Folsom Lake Information

Folsom Lake is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento Counties about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento in the Central Valley of California. Folsom Lake covers 1,500 acres with 75 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 250 feet when it is full. The United States Bureau of Reclamation manages the Folsom Project, which includes the Nimbus afterbay reservoir and dam facilities two miles southwest of Folsom Lake, which provides flood control, hydroelectricity, drinking water, and irrigation.

During a 24-hour period, the releases of water from Folsom Dam can vary to meet changing demands for water and power. Nimbus Dam, seven miles downstream from Folsom Dam, stores these releases and re-regulates them to a steady flow downstream in the American River. The Nimbus Dam impounded Lake Natoma, which simply widened the American River for water release control of the Folsom Dam. The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area (FLSRA) extends to surround Lake Natoma.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation manages Folsom Lake, and the FLSRA surrounds Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma. The American River feeds Folsom Lake. Interstate 80, SR 49, and US 50 give access to roads leading to the many park entrances at Folsom Lake. Folsom Lake is in an urban setting, and Sacramento buses provide service to Folsom Lake.

Rolling foothills populated with a variety of oak tree species and flatlands characterize Folsom Lake’s shoreline. Sacramento suburbs surround Folsom Lake and spread through its eastern area on its northern and southern borders. Its western region is more rural. There are a few communities on Folsom Lake’s shores.

When Folsom Lake is at a low water level, remains from Gold Rush settlements are exposed. It is illegal to handle, remove, or destroy artifacts and ruins on the lakebed. These artifacts belonged to immigrants looking for gold on the American River. Federal and state laws protect these sites and artifacts and prohibit disturbing the sites.

Stay up to date with our Folsom Lake Email Newsletter.


History Of Folsom Lake

The Folsom Lake reservoir is formed by the Folsom Dam, which was built in 1955 to control and retain the American River. It is a concrete dam flanked by earth wing dams and dikes with a length of 9 miles. During a 24-hour period, the releases of water from Folsom Dam can vary significantly to meet changing demands for water and power.

Native Americans of the Nisenan tribe inhabited the Folsom Lake region for thousands of years. They lived in permanent villages on the American River in winter. In the summer, they built temporary bark homes. The Nisenan used their local resources found at the river, like acorns and berries, to trade with coastal tribes. They wove baskets from willow, redbud, tule, milkweed, sedge grass, and native grapevine.

Folsom Lake lies on the north and south forks of the American River. Gold discovered on south fork of the American River spawned the 1849 California Gold Rush. Captain John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant to Mexico (today’s California), received a grant from Mexico of 48,000 acres along the American River in 1841. He built Sutter Fort and began to expand his empire. He ran out of building materials and needed a source of lumber. John employed James Marshall, an immigrant from New Jersey, who formed a partnership with John to build a sawmill. They planned to share equally in the profits from the wood.

In January 1847, the mill was halfway built. The crew dug a ditch, called a millrace, to carry river water through the sawmill. The lower end of the ditch, called a tailrace, was too shallow. They dug the tailrace deeper so the water could flow through the mill without stopping, which water carried away sand and dirt and lighter minerals. A heavier metal accumulated in the ditch. The workers hit bedrock at the end of the tailrace and found gold.

James Marshall found the first piece of gold and later wrote, “I went down as usual, and after shutting off the water from the race, I stepped into it, near the lower end, and there, upon the rock, about six inches beneath the surface of the water, I discovered the gold. I then collected four or five pieces and went up to Mr. Scott, who was working at the carpenter’s bench making the mill wheel, and the pieces in my hand and said,

‘I have found it.’

‘What is it?’ inquired Scott.

‘Gold,’ I answered.

‘Oh! No,’ returned Scott, ‘that can’t be!’

I replied positively, ‘I know it to be nothing else.'”

Sutter tried to hold his workers to secrecy, but that was a futile effort. The gold was so plentiful that you could walk along the banks of the South Fork of the American and pick it out of the sand. The Gold Rush of 1849 had a tragic effect on Nisenan Indians. Disease, violence, and 49ers seeking fortunes pushed them out of their homelands. Today, Nisenan descendents still live in the Folsom Lake region.

The waters of Folsom Lake receded to extremely low levels in 2021, and the remnants of an abandoned, flooded Gold Rush village emerged. At this low water level, you can see building foundations, bricks, broken pottery, and rusty tools that were part of Mormon Island. It is illegal to handle or remove any artifacts from Folsom Lake.


