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Oroville (California)

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Oroville (California)

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Old Town Oroville

Oroville [14] is a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. With a population in the greater urban area of 40,000, it is the seat of Butte County. A relaxed place, it boasts a massive dam that has created the man made Lake Oroville. There are excellent outdoor activities including boating, hiking, biking, and fishing.


For a Californian town, Oroville has had a rather extensive history. It was the first major town in the area and grew enormously in the mid-19th century due to the Gold Rush, after which it slowly transitioned in to being the county of seat of one of California's poorest counties. Constantly overshadowed by neighboring Chico (due to the university campus there), Oroville has spent most of its post-Gold Rush existence quietly serving administrative purposes with some unfortunate race tensions in the middle of the 20th century.

In recent years, outdoor tourism has become one of the main draws of the town and more people have moved there as it becomes a "bedroom community" of towns such as Chico and even Sacramento. Visitors to Oroville will more than likely be spending their time hiking or on the lake as the town proper, while having a nice, old historical area, isn't heavy on cultural attractions.

Get in

By bus

There are three main bus methods to get to Oroville.

  • Amtrak [15] - While better known for their trains, Amtrak does run a connecting bus service from their Sacramento hub. In Sacramento you can transfer to trains that will take you nearly anywhere in the country. The number of buses varies a great deal based upon the season and it's best to consult their website to make plans specific to when you want to travel. The stop is not near the center of town though as it is just off the main highway at a gas station, so visitors would need to plan an additional ride accordingly.
  • Casino Buses - With the opening of two large Indian gambling casinos in the town several years ago, bus routes were created to link up gamblers in the San Francisco Bay Area with these casinos. The schedules are not ideal, but the cost of the ride is considerably cheaper than any other option given it is offset by the fact that they believe those riding it will be gambling upon arrival. To use this, inquire directly with the Gold Country or Feather Falls Casinos.
  • Greyhound [16] - The stalwart American bus service. There are at least two regular bus connections with Oroville a day that are exceedingly slow, although they stop closer to the main part of town.

By car

You will most likely need a car once arriving in Oroville, so it is better to arrive with your own first. Oroville straddles Highway 70 and has four exits off this main thoroughfare.

By train

During Gold Rush times, there were several trains a day down to Sacramento and San Francisco. Today, sadly, there is no service whatsoever.

Get around

There is meager public transportation in Oroville. There is a small bus line that is relatively new and gaining and reliability, but it primarily serves the downtown area.

Taxis are scarce and not to be seen running around. You actually have to call a taxi to come to your specific location if you want one and they are not cheap.

While the immediate downtown area is pleasant to walk, to go anywhere else will require your own car. If you don't have one upon arrival, there are several rental offices in town such as Enterprise and Hertz.


Entrance to Cherokee Museum
  • Bidwell Bar Bridge (Original), North end of Bidwell Canyon Rd.. The Bidwell Bar Bridge is the first steel suspension bridge built in California. It was relocated to its current location in 1965 to avoid inundation by the rising water of Lake Oroville. Free. (39.537500,)
  • Cherokee Ghost Town, 4226 Cherokee Rd (HWY 70 North, turn on Cherokee Rd, about one mile in look for the museum). What was once a boom town during the mining days, this is a small ghost town with several structures you can walk through from the road including what was the Wells Fargo Bank. There is also a small museum that has varying opening hours. There are a few scattered places where people still live, so tread carefully.
  • Chinese Temple, 1500 Broderick Street, (530) 538-2496. 7 days a week Noon to 4:00. Built in 1863, this temple served the needs of all the Chinese north of Sacramento. Now it is a museum open to the public showing the history of the Chinese in the area as well as artifacts from the days when the temple was in full service. $3 Adults.
  • Ishi Emergence Spot, Oro Quincy Highway & Oak Ave.. The location where Ishi, the last Native American to live in the wild came in to contact with European Americans in 1911 which is mainly just a plaque marking the spot. Much more can be found at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center. Free.
  • Lake Oroville Visitor Center, 917 Kelly Ridge Road, (530) 538-2219, [1]. While not actually in the town, this state-run visitor center offers a splendid observation of the town as well as the history of the construction of the lake and the Indian tribes that were in the area. Free. (39° 46’ 20.67” N,)
  • Mother Orange Tree, Bidwell Bar Bridge. The original orange tree brought to California 1856 which is still bearing fruit to this day despite a near fatal frost in 1998. Free.
  • Oroville Dam. Billed as the largest earth-filled dam in the world, it is the tallest dam in the United States at 230m/770ft, and the top of the dam spans 2,110m/6,920ft. The view over the Sacramento Valley is stunning, especially after a good rainstorm. Just be advised that due to some reason given in the name of possible terrorism, you can't park directly on the top of the dam. There are also quite impressive tours under the dam showing the massive hydroelectric turbines, although the hours and offer of these tours are unpredictable. Free.
  • Pioneer History Museum, 2332 Montgomery Street, (530) 538-2497. Fri-Sat-Sun Noon - 4pm. Opened in 1932, this museum houses a very large collection of tools and other historical items used by people in the Gold Rush. A must-see for anyone who has any interest in Gold Rush history. $3 Adults.


