Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, reached full capacity this spring for the first time since 2019 and recreational boaters, paddlers and campers have been heading to the lake in full force to find relief from the summer heat.
However, during the previous three years of drought as the lake level continued to drop and the exposed lakebed grew wider, many mariners and houseboat owners found it increasingly difficult to access the water and their boats from paved launch facilities.
While disappointed boaters were left high and dry, DWR took advantage of the low lake level to improve lake access by extending a boat ramp facility within the Loafer Creek Recreation Area.
New Loafer Point Stage II Boat Ramp
The extension of the Loafer Point Stage II Boat Ramp now provides three lanes of lake access down to 675 feet elevation, (building upon the 6-lane boat ramp that was constructed in 2020), and also included a lighted parking area for 97 vehicle-trailer combos, and new restroom facilities. DWR has plans to further extend the Stage II Ramp when low reservoir levels allow additional construction. A recently installed four-acre parking lot also now provides an additional 179 vehicle-trailer parking spaces.
DWR's multi-year construction of the Loafer Point facilities is the largest single recreation facility build-out at Lake Oroville in the past 50 years and was driven by community requests to provide additional low-water access points at Lake Oroville.
Extended Boating Season at Loafer Creek
The new boat ramp facilities extend the season for boaters who also use the campground at Loafer Creek. The new Loafer Point Boat Ramp extends down to a much lower elevation than the original Loafer Creek area boat ramp, which would frequently come out of the water before the Fourth of July in dry years. The extended ramp gives boaters access to the water later in the season, when some of the most comfortable temperatures are experienced at the lake.
“While Lake Oroville is at a higher capacity thanks to winter storms, we also just experienced three years of drought which brought the reservoir to its lowest levels since construction in the 1960s,” said Eric See, license coordination branch manager for DWR’s Oroville facilities. “Building the additional low water boat launch facilities at Loafer Point ensures DWR remains climate ready, while providing ongoing access to recreation at Lake Oroville.”
Of all the recreation areas at Lake Oroville, Loafer Creek consistently has the second highest visitation levels with around 132,000 visitors in 2022, second only to Bidwell Canyon. The popular location also provides nearby access to numerous State recreation hiking and biking trails, campgrounds, swimming beaches, equestrian facilities, and the nearby Bidwell Marina.
Project Partners Recognized
The Loafer Point Stage I and Stage II Boat Ramp extension projects were constructed by K.W. Emerson, Inc., a San Andreas-based engineering contractor with a project portfolio that includes work for DWR, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal agencies. In recognition of their work on the projects, the company was awarded the 2023 Award for Partnering Excellence by DWR’s Division of Engineering (DOE). Part of DOE’s Collaborative Partnering Program, the award recognizes a company’s outstanding ability to utilize collaborative partnering principles, including timely and regular communication, trust, commitment, teamwork, and shared mutual goals.
The first phase of the Loafer Point Stage II Boat Ramp was constructed by Odin Construction Solutions, Inc., a Rocklin-based contractor that specializes in heavy civil construction, environmental remediation, habitat and wetland construction, and emergency disaster services for a wide variety of clients. In 2020, they were awarded the Outstanding Climate Change Project award by the Sacramento Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers for their work on the Loafer Point Stage II Boat Ramp. The award recognized the project’s important contribution to climate resilience in the recreation facilities at Lake Oroville, as well as the specific technical construction challenges that were overcome to place 5,800 cubic yards of concrete and 438,000 pounds of rebar in just 63 days to complete the project ahead of rising water in Lake Oroville.
As climate change continues to impact water resources, DWR has been proactive to ensure continued recreation access to Lake Oroville for community members and visitors during low water or drought periods. A year ago, visitors found the Loafer Point and other boat ramps closed and exposed. Today, they can set off on the water a short distance from the parking lot and perhaps remain completely unaware of the full extent of the new infrastructure lying unseen in the water beneath them.