The Trail

8 Fun Facts About Folsom Lake

1/19/2024 | By Johnny Cash Trail| Folsom Lake

If you follow the Johnny Cash Trail across rolling grassy hills up to its northeastern terminus, across the Johnny Cash Bridge, and a short jaunt up the connecting American River Bike Trail, you'll find sweeping views of the beautiful Folsom Lake. The lake, hemmed in by 9 miles of earth-fill wing dams, is the home to cherished summer memories for local hikers, cyclists, boaters, fishing enthusiasts, and families. Dive into our community's history with these fun facts about Folsom Lake.

Discover Folsom Lake Trivia With These FAQs

Is Folsom Lake Man-Made?

Folsom Lake is a manmade reservoir created by Folsom Dam, which was built in 8 years between 1948 and 1956. Folsom Dam is 9 miles long and 340 feet high. The dam helps provide water and electrical power to the region, but its primary purpose is to help control flooding of the American River. In February 1986, Folsom Dam prevented an estimated $4.7 billion in flood damages.

Is There A Town Under Folsom Lake?

When Folsom Dam was created in the 1850s, a century-old Gold Rush Ghost Town was submerged beneath the lake. The town, called Mormon Island, was once a mining town; in 1853, it sported a population of 2,500 people. In 1856, a fire destroyed Mormon Island, and it was never rebuilt. When lake levels are low (such as during the drought of 2013), spectral remnants of the town can be seen in the form of old stone foundations. Today, Mormon Island is registered as a California Historical Landmark, and a marker was placed at the Folsom Point picnic area.

How Deep is Folsom Lake?

Folsom Lake is 276 feet deep at its deepest point. When completely full, the water level is 466 feet in elevation, known as "Full Pool Level." When full, Folsom Lake holds over 1 million acre-feet of water. That's enough water to cover the State of Rhode Island with a foot and a half of water.

How Big is Folsom Lake?

Folsom Lake is 9 miles long and, when full, features 75 miles of shoreline. The lake extends roughly 15 miles up the North Fork of the American River and 10 and a half miles up the South Fork.

How Did Folsom Lake Get Its Name? 

Folsom Lake and the city of Folsom are named for Captain Joseph Libbey Folsom. Captain Folsom purchased 35,000 acres of land that would become the home of a town he called Granite City. After his death in 1855, the town's name was officially changed to Folsom.

How Cold is Folsom Lake?

The average summertime surface water temperature in Folsom Lake is 75° F, but the lake may be colder or warmer than average depending on the year, especially in deeper water. The American River feeds Folsom Lake, and in 2023, snowmelt reached record levels. As a result, the water was much chillier than normal. Cold water can be shocking and drain your body heat which can be dangerous even for strong swimmers, so don't forget to throw your life jacket in the car and exercise caution when you head out to the lake.

Can You Swim in Folsom Lake?

Folsom Lake is a great spot for a day at the beach and a swim at a designated beach like Granite Bay. When you visit, keep some basic water safety rules in mind to enjoy your summertime fun safely. Only swim at designated beaches, ideally where a lifeguard is on duty. Wear a life jacket and never swim alone.

What are the Flora and Fauna of Folsom Lake?

The Folsom Lake Recreation area is home to tons of varieties of plants and animals. Common plants in the area consist of interior live oak and foothill pine trees that are peppered all around the shoreline – some of them are over 500 years old! During the spring and summer, wildflowers start to show their petals, including larkspur, Indian paintbrush, monkey flower, and so many more species. In addition to the vibrant plant life, there is also a rich mix of animals that graze the area and call Folsom Lake home.

While you're visiting, don't be surprised if you see any of these animals roaming around: black-tailed deer, raccoons, skinks, opossums, gray foxes, and coyotes. In the skies overhead, you can find birds such as Canada Geese, blackbirds, scrub jays, kingfishers, and dozens of other species flying around the area – sometimes, populations reach up to 80,000.

The waters of Folsom Lake also sport species like trout, catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, and kokanee salmon. If you're interested in fishing in Folsom, be sure you have a valid California fishing license. 

Ready to soak in the beauty of Folsom Lake with a day of fishing, hiking, or a weekend camping trip in Folsom? Plan your visit to this beautiful local landmark.