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Mormon Island the Town Under the 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
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
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 Pictures
- Mormon Island
Here are a few images of Mormon Island of what it used to look like. I couldn't find any public domain images, but if you click the link, you'll see what the town used to look like.
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.
Do you enjoy visiting historical places?
Things to Do in Folsom CA
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
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.