Right there in the name, oro—Spanish for “gold”—is how the Butte County seat got its gilded reputation before it was officially founded in 1906.
Like many areas of the west, especially in Northern California, Oroville earned its original notoriety thanks to the discovery of gold. The news of the discovery at Bidwell Bar, which came after the peak years of the California Gold Rush, inspired a prospector boom, which spurred construction of major California railways along the Feather River and overall industrialization.
Today, Oroville stands as an agriculturally-focused, spread-out community rich in outdoor recreation that attracts visitors from all over the North State. Most of Oroville along Highway 70 is only an exit away from outdoor recreation, most of it featuring easy-rolling hills, natural water features, or scenic hikes. Table Mountain, the Thermalito Forebay and Afterbay, and Lake Oroville are the most well-known examples of these.
Famously, the massive Lake Oroville is a haven for water skiing, boarding, swimming, and fishing enthusiasts practically year-round, while the Feather River continues to be a scenic beauty, meandering through the county and providing both serenity and play opportunities for visitors and residents.
Oroville is also rich in Northern California tradition. On top of its gold rush roots, the town of about 19,000 features a historic Chinese temple that dates back to the pioneer era and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Oroville is also nationally known as the home of Ishi, the last Yahi, considered to be the last Native American to join Western Civilization in the early 1900s.
Increasingly, Oroville is gaining appeal as a place to live and do business thanks to urban developments and the long-running embrace of its proximity to outdoor activity. Its downtown area has undergone a remarkable renovation in recent years, revitalizing the area with modern bars, restaurants, local businesses, and newer-age hangouts. And while Oroville doesn’t have a four-year university, the nearby Butte Community College is a gateway to education for thousands of area students from all over the region, and a beloved resource for students of all ages and backgrounds. In the fall, Oroville residents turn out regularly for Butte’s perennially competitive football team (best known today for being where Aaron Rodgers got his start).
Whether it’s work or play, there is an abundance of reasons why many call Oroville home, and why it remains one of the county’s top visitor attractions every year. The gold rushers got it right.