Fishing Folsom Lake

Game species in Folsom Lake are bluegill, bream, channel and flathead catfish, black crappie, largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, yellow perch, Chinook and kokanee salmon, green sunfish, and rainbow trout. Folsom Lake is known for bass fishing, but offers good catfish, crappie, sunfish, salmon, and trout fishing. Fishing from shore and kayaks is popular. Folsom Lake levels fluctuate up to 60 feet a year.

The most popular fishing hot spots on the South Fork are New York Creek Cove, Hancock Creek, Jacks Shack, and Deep Ravine. The North Fork has many inlets and coves with submerged boulders that provide good cover for fish. Anglers also like Anderson Island and the Rattlesnake Bar, which is farther up the canyon. In the main body of Folsom Lake, fishing is successful along the shore of the main peninsula between the two river forks and near the dam at Folsom Point and Beal's Point.

Folsom Lake’s waters stay relatively cool all year long. Low water levels prevent largemouth bass from spawning. Spring is the best time for them, and they move to deeper water in the summer. There is little aquatic vegetation in Folsom Lake for bass. Anglers focus on steep points, rip-rap shorelines, rocky reefs, woody cover, and brush piles. Spotted bass offer a great year-round fishery, and bite well in winter, but they will move 40 to 60 feet deep.

Folsom Lake is one of California’s best landlocked Chinook salmon fishing lakes where they reproduce naturally. Late winter and early spring are prime time, and they go down to 100 feet in the summer. Rainbow trout are stocked several times throughout the cooler months in most years, and trout plants may include fingerlings and catchable adults. There are nine boat ramps, one marina, Folsom Lake Marina, and one dry storage facility, Brown’s Ravine. Anglers will find plenty of fishing guide charters on Folsom Lake.

Find experienced local guides on our Folsom Lake Fishing Guides page.


Boating Folsom Lake

Folsom Lake sports gorgeous scenery and icy blue waters. Folsom Lake is an outstanding outdoor haven for all kinds of water sports. Everything water is popular on Folsom Lake. Several sailing clubs and a yacht club find Folsom Lake perfect. People enjoy water skiing, wake boarding, wind surfing, tubing, jet skiing, patio boats, fishing boats, pleasure cruisers, sailboats, kayaking, canoeing, rowboats, rafts, and pedal boats on Folsom Lake. Plenty of boat rental services are available to send you off on a great adventure.

Swimmers need to be aware of Folsom Lake’s environment. Even when summer hits with high heat, the water is still cold. You can lose your breath and panic if you jump in too quickly. The American River, with both its North and South Forks, flows through Folsom Lake with a strong current. The best thing to do if the current catches you up is to ride with it and try to swim to shore. Dogs are allowed on the trails and in most areas of the water. Dogs are not allowed at the swim areas at Negro Bar, Granite Bay, and Beals Point.

The only marina on Folsom Lake, Folsom Lake Marina, has 685 wet slips and 175 dry storage units. There is a wait for slips of one to three years depending on the size of the boat. This marina has a small bait and tackle shop and a marine supply store, plus the only gas dock on the lake. It is open year round unless the water level is too low. It is located at the southeastern end of the lake and has an earth-filled breakwater protecting it from the main part of the lake.

Start your planning with our Folsom Lake Boat Ramps Map, and keep an eye on the Folsom Lake Level. Find or sell a boat on our Folsom Lake Boats for Sale page.


Folsom Lake Real Estate

Homebuyers will find many price points for Folsom Lake waterfront homes. Homes range from a little over two million down to a half million dollars with others at more affordable prices. There are between 80 to 120 new listings a month for Folsom Lake homes and its surrounding towns. The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area manages a large portion of Folsom Lake’s shores, where there are no homes, but homes are available within three to five miles from Folsom Lake.

The schools serving Folsom Lake are located in the Folsom, California, area south of the lake, and the Eureka Union School District located on the northwestern shore. When you live on Folsom Lake, you are only 25 miles from downtown Sacramento, California, so shopping, entertainment, and services are convenient and easy to access.

To find your dream lake home, explore our Folsom Lake Homes for Sale page.


Folsom Lake Cabins and Vacation Homes

It is a tight market for lakefront vacation homes at Folsom Lake, but there are many vacation home availabilities in the towns surrounding Folsom Lake, which are the suburbs of Sacramento. The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area does not have rental cabins. There is a large community of RV rentals available to park at the FLSRA.

Find the perfect vacation home on our Folsom Lake Cabins page.


Camping at Folsom Lake

The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area manages the two campgrounds on Folsom Lake, which is a prime-RV destination, and one campground on Lake Natoma. Folsom Lake supports a thriving RV rental business for people who do not need the hassle of RV ownership.

