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Butte County: Valleys, mountains, rivers, lakes and buttes

By Chuck Giles
Butte County has a suitable niche if you want to hike, bike, bird watch, hunt or fish.
Try travelling from the mountainous Butte Meadows on the north, to agriculture rich Gridley southward. Somewhere along the route, you will find the venue that fits your idea of outdoor fun.
Butte County, Buttes at Sunset, Bruce Johnson, Chuck Giles, MyOutdoorBuddy.com
Butte County is famous for views of geological formations, one of which is the world's smallest mountain range (Sutter Buttes) often clearly visible in nearby Sutter County.

Where to begin? Butte County is home of the nation’s largest earth filled dam, Lake Oroville, historic mansions, majestic rivers and canyons including Big Chico Creek, which runs through the city of Chico where glimpses of wildlife are common. Butte County also offers world class salmon fishing on the Feather and Sacramento Rivers, museums to peruse, large cities, small towns, state parks, county parks and oak laden campgrounds. Some of the state’s best big game, upland birds and waterfowl hunting opportunities also exist here. A 54-pound gold nugget was discovered in one of its quaint towns, and friendly people await both the young and old.

Lake Oroville State Recreation Area: A fishing/camping destination second to none. Many a novice bass fisherman has cut his teeth on this huge foothill impoundment. Fishing for bass, coho salmon and trout are especially popular. For the river fishing enthusiasts, both the Feather and Sacramento Rivers running through the heart of Butte County offer salmon, shad and steelhead fishing and are the destination points for anglers all over the state.

Butte County, Paradise Lake, Lake Oroville, Hwy. 70 Bridge, Feather Falls, Chuck Giles, MyOutdoorBuddy.com
Lake Oroville is also known for its stately fleet of houseboats, many of which are available for rent. Imagine being able to cruise right up to the base of Feather Falls!

If you prefer being land-based, one can journey in with their RV and spend the night at one of many lakeside campgrounds.

Feather Falls, the nation’s sixth tallest waterfall, is east of Oroville, the county seat. The trail to this spectacular vista is always well maintained. Bring a lunch and relax right next to this magnificent icon of Butte County. More Lake Oroville

Butte County offers many worthwhile side trips. Take a tour of the fish hatchery at the base of Table Mountain Road in Oroville. This famous site offers the public a wonderful view of Chinook 

Butte County, Covered Bridge, Chuck Giles; Egrets, Bruce Johnson; Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, MyOutdoorBuddy.com
A drive may take you through a covered bridge, past wetlands briming with waterfowl or onto a plateau covered with wildlflowers. Take your choice!

Salmon rising up the ladders in acrobatic jumps and tumbles. During the fall of the year California Department of Fish and Game employees are busy milking the eggs from these fish as you watch from a viewing platform.

Up Cherokee Road you will pass the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. In the spring of the year, this venue offers wild flower viewing second to none. In addition, the reserve offers spectacular geologic examples of lava capped landscapes.

Paradise is a short drive up the appropriately named “Skyway.” Residents here are proud of the town slogan, “All the name implies.” This small town is also the gateway to some of the best hunting, fishing and recreational prospects in Northern California.

Butte County, Paradise, Oregon City School, Chuck Giles, MyOutdoorBuddy.com

Paradise is the largest of a small cluster of “ridge communities” comprised of Magalia, Stirling City, Lovelock and Innskip. Look for the historic Oregon City school house. The bell tower looks as though it could still call in children from recess.

Local celebrations abound inviting everyone to enjoy some “down home” festivities. Go back in time and celebrate “Gold Nugget Days” each spring with the locals.

This is an eclectic group of small town and forest villages presenting the visitor all manner of activities. Each community provides easy access down into the Feather River canyon where one can prospect or fish.

Butte Meadows can also be reached via the Skyway and Innskip. Butte County’s share of Highway 70 is a major thoroughfare full of spectacular views of the Feather River in all her rugged glory. Incomparable vertical walls of greenery and granite surround you at nearly every turn. Trips to the valley floor are just as exciting for those who love to fish or hunt.

Butte County, Geese at sunrise, Jason Haley, Pheasants; Thermolito Afterbay, Bruce Johnson
Hunting for waterfowl is popular on the Sacramento Wildlife Refuges, the Thermalito Afterbay, in small ponds and along the rivers. Upland game abounds in the foothills and rice fields.

Chico is the most populous city in Butte County. Downtown is full of busy shops of all types and parking is easy. On East 20th Street The famous Sierra Nevada brewery is open to visitors and their lunches are second to none. Chico is also home to Chico State University.

Butte County, Chico Plaza, Chico City Hall, Chico State, Chuck Giles, MyOutdoorBuddy.com
Chico belies the myth that urban areas can be dull.

The Chico Mall is just a few blocks from here and boasts major anchor stores along with several sporting good outlets. To get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, one can merely walk into one of the many Bidwell Park accesses and unwind in a gorgeous setting.

Bidwell Park encompasses over 3500 acres and runs from mid-city well into the surrounding foothills. Big Chico Creek is the focal point of this natural wonderland and the surrounding trails invite hikers, equestrian enthusiasts, birders and the casual walker to a plethora of attractions. More Big Chico Creek

Butee County, Chico, Bidwell Park, Bidwell Mansion, Big Chico Creek, Bruce Johnson, Chuck Giles, MyOutdoorBuddy.com
The 1938 movie “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn took advantage of the Sycamores and oaks to film the classic here.

Amid the natural beauty of Bidwell Park lies a man-made oasis for the golfer in the family. Eighteen scenic holes can be played while others in the group shop in the many quaint businesses nearby in downtown Chico.

Within this small section of Northern California is a destination point for any who choose to partake in every aspect of the outdoors. For the traveler willing to get off the pavement, wet a line or swirl a gold pan, the only extravagance here is nature at her very best.

Welcome to Butte County!

Photos courtesy of the author, Bruce Johnson, Bobby Larson, Emily Bryden, Ron Gandolfi, Jason Haley, City of Chico, Butte County and CA DFG

For additional information about Butte County visit these websites:

Butte County Historical Society

Bruce Johnson Photography

North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve

Lake Oroville


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