Lake Oroville Community Update - September 3, 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.

Image of Lake Oroville in late July 2021.

Oroville Wildlife Area Habitat Project

The season is ending for the sunflowers and safflowers planted this spring on 60 acres of the Oroville Wildlife Area (OWA) near the Thermalito Afterbay to provide food (forage), shelter, and nesting cover for migrating and native birds. Their stalks and flowers are withered and dry, but their nutritious seeds are plentiful, providing welcome energy to birds migrating the Pacific Flyway and those calling the Sacramento Valley their home. 


This is the time of year when staff from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) mow down the dried flowers, leaving behind acres of seeds and the natural mulch of stems and leaves to nourish and strengthen the soil for next year’s crops.


CDFW staff manage the 11,000-acre OWA for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and farm over 300 acres of grains, grasses, and flowering plants yearly to augment the area’s food supply and add diversity to the area’s wildlife habitat. Learn more about this habitat project on the DWR Updates webpage.


Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission Public Meeting

The California Natural Resources Agency held its eighth Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission meeting on August 27, 2021. The online public meeting included an overview of major projects and maintenance plans at the Oroville Dam facilities and a presentation by a State Water Contractor. Members of the public also offered comments and asked questions. The Citizens Advisory Commission is a forum to provide public feedback from the communities surrounding Oroville Dam. The meeting transcript and presentations will be available on the Commission’s website in the coming weeks, visit


Cold Water Temperatures

Water temperatures in the Feather River and the Thermalito Diversion Pool, Forebay, and Afterbay continue to range between 48F and 58F degrees 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.


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 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.


Boating at Oroville

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 remains open and is providing shuttle service to boat owners from 8 a.m. until sundown.

Trees, stumps, and landforms are surfacing due to low lake elevations, creating navigational hazards. Boating on Lake Oroville is not permitted starting one-half hour after sunset and ending one-half hour before sunrise.


Houseboats and vessels remaining on the water must be on their mooring ball or in a slip during hours of lake closure. Additional information can be obtained by calling State Parks at (530) 538-2200.


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 in force 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.


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. To learn more about HABs, or to report a HAB visit the Water Board’s website.


Drought Information

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 website 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.


Current Lake Operations

The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 630 feet elevation and storage is about 797-thousand acre-feet which is 23 percent of its total capacity and 35 percent of historical average. Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-to-high 90s over the weekend and continuing into 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 Lake Oroville is identified as “ORO”.


All data as of midnight 9/2/2021