Gold Rush Era Ruins Emerge From Beneath a Lake

Real Estate Agent with GreatWest Realty DRE# 00827565

If you have paid visit to my blog very often, you have likely noticed my penchant for visiting old California Gold Rush towns and destinations.  My fascination with these communities provides colorful entertainment to an imaginative mind – an opportunity to enter another era and realm.  

However, there is a place, not far from home, which has sometimes haunted me - because it is usually inaccessible.

In present day, the town of Mormon Island makes its home in ruins on the bottom of Folsom Lake.  However, recent historically low water levels of the lake are revealing old Mormon Island foundations, and artifacts. 

Yesterday, when I wrote “In The Absence of Rain,” about my walk near Brown’s Ravine Marina, there was more of the story to be told.  It is difficult to witness the woes this drought year is bringing.  But, I continued to trek ½ mile, or so, to another destination - Mormon Island.

With spring-like temps in the mid 60s, I wasn’t alone in this pleasant hike.  Folks from near, and some from far, were finding their way onward toward the old Mormon Island ruins. 


What is currently visible of the old community is rarely seen, other than in exceptionally dry years, like this one.  And, what is now visible, once lay on the outskirts of the town.  More of Mormon Island continues to reside in its watery grave beneath the lake surface.

At its zenith in the 1850s Gold Rush era, Mormon Island was populated with approximately 2500 souls.  There were lodging places, several saloons, a post office and a school.  But in 1955, when Folsom Dam was completed, and the lake began to fill, the town found a different realm at the bottom of Folsom Lake.

In addition to the photos below, I have posted a larger collection accessible via:  “Mormon Island – Brown’s Ravine Photos.”


There are several great resources on the web, about Mormon Island – It’s history, etc.  They are listed as follows: – Mormon Island

Folsom History Museum – Mining Towns

California Pioneer Heritage Foundation – Mormon Island

Recent Sacramento Bee Article about Mormon Island

Mormon Island - New Years Day 2014
Mormon Island Visitor Examines Gold Rush Era Artifacts

Mormon Island - New Year's Day 2014
Old Mormon Island Foundation - Folsom Dam in Background

Mormon Island - New Year's Day 2014
Mormon Island Foundation


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Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

I read this in the Sac Bee as well and thought no, if Myrl was aching and going to "do in the New Year right", she would find that badly named bar / hill and she would head out and burn it down. But I guess going to Mormon Island counts, but it doesn't count as . . . in my mind, but my mind is confused.

Jan 02, 2014 09:37 AM #11
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Elizabeth - I actually slept through New Years Eve.  I didn't hear a single firework or noise maker.  However, I was up early on New Year's Day, and had energy to burn.  It isn't my mind that's confused, but most certainly my body is. . .tsk, tsk!

Jan 02, 2014 10:08 AM #12
Mary Yonkers
Alan Kells School of Real Estate/Howard Hanna Real Estate - Erie, PA
Erie/PA Real Estate Instructor

Myrl, thanks for sharing the bottom of the lake.  I saw clip about this on tv recently.  It's good that taking artifacts is not permitted.

it is nice to see your sunshine & know that you have spring-like temperatures.

Jan 02, 2014 11:06 AM #13
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives


I am so impressed with you. You are the VOICE of Sacramento. You're truly an amazing woman. I love to hear about the unique history in your area and you always make it sound so interesting and entertaining too!

Thank you Myrl!

Jan 02, 2014 12:32 PM #14
Alexander- Slocum
Premiere Property Group, LLC - Vancouver Washington - Vancouver, WA
Realty Team- Vancouver WA Real Estate

Hi Myrl, great story and photos of the long submerged, once inhabited location.  Quite the warm weather too for this time of year (at least for most of the USA)!


Jan 02, 2014 12:46 PM #15
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional

Hi Myrl, This is outstanding and delighted you have captured the evidence abd details  about this historical site. Congratulations for your insight and determination to actually get to see these remians. Suggested

Jan 02, 2014 02:26 PM #16
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Myrl. This is incredible and completely unknown to me at least. I will check out the other pictures and appreciate the education. Suggested.

Jan 02, 2014 08:55 PM #17
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Myrl, that is so incredibly interesting! Thanks for sharing it.

Jan 03, 2014 05:27 AM #18
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Patricia - There you go again - stroking my feathers to make me feel good!  I believe you are ActiveRain's #1 Cheerleader:-)

Alexander - The warm weather is a double-edged sword.  We are enjoying the warmth, but badly need rain!

William - Mormon Island has captured my imagination since the 1970s, when I first learned it was beneath the surface of the lake.  Having the water levels at Folsom so low, allow an opportunity, I simply couldn't miss.  Thank you for the "suggest."

Sheila - Even those, who live near the Mormon Island area, don't all know its history.  The links provided for other websites on the topic, are also very insightful.

Connie - You're very welcome!

Jan 03, 2014 08:50 AM #19
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

That was very interesting to read about the area and what went on when.  At one time, profitable real estate.  Now, good blog fodder!

Jan 03, 2014 10:35 AM #20
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher
You just never know. Always be willing to look I suppose. :)
Jan 03, 2014 01:03 PM #21
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Myrl, it is really dry in your area, but it does give an opportunity to see the ruins and explore what is normally under water.

Jan 03, 2014 09:58 PM #22
Michael Delaware
North Sky Realty LLC - Battle Creek, MI

Wow! That is pretty cool.  What a find.  Sounds like you had an interesting time exploring.

Jan 04, 2014 01:06 AM #23
Judy Jennings
The Green Company - Ashland, MA
Broker - The Lanterns at Warren Woods - Ashland MA

That was fascinating Myrl. Thanks for sharing the history and terrific photos.

Jan 04, 2014 01:31 AM #24
Jennifer Green
Keller Williams Realty Phoenix - Gilbert, AZ

What a great story.   I love it when the past resurfaces. 

Jan 04, 2014 04:09 AM #25
Kaye Swain
Keller Williams Real Estate Roseville CA - Roseville, CA
Your Roseville Real Estate Agent

Oh how interesting! I'm from that area and had never heard of that. Thanks for a fascinating article. 

Jan 04, 2014 05:55 AM #26
Yolanda Cordova-Gilbert
Richmond, TX


 Happy New Year!I too love stories of the Old West especially the Gold Rush days! Great photos and what lovely weather you guys are having though I hope it does rain soon!

Jan 04, 2014 07:42 AM #27
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"

Obviously that is not good news for those who depend on the lake.  Your photos are telling  Arthur and I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2014

Jan 06, 2014 02:56 AM #28
Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES
Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch! - Spring Hill, FL
Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living

Myrl, this is amazing.  I witnessed something similar many years ago living in Texas near Lake Amistad which also is a manmade lake as a result of a dam.  Numerous homes were "swallowed" up in the course of its creation there as well only emerging during extreme drought.

Jan 06, 2014 08:57 AM #29
Robert Bob Gilbert
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties - Katy, TX
Your Katy TX ( West of Houston) Real Estate Expert

Hi Myrl, Fasinating story about the gold rusg era and Mormon Island. It would be a fun place to visit. 

Aug 13, 2015 06:05 AM #30
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Myrl Jeffcoat

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