Receding Lake Oroville Waters Leave Artifacts Exposed For Looters

OROVILLE (CBS13) — With water levels dropping at Northern California rivers and reservoirs, historic and prehistoric artifacts can be found up and down the state.

But be warned, unearthing artifacts in the area could be a felony.

Jana Frazier with the Department of Water Resources is happy to show off tribal and Gold Rush artifacts at the Lake Oroville Visitors Center. But she’s worried about artifacts that can be found in a lower-than-normal Lake Oroville.

“When we have hikers go out, they sometimes find things that they shouldn’t take,” she said.

Looting is becoming a problem as the drought drops the water line, revealing more historic and prehistoric sites.

Jim Ahrens has been boating on the lake for a decade, but hadn’t heard about the looting problem.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. “I know there’s some indian grounds, I believe, out there somewhere. And I believe those are sacred and they shouldn’t be fussed with.”

It’s illegal to take anything from the site more than 50 years old, and it’s even illegal to dig up artifacts in the area.

“That could be a misdemeanor, it could be jail time, it could be a felony,” Frazier said.

And there are eyes out there watching in the form of park rangers and people like Frazier who volunteer as site stewards.

“We always tell people, find it look at it, enjoy it photograph it, leave it where you find it,” she said. “Otherwise you destroy the historical record.”

If you see someone digging up artifacts, she says it’s best not to approach them and to just call 911.

Visitors can take up to 15 pounds of rocks, including gold and quartz from state parks, but the key is you can’t dig for it.

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