Not far from Sacramento lies the sparkling Folsom Lake nestled in the foothills of the mighty Sierras. The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area also includes Lake Natoma which is downstream and has a following of water sports enthusiasts such as crew racers, kayakers and sailors.
When you visit Folsom Lake, you’ll feel miles away from civilization and surrounded by history. You can see what was once considered the “greatest operative electrical plant on the American continent”, the Folsom Powerhouse. This brick building once generated 11,000 volts of power for the residents of Sacramento and operated from 1885 to 1952.
Popular activities at the lake include hiking, bicycling, camping, horseback riding, picnicking, boating and water-skiing. The 75 miles of shoreline here are quite lovely.
On the water, you can expect to catch fish such as trout, catfish, perch and both big mouth and small mouth bass.
Off the water, you can hike amongst the rolling hills and enjoy the oak trees and lakeshore views. You might see reptiles, wild turkeys, fox and deer during your hike. In addition, an easy trail, the Oaks Nature Trail, features interpretive panels and is wheelchair accessible.
The lake features three campgrounds Beal’s Point, Peninsula and Negro Bar. Beal’s Point and Negro Bar are fully developed. Beal’s Point is a year round campground. Negro Bar is located at Lake Natoma while the other two are at Folsom Lake.
For group camping, Negro Bar is the campsite of choice with its large group campgrounds. Three group sites can accommodate from 25 to 50 people.
The Peninsula campground is a remote campground that is subject to closure due to weather or road conditions. This campground can be reached by boat or by taking a ten mile road from Pilot Hill off of Highway 49. While remote, this campsite has amenities like flush toilets, running water, and two boat launches. You can beach the bow of your boat and set anchor off the stern for camping ashore with your boat. Be aware of the night winds and secure your boat.
In addition, two environmental campsites are located at Avery’s Pond. You must hike in to these sites and can not bring dogs or have a campfire. Bring your own water and haul your trash back out. The hike into these sites which each accommodate up to eight people is about a mile in.
The Folsom Dam’s primary function is flood control however the lake is also used as a water source for domestic use and irrigation. In addition, the Folsom Dam and the Folsom Power Plant below it generate over 198,000 kilowatts of power. Preserving fish on the American River, controlling saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento Delta and recreation are all important functions of the dam.
Folsom Lake is home to numerous special events each year such as bass fishing tournaments, regattas, races, horseback endurance rides and rowing competitions.
A unique, 32-mile long paved bike path connects Folsom Lake to many Sacramento parks and ends up in Old Sacramento. The path begins in Beal’s Point and cruises down to the southwest corner of the lake, past the west shore of Lake Natoma and along the American River. It goes through several county parks before ending at Discovery Park in Old Sacramento. This is a must-ride for any bicycle enthusiast as this trail is considered one of the best of its kind in the U. S.
A visit to the California State University Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma is a great place to stop to take a class in various water sports for both adults and children. You can learn to water-ski, windsurf, canoe, kayak row and more from the instructors of the Aquatic Center.
Spring and summer bring temperatures from the 80’s to the 100’s while winters here can be quite cold and foggy. Autumn brings warm days and cool nights.
Folsom Lake is easily accessible from either Highway 50 or Interstate 80 and has multiple entrances.