All About Oroville

Oroville, Ca – a small town with a colorful history just an hour or so north of Sacramento. New to the area or thinking of moving in? Here’s everything you need to know.

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Downtown Oroville. Photo courtesy of Wayne Wilson.

Geography

Location & Accessibility

Oroville is located in Northern California about 25 minutes’ drive south of the thriving city of Chico, home of Chico State University. Sacramento is just over an hour to the south, with the San Francisco Bay area reachable in under 3 hours with favorable traffic. Reno is 2.5 hours away to the East. The town is well connected by road, positioned off of Highway 70 and in close proximity to Highway 99, which leads to Interstate 5, the highway that crosses the length of California from Canada to Mexico. Sacramento International Airport is a conveniently short drive away, as is the much smaller Chico airport. Oroville has its own small airport for private and chartered planes.

Terrain Map of Oroville, CA courtesy of google maps
Terrain map of Oroville showing geographical location. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Landscape

Oroville is the county seat of Butte (rhymes with loot) County, named for the picturesque Sutter-Buttes, the so-called smallest mountain range in America. The city itself is located within the long, flat expanse of the Sacramento and San Joachim valleys, however, a twenty minute drive out of the town, across the suspension bridge that crosses Lake Oroville and up into the foothills, takes you into a dramatic landscape of forests, canyons, mountains, and swift-flowing rivers.

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The Bidwell Bar Bridge

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The Sutter Buttes

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Feather River Canyon

The Oroville landscape is dominated by Table Mountain, a long flat-topped hill that overlooks the town and sports a Hollywood-style ‘O’ that can be seen for miles around. Above the town lies beautiful Lake Oroville and the troubled Oroville Dam, which caught global attention after it came close to failing in 2017. Oroville is situated at the base of the foothills where the Feather River flows out of the Sierra Nevada and into the flat floor of the Sacramento Valley. The Feather River runs from north to south, carrying with it some of the best fishing in the state.

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The Oroville “O”

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Oroville Dam

Climate

Oroville has a Mediterranean climate with very warm, dry summers and mild winters. There are an average of 243 sunny days a year, with peak temperatures in the 90s and 100s during summer and somewhere between 40 and 60 during winter. It’s easily warm enough to swim outside in summer, and locals know all the best spots on the lake and the river. In winter, a winding drive into the foothills will lead you to thick snow within an hour.

History

City of Gold

The history of Oroville, the “gold town”, begins with the story of the California Gold Rush in 1848-1855, just as California was becoming part of the United States. Gold was found at Bidwell Bar, thousands of prospectors flooded into Oroville to seek their fortunes, and the town was for a time a flourishing city, connected for trade by the Feather River and the Western Pacific Railroad. Oroville was also home to many Chinese workers, who founded a Chinese Temple in 1863 that still stands to this day. Originally named ‘Ophir City’, Oroville was re-christened when the first post office opened in 1954 and incorporated on January 3rd, 1906.

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Historic Downtown Oroville

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Oroville Chinese Temple

Notable Events

Oroville is the birthplace of the olive canning industry, which was founded by Freda Ehrmann, who build a large cannery in the city at the turn of the century. Oroville is also home to Mother Orange Tree, the oldest Orange tree in Northern California. In 1911, a Native American named Ishi, the last of the Yahi people, arrived in Oroville and is believed to be the last “Stone Age Indian” to come out of the wilderness into western civilization. In 1968, the Oroville Dam was built, the tallest Dam in the United States, and newly created Lake Oroville formed and flooded the areas where gold had first been found. The new lake caused Oroville to become a popular area for recreation and retirement, but with construction on the Dam over, the town faded a little into obscurity with a significant gap between rich and poor. A catastrophic failure of the main spillway at the Dam threatened the city in February 2017, causing widespread evacuations, however, a massive engineering project has since secured the safety of the area.

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Freda Ehrmann

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Damage to Oroville Dam Spillway

Economy

Oroville is a city on the rise, with several new businesses opening up in recent years, creating new jobs and lowering unemployment, which is currently around 5%. However, the average income of an Oroville resident is $18,777 a year, significantly lower than the US average of $28,555 a year. The city’s three major employers are Butte County, Oroville Hospital and Pacific Coast Producers. Oroville is home to several factories, many retail stores, and is surrounded by a large agricultural area comprised mainly of orchards growing fruit and nuts.

Real Estate Market

The current Oroville Real Estate market is described by Zillow as Very Hot – a Sellers’ Market. The median home value in Oroville is $220,000, with prices rising by 15.9% over the past year and predicted to rise by another 9.1% within the next year. Home appreciation is up 11% this year and has risen by 51% over the past 5 years, compared to the national average of 37%. The median list price per square foot in Oroville is $188, and the median age of Oroville real estate is 46 years old.

The Camp Fire disaster of November 2018, which saw the destruction of over 18,000 buildings in nearby Paradise, Magalia, and Concow, has caused housing to be in high demand throughout Butte County. Renters make up 48.2% of the Oroville population, with the average rent set at $770/month for a 1 bedroom, $990/month for a 2 bedroom and $1,430/month for a 3 bedroom home or apartment.

Schools

The greater Oroville area has three elementary school districts, Oroville City (Wyandotte Academy, Sierra Del Oro Preschool, Oakdale Heights Elementary, Ophir Elementary, Stanford Avenue Elementary, Central Middle School and Ishi Hills Middle School), Palermo (Helen Wilcox Elementary, Golden Hills Elementary, Honcut Elementary and Palermo Middle School) and Thermalito (Plumas Avenue Elementary, Poplar Avenue Elementary, Sierra Avenue Elementary, Nelson Avenue Middle School). There are also Stream, Ipakanni and Hearthstone Charter Schools, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School and Oroville Christian School. The two main high schools are Oroville and Las Plumas.

