Submerged gold rush town Mormon Island makes 1st appearance since 1955 after Folsom Lake drought

OLSOM, Calif. (KCRA) —A town has been submerged under Folsom Lake since 1955, but now with little rain or snow runoff, the water levels have dropped enough for the foundations of some buildings to re-emerge.   

The town known as Mormon Island grew out of a Mormon settlement on a sandbar along the American River in gold rush days.

Mormon Island thrived during mining years with as many as 2,500 people, complete with four hotels, a school and seven saloons, according to some historical accounts.

Now, stone walls from the foundation of some of the outer-lying areas have been revealed by the shrinking lake.

Dozens of people hiked past dry boat docks and a muddy marina Saturday to get to the area, bringing their cameras and their dogs for the walk.

"It's actually a little disconcerting because, you know, this is our water supply," said Emily Fife. "And it's not really full."

Visitors can still make out the footprint of buildings believed to be a dairy and a winery that once stood in the hills above the town, along with the winding Natomas canal -- a ditch lined by tree stumps.

"I'm wondering at this point now if it's going to remain uncovered," said Monty Mattox. "Because it doesn't sound like we're going to get any rain soon."

Rusty nails are scattered among rocks and debris. Sightseers have been placing rusty springs, glass fragments and other objects on the tree stumps.

Park rangers said it is illegal to damage or disturb archaeological sites. It's also against state law to remove items from a state park.

Much of the town is still under about 90 feet of water, according to some estimates.

There were few people living in that particular town when the Folsom Dam was built. The area was intentionally flooded with water in 1955 to create Folsom Lake.

Courtesy: KCRA, NBC News Channel

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