Getaway Artist Outdoor Adventurer Boating Rafting / Kayaking Fishing

14 of the Best Water Recreation Spots in Butte County

For some of the best of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia lakes and rivers — as well as creeks, swim­ming holes, and small bays — Butte Coun­ty is a must-vis­it loca­tion.

Chico boasts the best urban swim­ming holes in the state (we might even go so far to say the nation), while Oroville is home to one of the best lakes for boat­ing, fish­ing, and house-boat­ing recre­ation. Else­where in the coun­ty, you’ll dis­cov­er wild and scenic rivers, hid­den reser­voirs, and small pic­ture-per­fect lakes.

If you’re not sure where to start, our list of the top 14 water recre­ation spots in Butte Coun­ty will keep you busy!

Bear Hole and Diver­sion Dam

Once you’re there, you’ll under­stand why Bear Hole and Diver­sion Dam were vot­ed the county’s favorite water recre­ation spot. At Bear Hole, you’ll find deep, sparkling pools con­nect­ed by rush­ing chutes of water that are sur­round­ed by a nat­ur­al rocky play­ground and smooth basalt drenched in full sun, great for catch­ing some rays. Just upstream, the old diver­sion dam offers even more pools to enjoy. This is the defin­i­tive warm-weath­er favorite!

Salmon Hole

Fur­ther into Upper Bid­well Park, Salmon Hole offers one of the most scenic swim­ming expe­ri­ences in the area — you’ll have to work hard­er to get there com­pared to oth­er swim­ming holes in the park. But those who make the trek will be reward­ed with one of the largest nat­ur­al pools on Big Chico Creek and many enjoy­able side-pools.

Feath­er River

The Feath­er Riv­er is a key water fea­ture in Butte Coun­ty, espe­cial­ly in the south­ern half of the region. Its waters feed Lake Oroville, the pop­u­lar recre­ation site and valu­able reser­voir. Beyond that, though, the North, South, and Mid­dle Forks of the riv­er are pop­u­lar recre­ation spots in their own right, with the Mid­dle Fork fol­low­ing the Wild and Scenic High­way 70. Fish­ers, kayak­ers, and white water rafters will find their own piece of wild land along these forks through­out the year.

Plan Your Trip

Get ready for your week­end getaway!

Book Now

Lake Oroville

Per­haps the most well-known recre­ation spot by those not liv­ing in the area, Lake Oroville is the go-to for boat­ing, jet and water ski­ing, and gen­er­al water enthu­si­asts when the weath­er warms. It’s also a nation­al­ly renowned bass fish­ing loca­tion and offers unique-to-Lake Oroville float­ing camp­sites as well as house boat­ing and boat-in camp­ing opportunities. 

Sacra­men­to River

Butte County’s share of the Sacra­men­to Riv­er, the largest riv­er in the state, show­cas­es some of the best riv­er recre­ation in the state! Get on the water for lazy tub­ing adven­tures, bring your rod and reel for boat and bank fish­ing, or just splash around with your friends at Wash-Out Beach. Those want­i­ng dry­er adven­tures can even enjoy walk­ing paths and day-use areas scat­tered along the river.

14 of the Best Water Recreation Spots in Butte County

Sycamore Pool

Just one mile upstream from Down­town Chico, Sycamore Pool at One Mile Recre­ation Area is the most acces­si­ble swim­ming spot along Big Chico Creek — and per­haps one of its most unique. It’s an expan­sive liv­ing pool where the creek flows through a 1920s-era con­crete basin and is sur­round­ed by an idyl­lic tree canopy and grassy fields. No mat­ter how hot it gets in Chico, the water in Sycamore Pool will always cool you down.

Five Mile Recre­ation Area

Those with younger fam­i­ly mem­bers will find a per­fect spot at Five Mile Recre­ation Area, a wider, shal­low­er, and calmer Bid­well Park swim­ming hole than those found fur­ther upstream Big Chico Creek. With a pic­turesque pedes­tri­an bridge, plen­ty of shade, and close prox­im­i­ty to restrooms and pic­nic areas, it’s a great blend of the urban atmos­phere of Low­er Park and the more rugged Upper Park.

Alli­ga­tor Hole

Even though the first des­ig­nat­ed swim­ming hole in Upper Park is pret­ty tame, Alli­ga­tor Hole is still a pleas­ant stop along the Yahi Trail. More than any­thing, it is a nice spot to cool off one last time after a long hike and anoth­er great spot for young hikers.

Par­adise Lake

Tech­ni­cal­ly locat­ed in Mag­a­lia, Par­adise Lake could have eas­i­ly been named for its pic­ture-per­fect loca­tion among the pines rather than the near­by town. Tucked away on Par­adise Ridge, the lake’s glassy water is per­fect for a relax­ing pad­dle or fish­ing trip, while the 4.5‑mile trail along the shore makes for easy hik­ing and nature view­ing — includ­ing an occa­sion­al bald eagle or bear.

Fore­bay Aquat­ic Center

Sit­u­at­ed on the shore of the Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay, the Fore­bay Aquat­ic Cen­ter is a one-stop shop for kayak­ing, row­ing, or stand-up pad­dle board­ing. With class­es and rentals on calm waters, it’s a per­fect place for all ages to get out on the water. Try a new fam­i­ly-friend­ly activ­i­ty and enjoy a sun-soaked after­noon (make sure to wear your sunscreen!).

14 of the Best Water Recreation Spots in Butte County

Brown’s Hole

If you’re inter­est­ed in check­ing out Chico’s swim­ming holes but are look­ing for a more seclud­ed expe­ri­ence, you’ll want to head to Brown’s Hole. The last offi­cial­ly known swim­ming hole in Upper Bid­well Park, it’s still eas­i­ly acces­si­ble despite its rel­a­tive seclu­sion. Once there, you’ll find an almost wilder­ness set­ting, com­plete with two long and slen­der pools sur­round­ed by thick stands of oak trees and ripar­i­an plants.

Sly Creek Reservoir

Sur­round­ed by conifer-lined shores under bright blue skies, the high­er-ele­va­tion 562-acre Sly Creek Reser­voir is notable for its emer­ald hued water. An invit­ing scene, flat­wa­ter boaters, anglers, and oth­er water enthu­si­asts will enjoy a serene and almost soli­tudi­nous expe­ri­ence as well as a reprieve from the val­ley heat.

Lake Con­cow

Hid­den in the con­ver­gence of the Sier­ra and Cas­cade foothills, Lake Con­cow is a beau­ti­ful spot for sim­ply vis­it­ing, fish­ing, camp­ing. Tall trees pro­vide plen­ty of shade for shore­line activ­i­ties, while the more than 80 acres of wilder­ness offer plen­ty of space for explor­ing native plants, stargaz­ing, and more.

Lake De Sabla

Named after one of PG&E’s founders, Lake De Sabla is a quaint, pic­turesque spot locat­ed just off the Sky­way in Mag­a­lia. Anoth­er high­er-ele­va­tion reser­voir, the lake is the per­fect spot for a break from sum­mer heat of the val­ley below, qui­et fish­ing, and peace­ful contemplations.

14 of the Best Water Recreation Spots in Butte County