Weekend Wander: The Ghost Town of Bodie, CA

If you’re interested in ghost towns or California Gold Rush history, you might want to check out a place called Bodie for your next road trip.

Located east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and a long, winding, 100-mile drive past beautiful Yosemite National Park (or 200 miles from Sacramento), the ghost town of Bodie is worth the trip. The town was named after Waterman S. Bodey, who discovered gold in the area in 1859. (Sadly, he died in a blizzard before seeing the town develop.) What started off as a gold mining camp of about 20 miners quickly became a boomtown of nearly 10,000 people by 1880.

According to the website Legends of America, “Before long the town supported some 30 gold mines, 65 saloons, numerous brothels, gambling halls, and opium dens, as well as a number of legitimate businesses, including three newspapers, several churches, a couple of banks and a school. Every other building on the mile-long main street was a saloon. Three breweries worked day and night, while whiskey was brought into town in 100-gallon barrels.”

Due to many of the mines closing down, plenty of boomtown lawlessness, and people leaving to strike it rich elsewhere, the mining town of Bodie eventually began to decline. In 1910, the population was only about 700 people. By 1920, the population was recorded as 120 people . The railroad was abandoned. The two newspapers consolidated into one. Many fires, both natural and man-made, destroyed a number of the original buildings over the years.

By the 1940s, Bodie was considered a “ghost town.” It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and a California State Historic park in 1962. Preserved in a state of arrested decay, the remaining buildings of the town are visited by tourists seeking history or ghosts (or both). None of the buildings have been restored, but instead have been preserved (structurally fortified) to prevent them from collapsing on tourists. There are no more residents, only park rangers who live there.

If you’ve been following my other Weekend Wander posts, then you are probably aware that I have wandered around each place about which I’ve written. Bodie is no exception. My mother and I didn’t see any ghosts or sense any paranormal activity when we visited this somewhat desolate place a number of years ago. Peering into the windows of some of the buildings, we did see eerie scenes of everyday life frozen in time. Through the window of one house, the remains of dishes sat abandoned on a small kitchen table, a thick layer of webs and dust covering everything.

As we walked down the deserted dirt roads and imagined this once bustling (and oftentimes, lawless) town, we got a pretty fascinating glimpse into pioneer life in the Wild West.

As always, thanks for stopping by. ❀

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