Drought exposes abandoned Gold Rush village in Folsom Lake

State News

FOLSOM, Calif. (KTXL) – As the waters of Folsom Lake recede to levels rarely seen, the remnants of a long-ago abandoned, flooded Gold Rush village are reemerging.

Visitors can now see building foundations, bricks, broken pottery and rusty nails that were all once part of Mormon Island.

The town was settled in the late 1840s by prospectors. By 1853, it had a population of more than 2,500 settlers, according to California archives.

What was left of the town got flooded in 1955 when Folsom Dam was built.

During FOX40’s visit to the site, on the southeastern side of the lake near Browns Ravine, plenty of history was found but no other explorers among the ruins.

The sunken village is a bit of a hike from the parking lot and the trek over a parched lakebed in 100-degree heat made the journey a brutal one.

But those who braved the heat Monday were able to walk through pieces of the past stepping along what might have been forgotten roads or canals.

Visitors to the park are advised to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Any artifacts that are found should be left behind for others to enjoy the feeling of discovery.

In the days to come, there will be much more to explore as some portions of the town are just now appearing to rise out of the water.

Despite the uncovering of history, Folsom Lake dropping down to 381 feet is not good news.

Mormon Island last became visible in September of 2015, so for the lake to be this low in July is alarming.

In a statement to FOX40, the Bureau of Reclamation said:

This water year is one of the worst drought years on record—the worst since 1977—and we are all in this together; Reclamation is working closely with our partners to pave a way through this unprecedented year.

Reclamation is implementing lessons learned from 2014/2015 drought years and an all-hands-on-deck approach to help conserve reservoir storage for multiple objectives, including cold water pool for fisheries and health and safety for communities.

Ernest Conant, Regional Director, Bureau of Reclamation

While Californians do their part to conserve water while in anticipation of the rain and snow season, people might be able to enjoy the opportunity of discovery along the shrinking shoreline.

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