Most of the homes that are most directly threatened by a fire at Folsom Lake are in Granite Bay and El Dorado Hills. There are only a few scattered homes above and around the Peninsula Campground. Ironically, it is the peninsula that has some of the best fire suppression features. There are more meadows with fewer trees. Fewer people visit the Peninsula Campground Park because it can be difficult to access, especially when towing a boat, from Highway 49. There are also wide dirt roads that act both as fire break and allow for fire trucks to reach areas burning. In contrast, large swaths of Folsom Park land in Granite Bay and El Dorado Hills have only small dirt footpaths with limited access for large fire trucks. There is more human activity in these areas as they are close to recreational access points.
Within the 90 foot elevation change of the lake, it was proposed that all standing and down timber, brush over 6 feet high or with trunks greater than 2 inches in diameter would be cleared out. Trees whose height reached to 360 feet in elevation would be topped to 10 feet below the expected low water elevation.
By the time of the Army Corp report conducted its inventory most of the North Fork Ditch had been lined with concrete. Many of the appurtenances were also concrete such as wasteways, intake structures and sluice gates. Of the 37 flumes, 32 were constructed of timber and only 5 were metal. The timber flume construction allowed them to be built with small changes or bends in the direction to navigate around boulders and hillsides. The metal flumes, by contrast, were best adapted to spanning a small ravine in a straight line.
There is no record of when the last Native American camp ceased to exist in the Folsom Lake region. Many historians note that by 1853, most of the Native American population had dispersed, move south, died in conflicts with immigrant settlers, or died of disease. But there is no doubt that there was a thriving Native American population and culture along the north and south forks of the American River. Where Native Americans once ground acorns, skinned deer, or fashioned tools from local rocks, Folsom Lake visitors now fish, hike, ride horses, bikes, and have picnics.
Within the rate submission was a detailed outline of the Natomas water canal along with photos of the Natomas Dam on the South Fork of the American River, the New York Ravine wooden siphon, and other pictures detailing the canals and flumes. The detailed history of the Natomas canal ownership along with a complete inventory of the structures submitted with the application for higher water rates gives a glimpse of this important gold rush era water works project.
Invariably, whenever the Bureau of Reclamation releases water stored behind Folsom Dam during the winter before the reservoir is full, people across the region accuse the Bureau of mismanagement, incompetence, and wasting water. The management of Folsom reservoir is complicated. But during the winter months, the main priority of Folsom Dam is flood control. That is why the dam was built in the first place.
As winter rain finally begins to fill Folsom reservoir from its historically low water level brought on by a prolonged drought, local residents will probably be just as quick to flush away their water conservation habits. The water conservation practices that Northern California residents temporarily adopted because of statewide drought reduction targets resulted in minimal disruption and sacrifice to our lives. That so many households easily reduced their water consumption by 25% to 50% over 2013 levels illustrates that suburban household’s waste more water than we thought. Even with Folsom Lake approaching near dead pool level in 2015, we were never pushed to conserve more water and there was never sense of urgency.
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.
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.