Lake Oroville Update - April 12, 2024


Photo of the Brad Freeman Trail near Lake Oroville.

Photo of the Brad Freeman Trail near Lake Oroville.

Main Spillway Releases Ongoing

With warming temperatures and the mountain snowmelt season underway, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to perform required flood protection releases from Lake Oroville using the main spillway and Hyatt Powerplant. Releases from Lake Oroville during the spring months help maintain storage capacity in the reservoir to capture runoff, while optimizing storage for the benefit of water supply, recreation, and fish and wildlife enhancement. Over the past week, DWR decreased total releases from Lake Oroville to account for reduced inflows into the reservoir. DWR coordinates releases closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators and adjusts releases as needed to maintain balance throughout the water system.

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

  • Current Oroville Reservoir Level: 875 feet elevation 
  • Current Storage Capacity: 89 percent  
  • Total Releases to the Feather River: 7,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) 

Total releases to the Feather River amount to 7,000 cfs with 650 cfs being routed down the Low Flow Channel through the City of Oroville. An additional 6,350 cfs is being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet, located 5 miles downstream from Oroville. Feather River recreation users are advised to remain alert as river flows are expected to be swift and cold and may change based on projected weather forecasts.  

Lake Oroville is the largest storage facility in the State Water Project, providing flood protection while supporting environmental and water delivery needs to 27 million Californians. DWR continues to monitor lake levels, weather forecasts, and mountain snow levels to optimize water storage while meeting environmental requirements and allowing for carryover storage into next year.  

DWR Job Opportunities in Oroville

DWR has numerous job opportunities throughout the State. For those looking for positions based in Butte County, DWR is currently hiring engineers. To view more details about the positions, visit CalCareers.

Brad Freeman Trail Reroute

Heavy rains caused slope failure along a portion of the Brad Freeman Trail near the Hyatt Powerplant, making a quarter mile long trail section unsafe for public recreation. DWR and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) assessed impacts to the trail with a decision ultimately made to reroute the trail for continued recreation use. DWR and State Parks opened the newly rerouted trail this week, which now runs along the north side of Oro Powerhouse Road. The trail reroute provides continuous access to the 41-mile-long Brad Freeman Trail loop, offering multi-use recreation for hiking, biking, and equestrians. The nearest access points to this trail segment are the Diversion Pool parking lot off Oro Powerhouse Road and the Upper Overlook Day Use Area on Canyon Drive. 

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.

Earth Day Activities

Celebrate Earth Day all April with DWR and the Lake Oroville Visitor Center. Our Visitor Center guides are currently hosting a coloring contest for kids ages 5 to 12. Pick up coloring sheets at the Visitor Center and return them or your own original Earth Day artwork by Wednesday, April 17. Winners will have their art displayed publicly in the Visitor Center’s front lobby. 

In addition, DWR is hosting an Earth Day chalk art event at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center on Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Join our guides in creating beautiful chalk art showcasing your love for our planet and its precious resources. The event is open to all ages and chalk will be provided. Located at 917 Kelly Ridge Rd. in Oroville, the Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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.

Oroville Recreation

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 April 4 are:  

  • Spring-run Chinook salmon: 42
  • Fall-run Chinook salmon: 42
  • Steelhead: 788
  • 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 875 feet elevation and storage is approximately 3.16 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 89 percent of its total capacity and 122 percent of the historical average.

Feather River flows are at 650 cfs through the City of Oroville with 6,350 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet (Outlet) for a total Feather River release of 7,000 cfs downstream.  DWR continues to assess releases to the Feather River daily.   

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

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 4/11/2024.