The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake was strong enough to be felt across a wide area and to do considerable damage to poorly designed buildings. But no significant damage had been reported.
The quake at 8:47 p.m. Thursday was reported to be centered about 7 miles northwest of Greenville and 7 miles underground. It was followed by a series of aftershocks ranging from 2.6 to 3.5 in magnitude.
There were reports on Twitter that shaking from the earthquake was felt in Sacramento, 150 miles away, where police said it set off home and car alarms, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"We got a bunch of alarm calls and a bunch of barking dogs," said dispatcher Taylor Richards of the Sacramento Police Department.
One Chico resident, somewhat closer to the epicenter, told the Times he felt a steady shaking for about 30 seconds.