Stunning Photos Of Empty California Lakes Demonstrate Their Desperate Drought

The California drought has led to a stunningly exposed landscape around one of the state's largest lakes.

By Faith McKay | Published

California drought

Butte County is about 90 miles north of Sacramento, California. In the past, it was most well known as the home of Chico State University, often considered a party school, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Now, the area makes headlines for the realities of climate change, California drought dangers, and wildfires. The area has always been fairly dry and is known for hot summers. To escape the heat on the weekends, you can either drive high up into the mountains, or you can head over to Lake Orville, the second-largest reservoir in the state. It’s a great place for fishing, lounging in your houseboat, or just having a swim. These things won’t be in store for residents this summer, as the lake has been hit hard by the punishing California drought.

Photos of Lake Oroville are a hard reality of the California drought for residents. While they’ve become more used to droughts as they become more frequent, the consequences continue to hit in new and unexpected ways. While the exposed land from the drought looks beautiful, it stands as a stark reminder of the problems to come for locals who are becoming more aware of the California drought dangers year after year, including wildfires, power outages, and problems for local farmers. See the photos below.

Currently, Lake Oroville is at 42% of its capacity, showing the realities of the California drought. Concrete structures in the reservoir that shouldn’t be seen are now clearly visible and houseboats are being removed from the lake. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, in 2016, the lake reached lows of 39% of its capacity. Unfortunately, the California drought is expected to worsen as the summer continues. Officials are expecting that the lake will reach its lowest levels ever.

Photos of Lake Oroville help demonstrate the effects of the California drought, though they’ll be most felt in the daily lives of local residents. The lake is more than just a place where locals go to cool off. The Oroville Dam acts as a hydroelectric facility. Because the droughts have become something that officials now have to expect, they’ve fortunately said that they have prepared, but it’s unclear if that will be enough. California residents are still anticipating the possibility of power problems. In the highs of summer, where a 110 degree Fahrenheit day is not uncommon, electricity to power people’s air conditioning is more than just a concern for comfort. If the power goes out, there will likely be extreme heat warnings for local residents hit by the California drought.

For a comparison, this is what Lake Oroville normally looks like, when not under California drought conditions:

Lake Oroville in California
Lake Oroville, When Not Effected by Drought

The world has grown used to seeing California in the headlines for wildfires and droughts. From the Los Angeles area up through Chico, a span of 500 miles, the situation continues to worsen year after year. For Butte County, the realities of California droughts are hitting hard. Lake Oroville rarely looks like the lake the residents used to know. In November of 2018, Paradise, California (a town in the county) was destroyed in a wildfire. The fire hit the town suddenly, killing 85 people. Years later, the town is still rebuilding.

Unfortunately, the current California drought is only just beginning. While officials in the area have faced these obstacles in the past and are working to be better prepared, wildfire season has still become a new reality for the state. Hopefully, this summer will prove better than some of the ones they’ve seen in recent years.