Oroville (formerly, Ophir City) is the county seat of Butte County, California. The population was 13,004 at the 2000 census, and it is one of the faster growing towns in California, with an 11.9% increase in population from 2000 to June 2007. The national average population increase is less than one percent. The Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California is headquartered here.
Oroville is situated on the banks of the Feather River where it flows out of the Sierra Nevada onto the flat floor of the California Central Valley. It was established as the head of navigation on the Feather River to supply gold miners during the California Gold Rush.
Gold found at Bidwell Bar, one of the first gold mining sites in California, brought thousands of prospectors to the Oroville area seeking riches. Now under the enormous Lake Oroville, Bidwell Bar is memorialized by the Bidwell Bar Bridge, an original remnant from the area and the first suspension bridge in California (California Historical Landmark #314). In the early 20th century the Western Pacific Railroad completed construction of the all-weather Feather River Canyon route through the Sierra Nevadas giving it the nickname of "The Feather River Route". Oroville would serve as an important stop for the famous California Zephyr during its 20 year run. In 1983, this became a part of the Union Pacific Railroad as their Feather River Canyon Subdivision. A major highway, State Route 70, roughly parallels the railroad line through the canyon.
The Chinese Temple (CHL #770 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places is another monument to Oroville's storied past. Chinese laborers from the pioneer era established the Temple as a place of worship for followers of Chinese Popular Religion and the three major Chinese religions: Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The Chinese Temple and Garden, as it is now called, has an extensive collection of artifacts and a serene garden to enjoy.
Ishi, Oroville's most famous resident, was the last of the Yahi Indians and is considered the last "Stone Age" Indian to come out of the wilderness and into western civilization. When he appeared in Oroville around 1911, he was immediately thrust into the national spotlight. The Visitor's Center at Lake Oroville has a thorough exhibit and documentary film on Ishi and his life in society.
Archaeological finds place the northwestern border for the prehistoric Martis people in the Oroville area.
Oroville is situated at the head of navigation on the Feather River. The Yuba River flows into the Feather River near Marysville, California and these flow together to the Sacramento River. Geologically, Oroville is situated at the meeting place of three provinces: the Central Valley alluvial plain to the west, the crystalline Sierra Nevadas to the SE and the volcanic Cascade Mountains to the north. It has a Mediterranean climate.
The geology of the Oroville area is fascinating. Oroville sits on the eastern rim of the Great Valley, defined today by the floodplains of the Sacramento River and its tributaries. Around Oroville these sediments are dominated by thick fans of Feather River sediments, but just east of this there is a thin, N-S band of late Cretaceous sediments. These sit on top of the Sierran basement, which beneath eastern Oroville comprise greenschist-facies metavolcanic rocks of Jurassic age, giving way to granites of the Sierra batholith to the east. These are manifestations of a vigorous island arc sequence, built out over an east-dipping subduction zone of mid- to late Mesozoic age. The gold veins lace this ancient arc, remobilized by Mesozoic shearing and intrusions of igneous rock. The crystalline foothills are locally overlain by a Cenozoic sequence of Eocene clean beach sands overlain by Neogene volcanics, including the Diamond Head-like profile of Table Mountain.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.3 square miles (31.8 km²), of which, 12.2 square miles (31.7 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.16%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,004 people, 4,881 households, and 2,948 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,061.4 people per square mile (409.9/km²). There were 5,419 housing units at an average density of 442.3/sq mi (170.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.23% White, 4.03% Black or African American, 3.93% Native American, 6.34% Asian, 0.26% Pacific Islander, 2.78% from other races, and 5.42% from two or more races. 8.25% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 4,881 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 18.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.19.
In the city the population was spread out with 30.1% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $21,911, and the median income for a family was $27,666. Males had a median income of $28,587 versus $21,916 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,345. About 16.2% of families and 23.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.3% of those under age 18 and 8.9% of those age 65 or over.
Recently, as Chico has grown as a regional commercial giant, more people have been drawn to Oroville for close shopping, and lower property prices. It has been speculated that Oroville has undergone more construction of homes in the last four years than it has in the last 30 before it. A possible reason for this could be that the skyrocketing of property values in the San Francisco Bay Area has caused migration of new families. Oroville is also home to a considerable amount of ethnic Hmong. The Hmong migrated from Southeast Asia, especially from the country Laos, after the Vietnam War. The Hmong were allies of the American forces during the Vietnam War, many were recruited to help fight the Communist forces in Laos and Vietnam. Thus the Hmongs were given political asylum after the fall of Saigon to the Communist in 1975. Every year there is an annual festival during autumn which was originally a harvest festival but now called the New Year celebration. Ethnic Hmong make up 4.8% of Oroville's population, one of the larger communities in the north state. Since the arrival of the Hmong in Oroville they have enriched the community culturally. In the 1950s, a community of Romanians migrated from Europe, with 560 still there today. Nearby Indian reservations led to a surge in the Native American population, measured at 6.7% of the population in the 2000 census, but may be as high as 12%. The largest tribal grood is the local Maidu. The world's largest museum of Maidu culture is located in Oroville East, at the Lookout Museum.
Oroville's location makes it ideal for cheap goods. The 2008 cost of living index in Oroville was 79.0 (low, U.S. average is 100).
The Oroville Union High School District includes all of the greater Oroville area, including some neighborhoods that are not within the city limits. The District includes two traditional high schools, Las Plumas High School and Oroville High School, and Prospect High School, which functions as a continuation school. The city also has an Adult School, Oroville Adult School.
The Oroville Elementary School District includes five primary schools and two middle schools, Central Junior High School and the recently-opened Ishi Hills.
There are also many small rural school districts in the surrounding area.
Higher educational opportunities are found at Butte Community College, just north of town, and at nearby California State University, Chico.
Oroville is home to KRBS-LP, a low power community radio station owned and operated by the Bird Street Arbor Day Media Project. The station was built by numerous volunteers from Oroville and around the region in April 2002 at the second Prometheus Radio Project barnraising. KRBS broadcasts music, news, and public affairs to listeners at 107.1FM.
Oroville has three designated superfund cleanup sites, two of which have been cleaned up and delisted: a Koppers Co. wood treatment plant, a Louisiana Pacific sawmill, and the Western Pacific railyard.
The Koppers Co. plant was listed on September 21, 1984 for pentachlorophenol (PCP), dioxin, furan, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), and heavy metals (copper, chromium, and arsenic) contamination due to chemicals spilled on unpaved areas.
The Louisiana-Pacific sawmill was listed on June 10, 1986 for pentachlorophenol PCP, dioxin, furan, heavy metals (arsenic, boron, and copper), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination. Following remediation, the site was delisted on November 21, 1996. The sawmill was shut down in 2001.The Western Pacific Railroad yard was listed on August 30, 1990 for volatile organic compound (VOC) and heavy metals (arsenic, lead, and chromium) contamination. Following remediation, the site was delisted on August 29, 2001.