Folsom Lake State Recreation Area (SRA)
Folsom Lake SRA is a California state park in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It is located near the city of Folsom, California, about 25 miles (40 km) east of Sacramento. The (nearly) 20,000 acre park was established in 1956. It’s one of the most popular state parks in California, with well over 2 million annual visitors. The park includes Folsom Lake, Lake Natoma, and a portion of the American River Parkway.
Folsom Lake SRA includes over 100 miles of trails for hiking, biking, running, and equestrian activities. In addition to the trails, bicyclists and hikers can enjoy parts or all of the 33-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail along the American River Parkway, spanning from Beal’s Point at Folsom Lake to Discovery Park near Old Sacramento (the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers). The City of Folsom is also a trail lover’s paradise with more than 50 miles of trails, many in natural settings of native oak woodlands.
Recreational resources at the park also include camping, picnicking, swimming, and water recreation.
The park has about 170 campsites across two different campgrounds: Beal’s Point and Peninsula Campground. There is also a group campground at Black Miners Bar. Located just north of Folsom Dam, Beal’s Point has a mixture of tent camping and RV campsites that will accommodate RVs up to 31 feet long. Hookups are limited, but there is a dump station. Drinking water and wheelchair accessible restrooms with showers are available. Peninsula Campground is in a secluded area near the end of the peninsula between the north and south forks of the American River. Camping reservations can be arranged through Reserve California.
Picnic areas are found throughout the park and are available on a first come/first served basis.
In the summer months, when the lake has sufficient water, the most popular beaches for swimming include Beal’s Point and Granite Bay. Black Miners Bar at Lake Natoma is also popular for swimming, although the area near Rainbow Bridge can be dangerous with strong currents and colder water coming out of the American River Canyon.
Water recreation activities vary, depending on which lake. On Folsom Lake, you’ll find sailing, boating and jet skiing; on Lake Natoma, with its 5-mph speed limit, you’ll find kayaking, rowing, canoeing and sailing. On both lakes, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has become increasingly popular in recent years. Lake Natoma is internationally known for its world class rowing championships hosted by the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.
Fishing is another popular pastime throughout the park, as there are a variety of fish including; Bass, Salmon, Rainbow Trout, and Catfish, among others.
Natural and Cultural Resources
Folsom Lake SRA preserves precious natural and cultural resources in an area surrounded by urban development; its rolling hills and blue oak woodlands provide habitat for a wide variety of common native species. The area is also rich in human history, from the Nisenan and Maidu people who lived here for thousands of years, to the Gold Rush and statehood, to the era that brought the railroads, hydroelectricity, and flood control projects.
On the shores of Lake Natoma sits the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park. The historic Folsom Powerhouse includes a visitor center and tours of the old powerhouse that was one of the first ever to transmit long-distance hydroelectric power. Even those who don’t find electricity interesting will find the historic Folsom Powerhouse well worth a visit.