5 great Western ghost towns to visit
With the world only slightly opening up, Americans are still finding that their automobiles are their best friends when it comes to travel in 2021. Although being stuck in the car for several hours and racking up mileage doesn’t seem to be the recipe for a vacation, it’s still a way to get from point A to point B with minimum of hassle.
If you’re willing to get behind the wheel (preferably an SUV) and take the family on a road trip out west, there are some pit stops along the way you might want to make to break up the monotony. Ghost towns are a great way to get out, stretch your legs and learn a little history while you’re at it.
Here are five such towns that you can add to your GPS to get you started.
Just next to Death Valley (on the Nevada side-120 miles northwest of Las Vegas) lies perhaps one of the best examples of a once-bustling gold mining town that experienced a mass exodus once the precious metal ran out. In 1907 about 4,000 people lived in Rhyolite and at its peak, it was home to around 8,000.
During that time it had sidewalks, a school, many different shops and stores and even a train station. Sadly the mines weren’t producing anymore and they closed down. People began to leave the city and by 1920 the census reported only 14 people remained.
Now this once glamourous desert metropolis is nothing more than crumbling visages and empty foundations. But the opulent train station still stands behind a chain-link fence as a reminder that wealth is fleeting.
Information on Rhyolite can be found HERE.
Despite its name, The Golden State was also home to silver mines. Perhaps the most famous of those is Calico which is about 126 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
In the 1800s four prospectors discovered silver in a “calico-colored” mountain and established The Silver King Mine. This find was the source of most of California’s silver in the mid 1800s. By 1890, the population exceeded 3,000 residents who enjoyed hotels, stores, saloons and other establishments.
But the price of silver plummeted and so did Calico’s population. By 1907 people had left completely. Enter the other Walt of amusement park fame; Walter Knott. In 1950 he restored a lot of Calico and it became the quintessential tourist stop for travelers on the way to, or from, Las Vegas.
This is a great place to take a load of and get something to eat, buy souvenirs, and if you’re feeling especially daring camp overnight.
Information on Calico can be found HERE.
Back in 1859, California was just beginning its gold rush era. Bodie was only a prospector shanty town until about 1878 when it started to become a boomtown and eventually a bustling city. At its peak, Bodie contained a Wells Fargo bank, shops and a jail.
Notoriously Bodie became known for its prostitution with about 64 saloons to host willing (and paying) guests.
In 1912 silver prices began to decline and Bodie along with it. The newspaper closed and the population began to dwindle. It wasn’t until 1943 that it was declared an official “ghost town” as only three people remained in the area as caretakers.
Today Bodie is a part of California’s State Historic Park system. Visitors are treated to buildings that remain as they were over one hundred years ago with some shops and their wares untouched. It’s like a walk through the past.
Bodie is about 200 miles southeast of Sacramento. Information on Bodie can be found HERE.
Goldfield Ghost Town, AZ.
Although not as big or as densely populated as the towns listed above were, Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction, AZ, is still a beautiful slice of history.
In the 1890s Goldfield had three saloons, a meat supplier, a school and a brewery. Unfortunately, the mine vein faulted and the grade of gold ore declined. It was then the town was abandoned. Although the buildings are replicas of the originals, Goldfield is a great tourist attraction where you can pan for gold, fly a zipline or ride Arizona’s only narrow-gauge train.
Goldfield Ghost Town is 35 miles east of Phoenix. Information about Goldfield can be found HERE.
Silver City, CA.
The last town on our list isn’t exactly a ghost town. Silver City is a collection of buildings that were saved by the Mills family in the 60s and 70s. Their Bodfish property became a museum of sorts to Kern Valley structures that were destined to be destroyed. These buildings were allowed to stay in a state of “arrested decay” as to not compromise their antiquity.
Silver City became an aggregation of “over twenty historic buildings (most not visible from Lake Isabella Blvd) from the mining camps of Keyesville, Whiskey Flat, old Isabella, Claraville, Hot Springs, Miracle, Southfork and other local frontier settlements”
In 1990 the Corlew family re-opened the park after a 15-year hiatus. The site has become a popular site to location scouts from Hollywood and ironically might be the most haunted “ghost town” of all on this list.
More information on Silver City can be found HERE.