Top of Feather Falls
  • Bald Rock, (HWY 162 dir. Berry Creek, turn off on Bald Road Rd. and drive to trailhead). A massive granite outcropping that sits in the mountains above town. It makes for an excellent day hike with impressive views from the top.
  • Feather Falls, (HWY 162 towards Berry Creek, right on Forbestown Rd., left on Lumpkin Rd., left just before town proper (there is a sign)). Another great day hike for those wishing to see the 5th highest falls in the United States with a drop of 200m/640ft. Great spot in the middle of the hike to see a massive ladybug migration. (39.6429426°N,121.2744065°W)
  • Green Line Trail. A contiguous route running from the center of town up to the dam with a number of options along the way. It's for those wishing to make longer bike rides around the area and enjoy the scenery with a very easy to follow green line to mark the path.
  • Lake Oroville, (HWY 162 East towards Berry Creek, left on Canyon Drive). The main attraction of the Oroville and huge destination for boating and fishing. Boats can also be rented from Bidwell Marina and taken far upstream to the forks of the river where there are usually waterfalls depending on the year.


There are no items specific to Oroville that warrant special attention of purchase. Here are a few places where more basic items can be found.

  • Geenline Cycles, 1911 Montgomery St., +1 530 533 7885, [2]. The most thorough local bicycles shop located in the heart of the old town. The best spot to pick up parts if one is looking to do a lot of cycling in the area.
  • Raley's, 2325 Myers Street, +1 530 533 2515. The best supermarket in the area with a large selection of products. especially good for those looking to go camping up in the mountains and needing to stock up on supplies for the trip.
  • Wagon Wheel Market, 4607 Olive Highway, +1 530 589 1824, [3]. While the groceries are much higher-priced than in town, it's hand's down the best butcher in town. If you want meat for a BBQ, this is the place to go. Also excellent beef jerky that they cut and make.


  • Boss Burger, 2482 Montgomery Street, +1 530 534 8806, [4]. One of the best burgers around and a much better option than all the fast food joints that line Oro Dam Blvd.
  • Papacito's, 1751 Oro Dam Boulevard East, +1 530 532 9344. Mexican food for people who don't like Mexican food. It's fine, but it's not amazing.
  • Taqueria Estrella, 1361 Feather River Boulevard, +1 530 532 4939. One of the only to-go burrito shops in town that varies a great deal in quality from day to day.
  • Tong Fong Low, 2051 Robinson Street, +1 530 533 1488, [5]. Opened in 1912 and run by Chinese ever since. It's the best Chinese food option in town.
  • Western Pacific Brewing, 2191 High Street, +1 530 534 9101, [6]. Previously known as the Depot given that it was the original train station for the town, it now is a restaurant with a micro brewery.


Oroville is not lacking in drinking options, which is probably a tribute to its bawdy Gold Rush past. The issue is more that the vast majority of bars fall under the "dive" classification.

  • Keg Room, 3035 Oro Dam Boulevard East, +1 530 534 1394. A true dive bar in town with dim lighting and the regulars. If you want to Oroville local bar experience, this is it.
  • Montgomery Street Pub, 1933 Montgomery Street, +1 530 533 0900, [7]. Much less of a pub than the name implies and much more of a bar in the downtown area.



  • Motel 6, 505 Montgomery Street, +1 530 532 9400 (fax: +1 530 534 7653), [8]. Directly off of Highway 70, it is not a place one goes for charm, but it is one of the cheaper places to stay in Oroville.
  • Western Motor Lodge, 2255 Bird Street, +1 530 533 7376. A basic motel for the budget conscious with basic amenities.


  • Holiday Inn express, 550 Oro Dam Blvd., +1 530 534 5566, [9]. The newest hotel in town, located on one of the main boulevards, close to the highway.
  • Lake Oroville Bed & Breakfast, 240 Sunday Drive Berry Creek, CA, +1 530 589 0700, [10]. While technically in the small neighboring mountain town of Berry Creek, this spot provides a tranquil, relaxed place to stay for visitors with a view over the lake.


  • Days Inn Oroville, 1745 Feather River Blvd., +1 530 533 3297, [11]. A more upscale hotel located off the highway.
  • Feather Falls Casino Hotel, 3 Alverda Drive, +1 530 533 3885, [12]. A casino hotel that's actually more classy and resembles an upscale hunting lodge. More removed from the casino so that you can stay there separately of the gambling sadness.
  • Gold Country Casino Hotel, 4020 Olive Highway, +1 530 538 4560, [13]. It might seem odd to stay at a casino in such a small town, but it's one of the nicer hotels in town, especially if you avoid the rather dreary casino.

Get out

  • Chico - Twenty minutes west of Oroville, Chico is the main town of the area with good shopping and a state college.
  • Gold Country - Where the formation of California really took place.
  • Mount Lassen - Excellent outdoor hiking and breathtaking scenery in the volcanic park about a 45 minute drive from Oroville.
  • Sacramento - About an hour south of Oroville and the capital of California.
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