Lake Oroville Community Update - May 24, 2024


An aerial view shows high water conditions at Oroville Dam. Photo taken May 9, 2024.

An aerial view shows high water conditions at Oroville Dam. Photo taken May 9, 2024.

DWR Maintaining Storage Capacity at Lake Oroville

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to maintain Lake Oroville at its peak storage capacity while adjusting water releases as needed to account for increasing or decreasing inflows into the reservoir and maintaining flood protection for downstream communities. Releases are closely coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators and adjusted as needed to maintain balance throughout the water system. DWR continues to monitor Lake Oroville levels to optimize water storage while meeting environmental requirements and allowing for carryover storage into next year.  


With Lake Oroville at full capacity, windy periods are likely to cause water to splash onto and over the crest of the emergency spillway. This will result in minor surface wetting of the downstream side of the emergency spillway crest and the very upper sections of the splash pad. Visitors to Oroville Dam may also notice minor amounts of water flowing from drains built into the emergency spillway. Both conditions are normal and expected given the emergency spillway design. The dam and emergency spillway continue to operate as intended.


The information below reflects current reservoir level estimates. Forecasts can change quickly and may affect the estimates provided.


  • Current Oroville Reservoir Level: 898 feet elevation 
  • Current Storage Capacity: 99 percent  
  • Total Releases to the Feather River: 2,300 cubic feet per second (cfs)

Total releases to the Feather River amount to 2,300 cfs with 650 cfs being routed down the Low Flow Channel through the City of Oroville. An additional 1,650 cfs is being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet, located 5 miles downstream from Oroville. Total Feather River releases may be further reduced over the weekend. DWR continues to assess Feather River releases daily.


As the largest storage facility in the State Water Project, Lake Oroville helps provide water to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland, while providing flood protection to downstream communities along with environmental and recreation benefits. Spring is an important time for water project operators to fill reservoirs like Lake Oroville ahead of dry months. It also is an important migration window for many native fish species. DWR is using the best available science to protect fish species. However, SWP operations have faced significant restrictions in the Delta this year that have impacted the ability to capture and store the water needed if California sees a return to drought conditions.


Swim Beaches

Temperatures are warming up in Northern California and summer is just around the corner. While Lake Oroville offers ample water opportunities for boating, kayaking or wakeboarding, the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) and Oroville Wildlife Area (OWA) also offer several family-friendly swim beaches that are excellent locations to recreate.


Swim beaches within the LOSRA and OWA provide shallow wading and swimming opportunities for visitors of all ages with nearby restroom facilities. Some locations also include picnic benches and barbecue facilities that are perfect for hosting a fun family gathering. Beat the heat and relax at one of our swim beaches – Loafer Creek at Lake Oroville, Monument Hill or Larkin Road at the Thermalito Afterbay, or the South or North Thermalito Forebay.


When recreating at SWP facilities, you should always keep water safety a top priority. Keep these water safety tips in mind to have a fun and safe summer:

  • Wear a life jacket
  • Swim in safe or designated areas only
  • Swim with a buddy
  • Be aware of drop-offs into deep water
  • Watch for hidden debris and slippery rocks
  • Look before you leap or dive
  • Check for algal bloom updates
  • Know your GPS location

Driftwood Abatement Ongoing at Lake Oroville

For the second year in a row, Lake Oroville has filled to capacity following a wet winter. But high water levels also bring driftwood and other floating debris as water flows into Lake Oroville from tributaries. Since the end of April, DWR civil maintenance staff have been collecting, containing, and pulling pieces of wood out of the lake and away from shoreline areas using boom lines. So far DWR civil maintenance crews have collected over an acre of driftwood with abatement activities expected to continue for the next several weeks. Crews are seeing much less floating debris this season due to lower inflows from tributaries coupled with extensive debris removal efforts in 2023. Floating debris removal ensures continued infrastructure operations and the safety of the recreating public on Lake Oroville. However, boaters, water skiers, and other water recreationists should take precautions when operating boats on Lake Oroville and should remain alert for floating debris.


Oroville Recreation

DWR, State Parks, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. An interactive map of recreation facilities, including open trails and their permitted uses (hike, bike, horse, multi), is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. A paper trail map is available at various locations, including most entrance kiosks and the Lake Oroville Visitor Center.


Staffed by knowledgeable guides, the Visitor Center features interpretive displays on Oroville Dam, area geology, wildlife and habitat, hydroelectric power, and cultural and historical artifacts. View videos in the theater about the construction of Oroville Dam, walk or hike along nearby trails, and visit the 47-foot-tall observation tower that provides unsurpassed panoramic views of surrounding areas. Free guided tours for school and community groups are available by reservation. Parking and admission to the Visitor Center are free.


Lake Oroville is one of the State Water Project’s premier recreational destinations and one of California’s best fishing spots. The lake provides both warm-water and cold-water fisheries and is a popular destination for bass tournaments. Below the Oroville Dam, the Thermalito Afterbay and the Feather River offer additional excellent fishing opportunities. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services including a convenience store, gas, and boat rentals.


Upstream migrating fish totals through the Feather River Fish Monitoring Station between Jan. 1 and May 19 are:  

  • Spring-run Chinook salmon: 3,167
  • Fall-run Chinook salmon: 42
  • Steelhead: 830
  • Due to higher flows in the low-flow channel of the Feather River between Feb. 26 and March 18, some fish swam over the monitoring station and were not counted in upstream migration totals.

Current Lake Operations

Lake Oroville is at 898 feet elevation and storage is approximately 3.52 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 99 percent of its total capacity and 126 percent of the historical average.


Feather River flows are at 650 cfs through the City of Oroville with 1,650 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet (Outlet) for a total Feather River release of 2,300 cfs downstream. Total Feather River releases may be further reduced over the weekend. DWR continues to assess Feather River releases 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 5/23/2024.