Oroville Outdoor Adventurer Rafting / Kayaking Fishing

Celebrating Salmon in Butte County

Loved and cel­e­brat­ed by locals, vis­i­tors, nature enthu­si­asts, and anglers alike, salmon are spe­cial in Butte Coun­ty, specif­i­cal­ly the Chi­nook, which makes the area its home and is con­sid­ered the king of wild Pacif­ic salmon. Unlike most fish, which live in either fresh­wa­ter or salt­wa­ter, salmon, includ­ing Butte County’s beloved Chi­nook, are anadro­mous—mean­ing that they hatch in fresh­wa­ter streams, migrate to the ocean to feed and grow, then return to fresh water to spawn the next gen­er­a­tion. The salmon return­ing to Butte Coun­ty from the Pacif­ic Ocean need to trav­el almost two hun­dred miles to make that trip!

Fall Salmon Run

The largest migra­tion of fall-run Chi­nook salmon occurs dur­ing Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber. The Feath­er Riv­er Fish Hatch­ery in Oroville is a great place to vis­it any time of year, but it shines dur­ing the fall run. There are two sec­tions of the Feath­er Riv­er Fish Hatch­ery to vis­it on both the east­ern and west­ern sides of Table Moun­tain Boule­vard. On the east­ern side, you can come face-to-face with the return­ing fish at under­wa­ter view­ing win­dows. There’s also a great view of the fish bar­ri­er dam where salmon attempt to jump up the cas­cad­ing Feath­er Riv­er. The west­ern side includes the fish spawn­ing rooms, hatch­ery, and rear­ing ponds where mil­lions of Chi­nook salmon and steel­head are cared for and even­tu­al­ly released. Guid­ed tours are avail­able Mon­day through Fri­day, but you can enjoy self-guid­ed tours any day of the week.

Spring Salmon Run

Come spring, Butte Coun­ty is one of the few places left in Cal­i­for­nia where threat­ened spring-run Chi­nook salmon can spawn nat­u­ral­ly. Pop­u­la­tions declined in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry but efforts to improve con­di­tions in the Butte Creek water­shed have cre­at­ed a salmon suc­cess sto­ry. The Butte Creek Eco­log­i­cal Reserve, oper­at­ed by Chico State, pro­tects a 93-acre por­tion of this impor­tant habi­tat. Spring-run Chi­nook salmon can also nav­i­gate up Big Chico Creek into Bid­well Park. The spring run peaks May through June.

Get Up-Close with Salmon

Any­one wish­ing to get an up-close view of Butte County’s migrat­ing salmon will find plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to do so, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the fall run, via kayaks on our many water­ways. On the Feath­er Riv­er, you can launch at the fish hatch­ery under the Table Moun­tain Boule­vard bridge. Stay near­by and enjoy the basalt bedrock lin­ing the riv­er or head down­stream for a relax­ing two mile pad­dle to River­bend Park, where you’ll be sure to see salmon jump­ing out of the water. 

Make your day a wildlife-seek­ing adven­ture by pad­dling the Feath­er Riv­er 7.3 miles down­stream to the Ther­mal­i­to After­bay out­let or 8.7 miles to the Vance Avenue park­ing area in the Oroville Wildlife Area.

The ulti­mate Feath­er Riv­er expe­ri­ence is to kayak 17 beau­ti­ful miles from the Feath­er Riv­er Fish Hatch­ery to the Gri­d­ley boat ramp. Kayak­ers seek­ing a big riv­er expe­ri­ence can also explore the Sacra­men­to Riv­er in Chico. Salmon and steel­head pop­u­late Lake Oroville, the Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay, and the Ther­mal­i­to After­bay, too, for those want­i­ng to pad­dle on flat water. 

Celebrating Salmon in Butte County
During Salmon Kayak Tours down the Feather River, learn all about the salmon's life cycle - and maybe even get hands on one that has finished its journey

Cel­e­brate Salmon

Butte Coun­ty loves its salmon run so much that every year, Oroville cel­e­brates the return of fall-run Chi­nook salmon dur­ing the Oroville Salmon Festival . Always tak­ing place on the fourth Sat­ur­day in Sep­tem­ber, it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of all things salmon, and vis­i­tors can view the salmon run at the fish hatch­ery, enjoy a street fair, taste var­i­ous salmon dish­es, and more.

Cel­e­brate the fall salmon run that week­end with a salmon tour down the Feath­er Riv­er with the Fore­bay Aquat­ic Cen­ter, which will offer mul­ti­ple trips down the Feath­er Riv­er, start­ing at the Fish Hatch­ery and end­ing at River­bend Park, with a shut­tle return­ing you to your car at the hatch­ery. It’s the per­fect way to learn about the salmon as you get to see them up-close and per­son­al! Check out their web­site for more details.