers and contractors will begin a project to re-install a refurbished bulkhead (controls inflow of water) at the submerged Palermo Tunnel Intake Structure in Lake Oroville next week. A frame and pulley system to make future installations easier will also be installed. The work will be done from a barge on the lake positioned near the Hyatt Powerplant intake structures. Inspection for quagga mussels and barge assembly, including the use of cranes, will take place near Oroville Dam’s Spillway Boat Ramp area over the next couple of weeks. Actual dive and remotely operated vehicle work to install the bulkhead is scheduled for early November.


The Palermo Tunnel conveys water from Lake Oroville to the Palermo Canal, a source of water for the South Feather Water and Power Agency, which distributes treated water to the communities of Oroville, Palermo and Bangor.


DWR Fuel Load Management

Fuel loads of underbrush and dead and dying trees were removed on approximately 155 acres around DWR’s Lake Oroville facilities during the 2020-2021 season. DWR partnered with CAL FIRE, California Conservation Corps (CCC), California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), Butte County Fire Safe Council (BCFSC), and Butte County Sheriff Office (BCSO) to treat acreage within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) project boundary around DWR’s Oroville facilities.


A variety of fuel load treatments were successfully utilized including mastication, thinning, chipping, piling, weed eating, and grazing. Areas were treated around Bidwell Canyon and Loafer Creek, along with areas at Lakeland Blvd., Old Ferry Rd., and the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville. At Loafer Creek within the North Complex wildfire burn scar, CAL FIRE, CCC, and BCSO crews masticated, hand thinned, piled, and chipped approximately 60 acres of burnt vegetation. Treatment was completed along the Roy Rogers trail, access roads, around seasonal drainages, and along the Highway 162 corridor to increase public safety. Piles will be burnt this winter when crews are available and weather is favorable.   


DWR has temporarily paused Fuel Load Management Plan (FLMP) projects as wildfires throughout California are using available fuels reduction crews. As fire seasons grow longer, the FLMP season, which previously began in September, now runs from December to May -- after fire crews stop fighting fires and before the dry weather returns. Planning for the 2021-2022 season includes defining and scoping site-specific projects, defining and securing permits and approvals, securing funding, and contracting for the work. Emphasis will be given to areas that have been previously treated in order to manage regrowth, removing burnt trees and vegetation within the burn scar, and treating overgrown areas around the FERC project boundary. DWR’s goal is to treat and/or re-treat 1,000 acres over the next five years.


Oroville Recreation

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.


A map of the trails maintained by DWR and California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) is now 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.


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 fall.


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 drop, 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.


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.


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 you 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 628 feet elevation and storage is about 788-thousand acre-feet which is 22 percent of its total capacity and 36 percent of historical average. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s this weekend transitioning to be between the high 70s and mid-80s 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. Lake Oroville is identified as “ORO”.


All data as of midnight 9/23/2021