Lake Oroville Community Update - June 9, 2023


A drone view of water levels at the Enterprise Bridge located at Lake Oroville in Butte County, California. Photo taken March 8, 2023.

Lake Oroville Water Operations

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to make releases from Lake Oroville using the main spillway at Oroville Dam. Ongoing releases ensure continued storage space in Lake Oroville for spring runoff from snowmelt and are closely coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and downstream water operators.


Total releases to the Feather River amount to 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) with 4,000 cfs being routed down the low-flow channel which flows through the City of Oroville. An additional 4,000 cfs is being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet, located 5 miles downstream from Oroville. View KCRA’s recent news story about how DWR manages water levels at Lake Oroville.


Since Dec. 1, Lake Oroville’s storage has increased more than 240 feet and gained over 2.5 million acre-feet of water. Lake Oroville is currently at 100 percent capacity. At Oroville’s full capacity there will be the potential for some waves to splash over the crest of the emergency spillway if we experience any particularly windy days. While unlikely, DWR will be monitoring for the potential of any wave runup that might splash over the crest of the emergency spillway. Wave splash will not affect the integrity of the emergency spillway structure or Oroville Dam.


Visitors to Oroville Dam may also notice minor amounts of water flowing from drains built into the emergency spillway. As the reservoir level has increased, water flow from the drains has increased, which is normal and expected with the emergency spillway design. The dam and emergency spillway continue to operate as intended.


Driftwood and other floating debris on Lake Oroville are expected due to continued water inflows from tributaries and a high lake level, in combination with past wildfires impacting the watershed. Since January, State officials and marina partners have been collecting, containing, and pulling pieces of wood out of the lake and away from boat launch ramps using boom lines. However, boaters, water skiers, and other water recreationists should take precautions when operating boats on Lake Oroville and should remain alert for floating debris.


The Lake Oroville reservoir is the largest storage facility in the State Water Project (SWP) and supports environmental and water delivery needs to 27 million Californians and reduces flood risks to downstream communities. DWR continues to closely monitor lake levels and will adjust releases accordingly to optimize operations for water storage and environmental protection while allowing for carryover storage into next year.  


Feather River Fish Monitoring Station

DWR’s Division of Integrated Science and Engineering will begin construction activities the week of June 12 for a fish monitoring station project in the Feather River in Oroville. The fish monitoring station will provide information on abundance, run timing, and origin (hatchery or natural) of steelhead and Chinook salmon populations that will be used to improve management of spring- and fall-run populations in the lower Feather River. 


Construction activities in June will include the installation of solar panels along the bank of the Feather River. Installation of the fish monitoring weir in the river will occur around mid-July.


The structure will be installed along the low-flow channel of the Feather River and will be located approximately 6.5 miles downstream of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, 4.5 miles downstream of the Riverbend Boat Ramp, and 1.5 miles upstream of the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet Boat Ramp.


Car-Top Boat Launches

State Parks has closed the Nelson Bar Car-Top Boat Launch due to high lake water levels that have inundated the parking lot, which is at an elevation between 891 to 895 feet. The parking lot and car-top launch ramp will reopen again once Lake Oroville water levels recede. 


High water levels have also permitted the Vinton Gulch Car-Top Boat Launch to reopen. The car-top boat launch may be accessed via State Route 70 and Cherokee Road along the west branch of the north fork arm of Lake Oroville.


Feather Falls

A popular excursion at Lake Oroville during high-water level periods is to take a boat trip to the upper end of the Middle Fork Arm to view Feather Falls, a Yosemite-style waterfall of exquisite beauty. Along the way, there are many smaller waterfalls to see including some that tumble directly into Lake Oroville such as Bean Creek and Frey Creek. Bring a picnic lunch, a camera, and don’t forget your fishing pole. There are unlimited bass fishing opportunities along the route and trout fishing can also be good where the cold mountain streams enter the lake.


Walk Into Wellness

Join State Parks for a series of guided, meditative walks around the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area that promote health and wellness. These free walks focus on calming reflections and enlightening exercises while immersed in the beauty of nature. Sturdy shoes and a water bottle are recommended for participants. Wellness walks are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the following dates and locations:

  • Saturday, June 10: Loafer Creek; meet at the Loafer Creek Day Use Area
  • Sunday, July 16: Bidwell Canyon; meet at the Toll House Museum


Oroville Recreation

DWR, State Parks, and CDFW maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. An interactive map of recreation facilities, including open boat ramps, and their permitted uses is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. A paper trail map is available at various locations, including most entrance kiosks and the Visitor Center. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services such as a shuttle and boat rentals.


The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is 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, and a 47-foot-tall observation tower providing unsurpassed panoramic views.


Current Lake Operations

Lake Oroville is at 899 feet elevation and storage is approximately 3.52 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 100 percent of its total capacity and 127 percent of the historical average.


The Feather River releases are at 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Flows through the City of Oroville are 4,000 cfs with 4,000 cfs released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 8,000 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 6/8/2023.