I’m a typical history nerd who daydreams while driving about old trains or historical events that took place on the same road I’m driving over. The daydreams turn obsessive when I’ve read and researched about certain historical events and I can almost recreate them in my mind. A good example is the path the California Central Railroad took from Folsom to Roseville, California, in 1861. I’ve driven and walked over so much of the rail grade that is accessible, and thought about its construction and daily operations, that I finally made a video about retracing the long forgotten railroad grade.
With just four Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia nee) in my backyard, I will usually rake up 2 to 3 wheelbarrow loads of acorns every fall. Until I started reading about Maidu Native Americans that lived in the Granite Bay area of California, I hadn’t considered acorns as a food source. After I had documented numerous Native American acorn grinding-hole sites around Folsom Lake, I figured that I should try and prepare some acorn mush that was a staple of the Native American diet prior to the gold rush of the 1850s.
It can be a difficult task to locate the faint outlines of the Negro Hill Ditch which is usually under water at Folsom Lake. But when the lake is low enough it’s possible to find the old grade and structures associated with the historic water canal that ran from east of Salmon Falls down to Negro Hill and Massachusetts Flat. In the autumn of 2016 I was able to complete my goal of walking along most of the Negro Hill Ditch.
With Folsom Lake water levels low in the autumn of 2016, I decided to hike from Rattlesnake Bar up the North Fork of the American River to see if I could catch glimpses of gold rush era history. The terrain was far more difficult than I imagine. While I know the river canyon has change since the gold rush of 1849, I was surprised at just how arduous the hiking along this stretch of the river must have been for the gold miners.
As the lake level drops, the history is revealed. As Folsom Lake hit record low water levels in 2015, a whole lot of history was revealed. A drought shrunken Folsom Lake of 2015 was the highlight for a guy like me who had been hiking around the reservoir for years looking for historical sites. After numerous hikes around the North and South Forks of the American River at Folsom Lake, I finally organized my photographs and historical research into a book, Hidden History Beneath Folsom Lake – Hiking Across a Dry Lake in Time of Drought.
The Roseville Carnegie Library Museum operated by the Roseville Historical Society has become another elitist historical institution. Like other historical repositories of information, the once visitor friendly Roseville Carnegie Museum has placed their small collection of local history books off-limits to the casual reader. Now, if you want to thumb through a 1970’s era Roseville Telephone book, you need to make an appointment.
I started hiking from the Folsom Lake Peninsula campground down to the tip of this stretch of land. Usually underwater, the drought of 2015 had drained the lake down to 15% of capacity. This exposed lake bed that is rarely visited during normal lake levels. Like many people I tripped across sunken boats, abandon gold mines and a surprising number of dams.
On a warm autumn October day the Placerville and Sacramento Valley Railroad (PSVRR) ran special short excision train trips for members of the Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society. I was fortunate enough to be a guest and document the day’s activities. Just as the original railroad grade was cut by hand in the 1860’s, there are numerous volunteers that expend real physical labor to keep this historic rail line in operation. Video and photo gallery
For history buffs there is nothing closer to heaven than examining an old map. I share that fascination and also enjoy sharing old maps that I’ve found. Recently I uploaded a map published in 1910 by the American River & Natomas Water & Mining Company illustrating their network of canals. The map is generally topographically accurate and includes some place names not found on previous or later topographical maps.
I had always noticed Rose Springs and Rock Springs marked on maps that encompassed the south Placer county region we know today as Granite Bay. It wasn’t until Folsom Lake hit historically low water levels that what I think are Rose and Rock springs became apparent to me.