1. A federal agent’s 22-year-old badge and handgun
Last week, a local fisherman at Castaic Lake in Los Angeles came across a backpack containing a badge and a handgun that belonged to a federal agent. The Los Angeles Timesreported that local police were able to track down the agent, who had lost the bag overboard during a day at the lake — in 1992. Apparently the receding water level of the lake, now down to only 29% of capacity, had dredged up the long-lost valuables.
2. A stolen station wagon
After a submerged car was discovered and dragged out of Laguna Lake in July, San Luis Obispo police identified it as a 1996 Subaru that was reported stolen in 2006. Authorities were able to locate the owner of the mud-caked station wagon, who had since moved away from the area, but there was no word on whether the car was salvageable after up to eight years underwater.
A KSBY newscaster reported that the quickly evaporating Laguna Lake has turned up a “treasure trove of expensive trash.” Among other items found in unconnected incidents were a semi-automatic handgun and a laptop.
3. Lost Gold Rush-era towns
Falling water levels of several northern California lakes have exposed ruined structures and eroded foundations of old gold-mining towns that had since been flooded by manmade reservoirs. In Folsom Lake, near Sacramento, historically low water levels uncovered the remnants of a mining town called Mormon Island, a settlement founded by Mormon prospectors in the 1840’s.
Shasta Lake, Lake Oroville, Don Pedro Lake and others have also seen historic sites such as gold mines, jails and bridges resurface. Apparently, so many artifacts have washed up that park rangers are now having problems with looters.
4. Clues about a 50-year-old plane crash
Hoping to take advantage of record-low waters in Folsom Lake to wrap up a decades-old case, a local sheriff’s office launched an exhaustive search for the wreckage of a plane that crashed over the lake in 1965. After three days of combing the water with a Sonar boat and dive teams, the search party mapped out a few areas containing silt-covered objects that might be part of the crash site, but the mission ended before the crew could dig up any firm leads.
5. New hope for modern-day gold miners
According to National Geographic, low water levels throughout the state have made rich mineral deposits more accessible and prompted a whole new generation of aspiring prospectors to start panning for gold in previously untapped parts of California rivers. One Cal State University, Sacramento student reportedly made $900 looking for gold in a stream that had been inaccessible before the drought.
6. A vacation getaway in ruins
The small town of Bombay Beach on the shore of California’s Salton Sea was once touted by developers as “California’s Riviera.” Now after decades of harsh conditions, Mental Flossdescribed it as “the most famously depressing place in California.”
The area was planned as a vacation getaway in the 1930s until chemicals from farm runoff caused mass wildlife deaths and flooding submerged much of the town by the 1970s. Now as the manmade Salton Sea shrinks, it has revealed even more of the dilapidated-yet-intact post-apocalyptic tract of houses and mobile homes.
7. A rare species of jellyfish
Thanks in part to harsh drought conditions, thousands of small freshwater jellyfish are repopulating Lake Oroville. While the rare species has been seen before, they are most noticeable during drought years when their population surges.