Mormon Island (No. 569 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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Now beneath the waters of Folsom Lake, Mormon Island was a booming gold rush town settled my Mormon immigrants in 1848. In March of 1848, two members of the Mormon Battalion named William Sidney Willes and Wilford Hudson found gold here on the American River while deer hunting. When they returned to their camp and told others of their discovery, over 150 Mormons and miners converged on the site. This site was the first major gold strike after James W. Marshall discovered gold in Coloma.
By 1853, the town had grown to a population of more than 2,500. Multiple buildings had been built, including hotels, dry-goods stores, general merchandise stores, small shops, and an express office. The first ball in Sacramento County was held here on December 25, 1849. In 1856, a fire destroyed the town and was never rebuilt. In 1955 the site of the former mining town was inundated by Folsom Lake. When lake levels are low, remnants of the town can be observed.
The marker for Mormon Island is at the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area at Folsom Point picnic area, 3 miles north east of Folsom. It can be reached via East Natoma Street and is at the end of the parking lot. Folsom Point is in a fee-use area.
El Dorado County
Stretching from oak-studded foothills and the shores of Folsom Lake to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County is probably best known for the 1848 gold discovery at Coloma. “Old Hangtown” sprang up during the Gold Rush and was later renamed Placerville. The county name comes from the mythical land rich in gold sought by Spanish explorers. The first inhabitants of El Dorado County were the Maidu and Miwok Indians, followed by miners attracted to the area by the Gold Rush.
El Dorado County was one of the original counties in California. The Pony Express Trail ran through the county approximately where Highway 50 is today, from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861. The first county seat was Coloma, and it was superseded by Placerville for this position in 1857. El Dorado means “the gilded one” in Spanish; a fitting name considering the mines in El Dorado County produced millions of dollars of gold.
Pet Friendly Notes
Time Period Represented
1848 (Early Gold Rush)
7 am - 9 pm in the summer, 7 am - 6 pm in the winter
Day use fees apply: $12.00 per vehicle