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California State Parks is urging visitors to Folsom Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) to help protect historic resources by not handling, removing, or destroying artifacts or ruins along the lakebed. Artifacts once belonging to immigrants seeking fortune along the American River are now exposed due to historic low-water levels. These sites and artifacts are protected by both federal and state laws that prohibit disturbing the sites in any way, including removing or relocating artifacts.

The land at the bottom of Folsom Reservoir may be covered with as much as 480 feet of water during a wet year, but following dry years, some areas that are normally submerged become exposed, giving a glimpse into its rich historic past.

“It is a unique experience to visit the remains of a historic site and wonder when it was used and how people lived there,” said Folsom Lake SRA Superintendent Richard Preston-LeMay.  “If these historic objects are moved or removed, this experience is ruined for others.”

The present floor of the Folsom Reservoir was used for gold mining and farming for more than 100 years before the Folsom Dam was built. Many of the early settlements were destroyed to allow the filling of Folsom Reservoir in 1955-1956, but reminders of the past remain in the form of foundations and thin scatterings of historic, archaeological artifacts at the bottom of the reservoir. State Parks and its partner, the Bureau of Reclamation, are urging visitors to help protect these artifacts by leaving all objects where they are found.

It is important to protect exposed historic resources by not digging, handling, or removing anything from the lakebed as prescribed by state and federal law. Furthermore, metal detectors are prohibited as stated in the Superintendent’s Order. The historic sites around the lake and those that are normally covered by water in the reservoir are also protected by the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and other federal laws. Under the ARPA, fines of up to $250,000 or even imprisonment could be imposed for removing artifacts.

For more information on Folsom Lake SRA, call the Gold Fields District Office at (916) 988-0205. For additional information on the protection of culture resources on federal land managed by Reclamation, please contact Melissa Ivie at their California-Great Basin Regional Office at (916) 978-5028 or mivie@usbr.gov