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The Oak Nature Trail - Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

Take an interpretive walk along Folsom Lake to learn about the plants and animals in the area

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.6 miles
Duration: Less than 1 hour
Family Friendly

Overview :  If you are looking for an easy hike with great views of the lake and a wonderful introduction to the area's plants and animals this is... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Parking Lot and Picnic Area

After you drive through the park entrance stay left on Rattlesnake Bar Road after the first fork. Soon you will see a parking lot on your right where the trail begins. You can also enjoy a nice picnic at one of the picnic tables under the trees looking out onto beautiful Folsom Lake.

2. Trailhead

When you are ready to start the hike, walk towards the large blue sign which gives an overview of the area. The trail is 0.75 miles each way, and is flat the entire hike.

3. Now you see it, now you don't

As the lake levels change throughout the seasons, so does the wildlife associated with the open water and lakeshore. The constantly changing lake levels favor plants and animals that can rapidly adjust to these fluctuations. Non-native annual grasses and weedly plants quickly grow on exposed banks and set seed before the next high water. Many... More

4. Nature's Living Ornaments

Red candy kisses, pink cups, green golf balls, yellow marbles, fuchsia urchins; all the work of tiny wasps. Cynipid wasps are smaller than fruit flies, yet they produce these unusual and beautiful galls on oak trees. The female cynipid wasp first stings the leaf, bud, stem, or acorn of the oak and then lays an egg on the wound. The oak reacts by... More

5. Searching for Nighttime Hunters

A hunk of fur, a pile of dung, a dusty footprint…tell tale signs of the nightly dance between predator and prey. While you sleep, the oak woodland comes alive with a nocturnal feeding procession; from acorn to deer mouse to ringtale, from acorn to beetle to skunk to great horned owl, from accorn to field mouse to house cat to coyote. A harsh,... More

6. Acorns: A Seasonal Bounty

Acorns are a nutritious source of food, rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. But, acorns ripen and fall only during a few months in the fall, so animals must quickly harvest this seasonal bounty. Many animals utilize a wide variety of plant foods and feed on acorns when they are available. Others, like ground squirrels, scrub jays, and... More

7. Folsom Creek: A Woodland Oasis

Winter rains and underground springs feed these year-round pools, providing wildlife with a critical water supply during the parched summer and fall. While Folsom Lake now provides summer water for animals that can follow the changing water levels, the springs provide sustenance to plants and animals unable to migrate. Generations of frogs,... More

8. Summer Heat: Surviving WIthout a Cooler

The hot summer sun bakes the surrounding hills to a golden brown by early June. The first areas to dry are the hills facing south, exposed to the direct rays of the sun. Only seasonal wildflowers and grasses, and blue oaks can survive on these slopes. Here on the north-facing hillside, additional soil moisture and cooler ground temperatures... More

9. Scrub Jay: An Oak's Best Friend

As acorns ripen in the fall, a single scrub jay can collect and bury over 5,000 acorns. Biologists have clocked jays collecting more than 400 acorns per hour! Only about half of the buried acorns are retrieved and eaten by the jay, leaving the rest for other animals or to sprout into new trees. In this way, the jays provide an important service ... More

10. Oaks Young and Old: Life and Death in the Oak Woodland

This old live oak may have fed generations of Nisenan Indians and sheltered a gold miner during its long life. When alive, it provided food and cover for a variety of plants and animals. But even in death the oak tree continues to support a host of wildlife and plants. Tangles of Himalaya berry and two young live oaks grow from between the... More

11. People and Oaks: A Changing Relationship

Two hundred years ago, this valley supported many Nisenan families. Salmon, deer and small game, and a multitude of berries, seeds, and bulbs provided the Nisenan with a varied and rich diet. But it was the acorn and oaks that provided the year-round foundation of their diet. In great part, the bounty of California's oak forests supported over ... More

12. Acorn Woodpecker: The Consummate Collector

"Waka, aka, aka", the scolding call of the acorn woodpecker fills the oak woodlands with sound. These communal birds constantly call to members of their extended family and to warn off competing clans. Territories are established around granary trees where the woodpeckers store their food and share nest cavities. Aptly named, acorn woodpeckers... More