Oroville public schools spend $9,692 per student, which is lower than the average school expenditure in the U.S. of $12,383. There are an average of 24 students to each teacher.

Oroville is a 25-minute drive away from Chico State University and is home to the Northwest Lineman College.

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Northwest Lineman College

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Chico State University

The Outdoors and Recreation

Oroville has a lot to offer anyone with a love of the outdoors. When full, Lake Oroville spans over 15,000 acres and has 167 miles of shoreline. The lake and surrounding area offer multiple activities including camping, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, sail and power boating, water-skiing, fishing, and swimming. To the west, the Thermalito forebay is a popular day-use swimming, boating, fishing, and picnicking site. The North Forebay also contains a campground for self-contained vehicles. Lake Oroville visitor center is well worth a stop – and a climb up the 47-foot tower for a view of the Lake, the Sierra Nevada and the Sutter Buttes mountain range.

IDX ImageLake Oroville Trail

Table Mountain is covered in beautiful wildflowers during spring and has some great trails for the more adventurous hiker to explore. Spectacular Feather Falls on Fall River is 640 feet high and is one of the most beautiful sights in the area – especially during the spring run-off. Nearby Bald Rock, a granite outcrop of giant, smooth boulders, is fun to visit and boasts some stunning mountain views. The fishing is outstanding throughout Lake Oroville State Recreation Area to anyone with a California sport fishing license. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, chinook, catfish, mackinaw, sturgeon, and brown trout can all be found in great quantity.

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Flowers on Table Mountain in spring

Oroville has several family-friendly parks, the largest of which is Riverbend, a well-maintained, pretty 210-acre green expanse that follows the Feather River and hosts soccer games, picnicking, paved trails, play areas and a sandy beach for swimming (though please note, the Feather River is cold!). Nelson Park contains seven lighted softball fields, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a sandlot volleyball court, and a recreation center. It’s possible to walk or cycle along the side of the Feather River from the fish hatchery (a fascinating visit during the salmon season) to Bedrock Park in downtown Oroville. Palermo Park to the south of the city has a large public swimming pool open throughout the summer. Other parks include Hammond Park, Hewitt Park, Soroptimist Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Rotary Park and Centennial Plaza. For more information visit  http://frrpd.com/

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Riverbend Park

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Feather River Fish Hatchery Salmon Ladder

Kids’ sports such as football, little league, and track and field are very popular in Oroville and take place at Harrison Stadium and the surrounding baseball fields. Every year the Oroville High School Tigers take on the Las Plumas High School Thunderbirds in the Victory Bell game. Children can also take part in gymnastics, dance, and soccer.

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Harrison Stadium

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Palermo Pool

Table Mountain Golf Course (www.tablemountaingolf.com) is an 18-hole, 6,500-yard long course that is open seven days a week and includes a driving range. Kelly Ridge golf course is a 9-hole, 4,160-yard long course with beautiful views of the lake and valley. Both golf courses also include banquet and conference facilities.

Entertainment and Activities

Feather River Cinemas is a fairly large movie theatre with a popular $5 Tuesday movie night. Oroville also has its own historic state theatre built in 1928 by renowned California architect Timothy Plueger. The theatre is still in use with acts performing every month and has its own original organ, recently restored.

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Oroville State Theater

Oroville has a variety of supermarkets (Walmart, Raley’s, Foodmaxx, Grocery Outlet, Smart & Final) chain retail stores (Ross, Marshalls, Home Depot) and many independent mom and pop stores, especially in the historic downtown area where you can find specialty stores, thrift stores and a popular coffee shop (Mugshots).

Some of the best restaurants in Oroville are undoubtedly at the two brewing companies, Father Falls Brewery at Feather Falls Casino & Lodge and Miners Alley Brewing Company downtown. Aside from these, Oroville has several popular Mexican restaurants (Vallarta, Papacitos, La Costena, Los Compadres, Francisco’s, Casa Vieja) a popular long-standing Chinese restaurant (Tong Fong Lo) and some decent Asian restaurants (Pho Noodle House, Nori’s Asian Kitchen). Oroville is a GREAT place to get a burger without turning to a chain fast food place – you can choose from Boss Burger, Righteous Burger, Mike’s Grande Burger or Jake’s Burger and they are all delicious. Chain restaurants include Panda Express, Applebees, Taco Bell (x2), Jack in the Box, Popeye’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway (x2), Round Table, Mountain Mikes and, yes, there is a Starbucks.

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Miners’ Alley in Downtown Oroville

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Feather Falls Brewery

If you regret your fast food choice, there are several gyms in Oroville including a Fit Republic, an Anytime Fitness, Oroville Sports Club and the Lord’s Gym Oroville as well as Oroville Crossfit.

Community

Census Data

Oroville’s population is around 19,000 people with around 55,000 people living in the greater Oroville area. Butte County as a whole has a population of approximately 220,400. Within Oroville, 65% of the population is white, 4% is black, 9% is Asian, 1% is Native American, and 12% claim Hispanic Ethnicity. Oroville is home to a fairly large Hmong community, which settled there after the Vietnam War. The largest Native American tribal group is the local Maidu. Berry Creek Rancheria is headquartered in Oroville and contains the world’s largest museum of Maidu culture.

Special Events

Oroville has a few special events that are well worth participating in. The most popular of these is Feather Fiesta Days, a week-long festival culminating in a large car show and parade through the downtown on the second Saturday in May. Also popular is the Salmon Festival on the fourth Saturday in September, which also takes place downtown. The Lord’s Gym Mud Run and Kids Run take place every Spring, as does the Renaissance Fair and OroCon. A Hmong New Year celebration is held annually.

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