Oroville is situated on the banks of the Feather River where it flows out of the Sierra Nevada onto the flat floor of the California Central Valley. It was established as the head of navigation on the Feather River to supply gold miners during the California Gold Rush.
Gold found at Bidwell Bar, one of the first gold mining sites in California, brought thousands of prospectors to the Oroville area seeking riches. Now under the enormous Lake Oroville, Bidwell Bar is memorialized by the Bidwell Bar Bridge, an original remnant from the area and the first suspension bridge in California. In the early 20th century the Western Pacific Railroad completed construction of the all-weather Feather River Canyon route through the Sierra Nevada’s giving it the nickname of “The Feather River Route”. Oroville would serve as an important stop for the famous California Zephyr during its 20-year run. In 1983, this became a part of the Union Pacific Railroad as their Feather River Canyon Subdivision. A major highway, State Route 70, roughly parallels the railroad line through the canyon.
The Chinese Temple is another monument to Oroville’s storied past. Chinese laborers from the pioneer era established the Temple as a place of worship for followers of Chinese Popular Religion and the three major Chinese religions: Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The Chinese Temple and Garden, as it is now called, has an extensive collection of artifacts and a serene garden to enjoy.
Ishi, Oroville’s most famous resident, was the last of the Yahi Indians and is considered the last “Stone Age” Indian to come out of the wilderness and into western civilization. When he appeared in Oroville around 1911, he was immediately thrust into the national spotlight.
In the early 1960s, thousands of construction workers and their families came to Oroville, in Northern California, to help build the largest earth-fill dam in the world. Located nine miles northeast of town, the Oroville Dam would be the cornerstone of the California State Water Project, which would provide flood control, electric power, recreation, and water to California residents. The project was so massive that it would reinvent the look of much of the area; require the building of roads, bridges, and railroads; inundate much of the area’s history under hundreds of feet of water; and greatly affect the lives of the residents of Oroville. The successful completion of the project came at a price—34 construction workers died.
Bidwell marina in Oroville offers house boat rentals. Oroville lake has great fishing, camping, and skiing.
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