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Mormon Island the Town Under the Lake

Updated on May 22, 2014

Folsom Lake

The picture you see here is what Folsom Lake in the Sacramento area of California usually looks like. It's a virtual water playland with boating, swimming, hiking trails, camping and more. It's also the source of water for local residents. The lake itself itself is a man made lake which was completed in 1955.

So what happened when they filled a lake? Part of the lake was filled over an old mining town which has recently submerged due to the current drought in California. I was so thrilled that my family and I got to visit it.. The name of the town is Mormon Island.

Lake image by JazzD at Wikimedia Commons.

Folsom Lake History

Folsom Lake Picture
Folsom Lake Picture

As you can see, the image here is a far cry from the rich water you saw in the first image. It is estimated that the lake is at anywhere between 17% and 25% of its normal capacity, which is the reason that Mormon Island has been emerging.

So, what was Mormon Island? Mormon Island was a small mining town that sprung up during the California Gold Rush. It was founded by members of the Mormon Church and in the 1850s was home to approximately 2,500 people. Buildings included hotels, saloons, a school, dairy and shops.

Image by **RCB** at Flckr through Creative Commons licensing.

Mormon Island Artifacts

Mormon Island Artifacts
Mormon Island Artifacts

The town was hit by a fire in 1856 and by the 1940s, saw the last of its residents. When we went there, we were able to see some foundations, what appears to be an old road, tree stumps that have been buried under water since the lake was filled, a partial sidewalk and quite a few artifacts.

Although it is labeled an archaeological reserve and you are not supposed to disturb anything on the site, I couldn't resist doing a little digging just with a rock and right under the surface, I was able to find pieces of glass and porcelain, along with quite a few rusty nails.

This photo is of some of the artifacts other people have found and the image is my own.

Mormon Island Building

Mormon Island Building
Mormon Island Building

This is the interior of one of the buildings that has surfaced. This is the largest building I saw when I was there. I have no idea what it used to be, but it stood between seven and eight feet high.

Image is by WriterJanis.

Mormon Island Video

I happen to be a big fan of old west ghost and mining towns. I can't tell you how excited I was to visit there. The area looked so different than what I'm used to visiting when our family goes to the lake each summer.

Here is a short video that gives you a look at what the area of Mormon Island currently looks like. How long it will be visible is unknown. Once the drought is over and the rain returns, it may be lost forever.

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Things to Do in Folsom CA

Folsom Lake Image
Folsom Lake Image

If you are thinking about visiting Mormon Island, although it's part of Folsom Lake, the area itself is in El Dorado Hills. You can access the area through the Browns Ravine entrance to the lake.

Now, don't think about picking up any artifacts and taking them home. This is strictly prohibited. However, do enjoy what you can see while you can. In addition, what you can see is only a part of the town. More is still under water.

Fortunately, Porta Potties are available. If you decide to park down in the dirt, do it with caution. One guy parked his car in the mud and was unable to get out. Lucky for him someone was able to tow him out.

Admission is $12.00 per standard vehicle.

Update: I would phone in advance to see how much is still visible as the area has had some rain.

Relics image by WriterJanis.

California Ghost Towns

Ghost Towns of California: Your Guide to the Hidden History and Old West Haunts of California
Ghost Towns of California: Your Guide to the Hidden History and Old West Haunts of California

As I mentioned earlier, I'm a big fan of ghost towns and due to the California Gold Rush, the state is full of them. This book takes you on a journey of these sites including directions on how to get to them.

 

What kind of areas do you like to visit?

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    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 3 years ago

      I would love to visit a place like this! Very cool lense.

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 3 years ago

      Thanks for touching on a subject few know about or have even heard of. A great look back at what was once a boom town. Not to mention what happened all across this nation as they built dams to supply water and power. Your drought can't last forever.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @TolovajWordsmith: Oh that sounds quite interesting.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @georgepmoola2: I would love to visit those places in the UK.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @takkhisa: I would love to see it again.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @Lorelei Cohen: It was so awesome to visit.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 3 years ago from Ljubljana

      Areas with rich history, something like this one, I suppose. We have intermittent lake at Cerknica. It's interesting place too. For centuries people believed this is the place where witches have meetings.

    • georgepmoola2 profile image

      georgepmoola2 3 years ago

      There are similar stories to this here in the UK where reservoirs have been created. Fascinating stuff well presented on this lens.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 3 years ago

      You are so lucky that you have visited this place with your family. Would you like to go there again? Thanks for sharing it, Big sister. :)

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      This really would be a cool heritage site to visit. I love old communities and ghost towns so I was glued to every word of your article. What an amazing place.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @Susan Zutautas: I think I have been to that underground city in Seattle many years ago.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @DuaneJ: Oh I love to visit castles.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      You say: "Although it is labeled an archaeological reserve and you are not supposed to disturb anything on the site, I couldn't resist doing a little digging just with a rock and right under the surface...." so it appears to me that your actions disrespected a site and that seems outrageous, fun as it may have been.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: Guilty as charged. I even spoke to an employee and questioned as to where the artifacts came from that were displayed and it seems they all came from tourists to the area. I'm sorry if I have offended you.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
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      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @Merrci: It really did have an archaeological feel to it.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
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      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @Russel Shackleton: I tried so hard to find more pictures I could post either under public domain images or Creative Commons, but with no success. Flickr did have some images, but not under Creative Commons licensing. Sigh,,,,,,,

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @Kim Milai: My curiosity peeked as soon as I heard of this,

    • WriterJanis2 profile image
      Author

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      @Lynda Makara: Most local people have never heard of it before, either.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      To answer your question, all kinds of areas. The one that probably sticks out most in my mind is the underground city in Seattle. Mormon Island sounds like a another place I'd really enjoy seeing. Very interesting lens. I'm sure I've been to Folsom Lake or driven past it before many years ago, as the name does sound very familiar to me.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 3 years ago

      I like to visit places with grand majestic castles and cathedrals.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      That's so interesting. It must have been wonderful to see it in person. Even knowing it was there, it must have an archeological feel to it. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • Russel Shackleton profile image

      Russel Shackleton 3 years ago

      Thanks for introducing me to a genuinely interesting piece of history, however I do feel you could have gone into more detail on the history of the settlement, and certainly more pictures would have been nice. I had to use google to quench my thirst for knowledge about this place.

    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      This us so fascinating. You've peeked my curiosity now!

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 3 years ago from California

      I've never heard of this place. It would be fascinating to explore.