Artifacts Discovered

Tales of drained lakes

August 2015 Feature Jeffrey V. Shirts

Lake draining is neither as exhaustive nor dramatic as it sounds. One of the perks of the job, though, is the plethora of artifacts and discarded goods that are discovered. Nearly every boater has experienced the anger and loss of a pair of sunglasses, cell phone, wallet, or purse to the wide open basin of water. But what most people don’t realize is that once the possession has drowned, it is not lost. When time and the government call for a reservoir or lake to be drained, it’s the perfect opportunity and time to dig through the bed and uncover the lost artifacts and debris of man.

We’d like to tell you only cool items are found at the bottom of a lake once it’s drained. We would like to tell you that we went scouring through the sandy bottoms ourselves, dressed as Indiana Jones or even Teddy Roosevelt. We would love to tell you that. But that isn’t the case. Typically, once drained, it is important to sweep and clean the bed and to report certain objects when discovered. Perhaps it is not too surprising, but one of the most discovered artifacts after a lake draining are weapons, more specifically, guns.

Municipal Lakes

The waste and squalor of man can be seen everywhere, and nothing shines a spotlight on what people unintentionally, and intentionally, leave in the water more than when the flotsam and jetsam is catalogued after a draining. We acknowledge that most of these lakes are far too small for a pontoon to motor around, and most are boat-free entirely, or are dotted with simple paddleboats at best. However, municipal lakes serve as a microcosm of the larger impact that people have on their environment, and more importantly, serve as a means to caution and warn us about taking care of our possessions and properly securing them while afloat.

Echo Park Lake, located near Los Angeles, Calif., recently drained their municipal lake and dredged the bed for debris and artifacts. The different objects discovered, according to the LA Weekly, include: 20 park trash cans; 36 construction cones; seven shopping carts; three portable stereos; one pay phone; six skateboards; one parking enforcement boot—how’s that for sticking it to the man?; one toilet; two model boats, ironically; 20 Frisbees; two guns; six office chairs; hundreds of miscellaneous toys, trash, glass bottles and debris. For a small municipal lake measuring 29 acres the list is impressive, and in many ways reflects another municipal lake recently drained, Mirror Lake, Ohio.

Mirror Lake is a little over 91,000 cubic feet in water volume and is located on the campus of Ohio State University. Mirror Lake was drained for a study on reducing the financial impact the lake was having on the university and the local environment. With that in mind, cataloguing the debris discovered in the lake after it was drained was an important aspect and part of the study. Their lake, according to The Columbus Dispatch, contained: one microwave; one broom; one orthopedic foot brace; seven shirts of various colors and sizes; 11 shoes; seven sets of keys; eight pairs of sunglasses—a personal favorite of the Lake Gods; 15 hats; one dining hall tray; four rings; nine pairs of pants; three dog toys; six beach balls; one mattress; one walkie-talkie; five spectacles; two necklaces; three student ID cards; one homemade robot car; three golf balls; one bicycle seat; one headband; one university receptacle; one bike pedal with attached crank; one swim fin; one water jug; one dog tag; one wine glass; one DVD; one fence post; three individual, unpaired socks—we presume that the other individual socks are still awaiting their mate; one stopwatch; one disposable camera, fortunately; one digital camera, unfortunately; one driver’s license; one Marvin the Martian toy; three traffic cones; one umbrella; one iPhone; and various miscellaneous coins.

Don Pedro & Folsom Lake

Don Pedro Reservoir is a lake created by the dam of the same name. Erected in the 1930s and expanded in the 1970s, Don Pedro Lake, as it is more commonly known as, was recently drained and to the amazement of the locals and tourists to the area, an entire ghost town and abandoned mine were discovered. While this is a stark reminder of the long-past California Gold Rush of 1849, many people had forgotten that the area was originally founded by Pierra Sainsevain—Don Pedro in Spanish—and that the reservoir had flooded what remained of the abandoned boom town and emptied mine.

Similarly, when the water levels of Folsom Lake, Calif., receded, the remnants of another town was discovered, Mormon Island. Before the reservoir was created, Mormon Island was home to over 2,500 residents, and as the water receded, it was discovered that numerous buildings and artifacts from the inhabitants remained.

Natural Lakes

Natural lake drainings are uncommon, and typically are a result of a disaster, such as the draining of Lake Peigneur, Louis. and the Aral Sea. While no comprehensive list of artifacts or objects has been made; both lakes stand as a stark contrast of the impact we have on our environment as a reminder to protect our precious and natural resources.

While we suspect that the objects found within a municipal lake or pond would be unique because of their proximity to civilization, we shudder to think about what people have lost at the bottom of lakes regularly attended and visited by boating enthusiasts. Which is why we do want to remind everyone to remember to practice safe boating, and to be mindful of his or her environmental impact at all times.


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