The Beals Point Campground is open year round and has 49 campsites that accommodate trailers and motor homes up to 31 feet. Each site has a paved parking area, a fire-ring, a picnic table, and full electrical, water, and sewer hookups, plus a sanitary dump station. ADA accessible restrooms have hot showers and potable water. The tent-only campground has two bathrooms with showers.

The Peninsula Campground, located at the northern end of the lake, offers 100 primitive campsites with 31-foot parking pads, a fire ring, a hibachi-style grill, and a picnic table. This campground does not have electric and water hookups. There are several faucets with potable drinking water and restrooms throughout the park, hot showers, and a sanitary dump station. Generator use is permitted between 10 am and 8 pm. Peninsula Campground is open from April to October.

The Negro Bar Group Campground is on the shore of Lake Natoma, immediately downstream from Folsom Lake. This campground has two group, tent-only sites. Two of the sites can each accommodate up to 50 people and 25 vehicles. The other group site can accommodate up to 25 people and 12 vehicles. Negro Bar is closer to Sacramento, and campers can hear road noise from nearby streets.

Boat-in camping is popular on Folsom Lake. If you have a self-contained boat for you and your guests, including sleeping space for all onboard, designated places on Folsom Lake offer mooring/camping. You can play on the lake all day and dock your boat at night for a fee.

The five fee-based, day-use parks are dotted around Folsom Lake are Granite Bay, Beales Point, Folsom Point, Negro Bar, and Nimbus Flats. These parks have swim beaches and picnic tables. Some have lifeguards and snack bars.

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Folsom Lake Camping page.


Hiking, Cycling, and Equestrian Trails at Folsom Lake

The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area features an extensive trail system that encompasses its entire shoreline and connects with and follows Lake Natoma’s whole shoreline, plus takes hikers through some of the communities and towns around the two lakes. Nineteen major trailheads surround Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma. 

Cyclists and joggers can take advantage of the 32-mile long bicycle path that connects Folsom Lake with many Sacramento County parks before reaching Old Sacramento. On this route, you will pass many of Sacramento County’s parks, which are great destinations for a rest and a picnic lunch as you pedal or jog the path.

For your horses, the equestrian trails at Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma will delight them. Two trails on the north side of the North Fork are the Pioneer Express Trail at 11.3 miles, and Avery’s Pond Trail at 9.9 miles. Further south on the North Fork, the Dolton’s Point and Blue Pipe Loop connects with the south end of the Pioneer Express Trail at 4.1 miles.

The Folsom Point Granite Bay Trail is 3.7 miles. The Red Bank to Brown’s Ravine Trail on Folsom Lake’s southeastern shore is 4.8 miles. The Lake Natoma American River Trails is a heavily trafficked loop at 11.5 miles that circles the whole of Lake Natoma. The Midridge Trail is 2.8 miles on the northwestern shore of Lake Natoma.


Things to Do At Folsom Lake

Sacramento, California, the California state capitol, and its surrounding suburbs run along Folsom Lake’s western shores crawl around to its southwestern and northwestern half. The western area of Folsom Lake is more rural. Folsom Lake offers easy access to entertainment, shopping, restaurants, a bunch of golf courses, and services within ten to 30 minutes from Folsom Lake, plus a ton of great attractions. Following is a list of some of the more popular tourist destinations.

Explore Historic Old Town District. Old Town Sacramento gives a fascinating look into California’s past. Many of the Old Town’s buildings are national and California Historical Landmarks. Take a Sacramento River cruise or learn about history at several museums.

The California State Railroad Museum invites you to stand in the shadow of a 150-year-old, 40-ton monument to innovation, engineering, and history. Take a ride along the rails that played a key role in the development of the Golden State. See the history of the California railways come to life in engaging exhibits. One of the most important U.S. infrastructures during the era of building national railway routes after the Civil War was the Central Pacific Railroad. This museum exhibits a reconstruction of the western terminus of America’s first transcontinental railroad as it appeared around 1876. Find it at 125 I Street, Sacramento, California.

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park invites you to visit the place that commenced one of the greatest treks across the U.S.A. in 1849, known as the Gold Rush. Captain John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant to Mexico, received a land grant on the American River and began to build his empire in 1841. The discovery of gold on the American River changed the historical trajectory of the U.S. because of Sutter’s sawmill.

Sutter’s Fort Park honors the contributions to the settlement and development of California right before it became a state in 1850. Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is open daily for self-guided tours. The history of Sutter’s Fort, and why John Sutter and the miners abandoned it comes alive at this park. The park is located in midtown Sacramento between K and L Streets and 26th and 28th Streets.

