On a sunny, spring day about a year ago, HI Travel Tales stopped in at the Oroville Dam and its Feather River Fish Hatchery. Little did we know the peaceful shots we snapped would be such a contrast to the thundering water of the overfilled Oroville Dam in February 2017 that forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 people.

In addition to the evacuation of people, however, was the mandatory evacuation of several million baby fish from the hatchery we had enjoyed. A worthwhile stop for travelers seeking more than tourist traps, the Feather River Fish Hatchery raises Chinook salmon and steelhead – up to 9 million each year in the hatchery approximately one mile below the Oroville Dam, which is the tallest dam in the United States.

Feather River Fish Hatchery looking into the fish ladder.

Evacuating baby fish from the Feather River Fish Hatchery at Oroville Dam

A secondary story to the evacuation of all those people was the need to evacuate as many baby fish as possible – since either the waters or the sediment could kill them. In the end, a small army of volunteers working through the night scooped up and moved nearly 4 million of those baby fish, with the remainder likely seeing a different fate. The fish raised at the Feather River Fish Hatchery at Oroville Dam are in fact crucial to the state’s salmon stock, particularly as their numbers have declined during the last several years of drought. According to the Chico (California) Enterprise-Record newspaper, the floodwaters that swelled the river had reached above the fish ladder to the parking lot.

Feather River Fish Hatchery also flooded in 1997 at the barrier dam.

This is not the first time the Feather River Fish Hatchery has been under water. In 1997, the waters were also above the fish ladder — as you can see by looking at the red line in the image above. The hatchery returned and will return again after this saga – making it a particularly interesting stop for travelers to the Sierra Nevada foothills heading east from Sacramento.

Feather River Fish Hatcher fish ladder.

The Feather River Fish Hatchery has a self-guided tour – best in the fall when the fish ladder opens – that shows the entire spawning process. Guided group tours are available but need to be reserved a month in advance.

Feather River Fish Hatchery a great fall stop for area travelers

Details regarding hours, directions and contact information for the hatchery funded by the California Department of Water Resources and operated by the Department of Fish and Game are available here.

In September, the town of Oroville hosts the annual Salmon Festival with environmental education, music and tours. The 2017 and 2018 event may take special meaning.

The hatchery and Oroville Dam are part of a larger complex supplying power and recreation to a broader Northern California area.

HITT Tip: If you happen to be in the Oroville area in March or April, head out to the Table Mountain Preserve for a hike in an area renowned for its wildflowers. Check out our story on Table Mountain here, and a video showing the spectacular Phantom Falls there by clicking here.

Villagio Inn and Spa

Feather River Fish Hatchery

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve


Table Mountain Preserve


Liberty Cemetery


Michigan Bluff


Spring Wildflowers - Foresthill Divide Loop Trail


Mozzeria Pizzeria


Lynch Canyon Open Space Preserve


Apple Hill


Wofford Acres Vineyards


Apple Ridge Farms


Larsen Apple Barn


Rainbow Orchards


Smokey Ridge Farmstand and Charcuterie


Allez French restaurant


UC Davis Arboretum


Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History


Crema Restaurant


Alhambra Theater Historic Site - Sacramento

Today, the former movie showplace is not much of a show. And not many folks seem to even be aware of the meaning of these palm trees, and non-functioning fountain as they dash in and out of the store for groceries. A plaque that was said to be placed there was nowhere to be found when I visited. Read our story here.

Palo Corona Regional Park - Carmel

South Yuba River State Park - Bridgeport

Underground Gardens - Fresno

The Underground Gardens is what it sounds like: A weaving labyrinth of caverns, rooms and passages all dug underground and filled with fruit trees, vines and plants in spaces that open to the sky. This oddity was built – or shall we say, dug – by Italian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere for about 38 years starting in 1906.

Heads up! This information the Feather River Fish Hatchery was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.