Lake Oroville Community Update - February 17, 2023


A drone view of low water conditions at the Bidwell Bar Bridge located at Lake Oroville in Butte County, California. On this date, the water storage was 1,790,095 acre-feet (AF), 51 percent of the total capacity. Photo taken January 12, 2022.

A sunset glow illuminates the Oroville Dam main and emergency spillways with the reservoir and Bidwell Bar Bridge in the background and Feather River in the foreground. Taken February 8, 2023 with the lake elevation at 816 feet.

Christmas Tree Fish Habitat

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the California Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have finished constructing fish habitat structures at Lake Oroville and the Thermalito Afterbay using almost 1,800 recycled Christmas trees. The trees were again collected by Chico Boy Scout Troop 2 and delivered free of charge to DWR by Recology, a local waste management company.


To create the habitats on Lake Oroville and the Thermalito Afterbay, members of the CCC team bundle the recycled holiday trees together and anchor them in various locations around the lakebed. At Lake Oroville near the Loafer Creek Recreation Area, 1,250 trees were assembled into 63 structures. At the Thermalito Afterbay, 541 trees were assembled into 54 structures. Anchoring the trees allows them to remain submerged, providing juvenile fish safe refuge, and improving fisheries and recreational fishing opportunities.


This is the 30th year DWR has worked with local groups to construct fish habitat structures, which is one of the longest continuously running warmwater fish habitat improvement programs in the State of California.


Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission

The California Natural Resources Agency is hosting its 13th Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission meeting on Feb. 24, 10 a.m. to noon. The public meeting will be held at the Southside Oroville Community Center located at 2959 Lower Wyandotte Road, Oroville, CA 95966, and will include presentations and public comment. The Commission will receive a briefing on the January storm events and a presentation on reservoir debris maintenance and spillway capacity. The Citizens Advisory Commission is a forum for questions and feedback from the communities surrounding Oroville Dam.


Driftwood at Lake Oroville

DWR, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and marina partners at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area advise recreational boaters to navigate carefully in areas where driftwood is present.


Driftwood and other floating debris at the state recreation area are expected due to high water inflows from tributaries and rising lake levels, in combination with past wildfires impacting the watershed. Since January, State officials and marina partners have been working daily on collecting, containing, and pulling pieces of wood out of the lake and away from boat ramps using boom lines.


In past years, vandals have occasionally cut log booms, resulting in large amounts of debris released in the lake and around boat ramps. To alleviate the impact of driftwood on the state recreation area, DPR is asking the public to report any cutting or tampering of boom lines and any driftwood vessel accidents by calling the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area Dispatch Center at (916) 358-1300.


Due to an excess of driftwood, members of the public are no longer limited to collecting 50 pounds of driftwood per day. Any remaining driftwood will be disposed of within the recreation area to help reduce impacts next year.     


For information on the state recreation area, please visit


Rising Reservoir Levels

Thanks to the January storms, Lake Oroville reservoir levels have risen more than 160 feet since Dec. 1. The reservoir level, now at 823 feet, has reached the gates of the spillway. The public may see water on the main spillway outlet, which is expected as the gates are not designed to be watertight. DWR continues to manage Lake Oroville to collect as much runoff as possible while also providing flood control benefits for downstream communities, important examples of the multiple purposes of DWR’s Oroville Facilities. These actions are coordinated with a variety of other agencies and are subject to state and federal regulations.


Fuel Load Management

DWR continues vegetation management and debris cleanup activities around the Feather River Fish Hatchery to remove overgrown ladder fuels and create a more wildfire resilient landscape. In addition, CAL FIRE, Butte County Fire Department, and the California Conservation Corps (CCC) Butte Fire Center continue cutting and pile burning activities in the Loafer Creek area and along Oro Dam Boulevard East near the Hyatt Powerplant.


Over the next couple weeks, the Butte County Sheriff crew will be cutting and piling material along Canyon Drive to reduce overgrown vegetation near the community of Kelly Ridge. CAL FIRE will burn the brush piles at a later date.


DWR is implementing a Fuel Load Management Plan (FLMP) at its Oroville Facilities to reduce wildfire risk and increase public safety around Lake Oroville and surrounding communities. Vegetation management activities will continue through the spring, weather permitting. Smoke from pile burning activities will continue to be visible in the Oroville area.


Oroville Recreation

The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is now open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Visitor Center offers numerous educational exhibits, a theater featuring videos about the building of Oroville Dam, walking and hiking trails, and a 47-foot-tall observation tower providing unsurpassed panoramic views.


DWR, State Parks, and California Department of Fish & Wildlife maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. An interactive map of recreation facilities, including open boat ramps, and their permitted uses (hike, bike, horse, multi) is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services such as a shuttle and boat rentals.


Current Lake Operations

Oroville’s reservoir is about 823 feet elevation and storage is approximately 2.46 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 70 percent of its total capacity and 115 percent of the historical average. Intermittent rain showers are expected to return to Northern California next week.


The Feather River releases are currently at 950 cubic feet per second (cfs). Flows through the City of Oroville are 650 cfs with 300 cfs released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 950 cfs downstream of the Outlet. DWR continues to assess releases to the Feather River daily.


The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center. The Lake Oroville gage station is identified as “ORO”.


All data as of midnight 2/16/2023.