A dam site at Salmon Falls was too low in elevation to allow for the ditch to exit the river canyon between Red Bank and Mormon Island. Consequently, the dam site was moved to Rocky Bar which had an elevation of approximately 450 feet. With a small dam across the river, the headwaters for the canal would be elevated to 465 feet. The minimal slope of the ditch line would put the water canal at between 390 to 395 feet of elevation at the saddle.
By 1849, because of the Gold Rush, Sacramento had become a magnet for immigrants seeking their fortune in the gold fields. The Sacramento River was the primary conduit for passage from San Francisco. The importance of the river corridor prompted an 1850 hydrographic expedition to map the Sacramento River and associated sloughs, along with the […]
The one line of business Amos did try to explain was his investment in a steam engine for a saw mill. He thought the saw mill would produce him the most income, and he was proud of his investment. “The engine belongs to me, a beautiful 12 horse locomotive which cost me $3,000.” He then goes on to loosely explain the business arrangement and business proposition. We also learn that he was the main salesman for the operation.
By today’s standards, it seems absolutely crazy that anyone would invest money in property or infrastructure when there was no clear title to the land and the State of California continually threatened to strip Folsom of his ownership of the Leidesdorff estate. But this was the state of California in the 1850s. Even before the untimely death of Folsom, he and other men were pushing forward with their development plans in Sacramento County. Folsom had been working with the Sacramento Valley Railroad to run a line from Sacramento to Negro Bar on the south side of the American River over the Leidesdorff land grant.
The regional newspapers started to sniff that the politics were changing and that there was a desire to vacate Benicia. The Stockton newspapers were advocating that the capital be located in Stockton. Senator Crabb presented a proposal offering the Stockton Court House, plus, the city would pay for the move. Crabb argued that the climate was the same as Sacramento, had river access, and as a bonus, also hosted the State’s Insane Asylum, where legislators could take a brief respite from their hallucinations of grandeur.
The experience of Black Americans and their contributions had been mere footnotes or commas in the printed saga of California of the 19th century. The visible traces of Black Americans of the Gold Rush are the names of places such as Negro Bar, Negro Hill, and the Negro Hill Ditch. Both Negro Hill and the ditch only exist on maps as Folsom Lake now covers both. Similarly, Negro Bar only partially remains above the high water of Lake Natoma.
Perhaps that was a necessity, although it does not seem to me to be so, because no solid or fecal matter is discharged into these sewers, or these drains which we call sewers. The city authorities have strictly adhered to the policy, if it is a policy, of having all the matter sink into the soil upon which the city is built, to saturate it, permeate it, and fester there and breed disease. And a city having a system of sewers like that comes into Court here in the name of the People of the State and complains that we have destroyed its sewerage system. Well, such a sewerage system as that ought to be destroyed. It never ought to be allowed to exist.
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.