The Folsom Zoo features a surprising assortment of animals. Unlike other zoos, most of their critters are orphaned, seized, or relinquished, and cannot be released back into the wild. Visitors can view everything from raccoons, black bears, mountain lions, and even two tigers, Misty and Pounce. A fun train ride in the zoo delights children. Folsom, California is two miles south of Folsom Lake. The zoo is located at 403 Stafford Street, Folsom, California.

The Sacramento Zoo collaborates with several global conservation projects. It hosts various educational programs on its 14.5-acre property at William Land Park in Sacramento, California. Its extensive roster of animals continually impresses zoo visitors. Its address is 3930 W Land Park Dr, Sacramento, California.

Plan your trip with our What To Do At Folsom Lake page and Folsom Lake Event Calendar!


Folsom Lake Weather & Climate

Lake sees an average of 20 inches of rain, with no snow, and 265 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 39 degrees with a summer high in July of 93 degrees. May, September, and October are the most comfortable months for this region.

Keep an eye on the skies with our Folsom Lake Weather Forecast page.


Folsom Lake Zip Codes

El Dorado County: 95613. 95614, 95619, 95623, 95629,   95633, 95634, 95635, 95636, 95651, 95656, 95664, 95666, 95667, 95672, 95682, 95684, 95709, 95720, 95721, 95726, 95735, 95762, 96142, 96150, 96151, 96152, 96154, 96155, 96156, 96157, 96158.

Placer County: 95602, 95603, 95604, 95626, 95631, 95634, 95648, 95650, 95658, 95661, 95663, 95668, 95677, 95678, 95681, 95701, 95703, 95713, 95714, 95715, 95717, 95722, 95728, 95736, 95746, 95747, 95765, 96140,96141, 96142, 96143, 96145, 96146, 96148, 96161.

Sacramento County: 95630, 95608, 95823, 95758, 95670, 95624, 95828, 95831,  95628, 95610, 95621, 95822, 95825, 95757, 95826, 95821, 95833, 95843, 95835, 95834, 95662, 95820, 95838, 95816, 95842, 95660, 95818, 95632, 95829, 95824, 95864, 95815, 95841, 95827, 95819, 95817, 95814, 94571, 95673, 95742, 95811, 95832, 95683, 95693, 95626, 95655, 95609, 95763, 95741, 95611, 95690, 95641,95759, 95638, 95866, 95865, 95860, 95812, 95686, 95615, 95830, 95813, 95652, 95852, 95853,95851, 95639, 95837, 95680, 95836, 94252, 94288, 95671, 95743, 95840, 95857, 95887, 95867, 95894, 94203, 94205, 94204, 94207, 94206, 94209, 94208, 94229, 94211, 94232, 94230, 94235, 94234, 94237, 94236, 94240, 94239, 94244, 94246, 94245,  94248, 94247, 94250, 94249, 94253, 94256, 94254, 94258, 94257, 94261, 94259, 94263, 94262, 94268, 94267, 94271, 94269, 94274, 94273, 94278, 94277, 94280, 94279, 94283, 94282, 94285, 94284, 94287, 94286, 94289, 94291,94290, 94294, 94293,94296,   94295, 94298, 94297, 94299.


Folsom Lake Flora and Fauna

Common wildlife sightings include black bears, coyotes, black-tailed and mule deer, gray foxes, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, ground squirrels, and skunks. Occasionally, nature lovers will see bobcats, mountain lions, and river otters. Year round bird species include bushtits, quail, wrens, scrub jays, blackbirds, and towhees, but there are 117 species of birds that visit or make Folsom Lake their home. Near the water, visitors often see eagles, kingfishers, osprey, and red-tailed hawks.

California buckeye, black oak, blue oak, oracle oak, valley oak, digger pine, and several species of willow trees and populate the area surrounding Folsom Lake. A variety of wildflowers put on a show in the spring like bordicaea, fiddleneck, Indian paintbrush, California poppy, larkspur, lupine, monkey flower, and Dutchman's pipe, plus elderberry shrubs, Himalayan blackberry, California wild grape, and white leaf manzanita make for ground cover.

Folsom Lake Email Updates


 

Folsom Lake Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.

 

Folsom Lake Weather Forecast

Friday

Sunny

Hi: 84

Friday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 55

Saturday

Partly Sunny

Hi: 79

Saturday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 56

Sunday

Rain Showers

Hi: 69

Sunday Night

Rain Showers

Lo: 57

Monday

Rain Showers Likely

Hi: 72

Monday Night

Chance Rain Showers

Lo: 56