Gold attracted the first settlers to Oroville and sawmills kept them here, but that’s all over. There’s now a plastic bag factory on the outskirts of town, but apart from that, this is just a damn pretty little town with half a dozen antique stores on every block. Oroville’s most enduring attraction is an excellent museum left behind by a long-gone Chinese community.
Gold was discovered near here in 1848 by John Bidwell, at a site along the Feather River known as Bidwell Bar (it’s now under Lake Oroville). The town boomed quickly and was originally called Ophir (Gold) City. Oroville was where Ishi, the last surviving member of the local Yahi tribe, was ‘found’ back in 1911.
Lake Oroville, a popular summertime destination, sits 9 miles northeast of town behind Oroville Dam. The surrounding Lake Oroville State Recreation Area attracts boaters, campers, swimmers, bicyclists, backpackers and fishing folk. Oroville is also a gateway to the gorgeous Feather River Canyon and the rugged northern reaches of the Sierra Nevada.