Hidden on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California lies remains of one of the many small towns established during the mid-1800s gold rush. I’ve had the pleasure of living among the modern day towns along the Golden Chain Highway for the past five years. Only recently on a trip to Mono Lake did I discover the largest Ghost Town that is still standing in the United States today.
In 1859, William S. Bodey and a team of prospectors discovered gold near the site and other miners quickly flocked. Like many of the small towns on the eastern ridge of California, miners came for gold, stayed for a few years, and then moved on to the next big discovery. Some towns maintained their population due to habitable weather and their proximity to other well populated towns, while others were abandoned. Bodie was one of the latter.
Bodie was booming after 1876 when several rich gold veins were discovered. Its population reached 5,000 in 1878 and the town quickly grew, housing approximately 65 saloons and even a red-light district.
The town’s decline started in the early 1900’s, but it wasn’t until 1942 that the US Government ordered all non-essential mines to be shut down so resources could be used for World War II. It was at this time that the Bodie Post Office closed and most of the remaining residents left.
Getting to the ghost town is an adventure in itself. The trip offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and just before you arrive, three miles of bumpy gravel road.
Bodie offers antique, vintage and wild west enthusiasts a real view of the past. With over 100 original structures still standing, you can walk the streets and pathways that the inhabitants used over 150 years ago. You can peak through the windows of the Bodie Hotel, general store, gas station, a saloon, a gymnasium, the schoolhouse and one of the few churches that were built there. Scrap metal and industrial mining equipment lines the pathways entering into the town. What I loved most about Bodie was seeing the design quality and ornate details of the items located there. With each building I came across, I could envision the liveliness of a booming gold rush town even though it’s now covered in dust.
All Photos copyright Story Tellers Vintage.