Bodie California (Ghost Town)

While working with our new friends at the National Elk Refuge, we learned from some of them about Bodie State Historical Park just north of Yosemite National Park. Listening to them describe this place convinced us it was something that we just HAD to see when we were in the area.

To give you an idea of where Bodie is located

The park is a real ghost town. When I say “real” it’s because although it is a tourist attraction, it’s not like so many other tourist “traps” that are commercialized and always pushing their trinkets, snacks, and other junk on you.

Bodie State Historical Park sits about 15 miles east of U.S. 395 on State Rt 270 and be advised that we do NOT RECOMMEND taking this road with your RV because most of the route is dirt and in pretty rough shape. You don’t need a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but you really do not want to subject your RV (and it’s contents) to the shake, rattle and roll they’d get traveling this dirt road.

Commemorative Plaque

As the plaque above explains, Bodie was a gold mining town. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the park web site;

Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. The town is named for Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown.

Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.

It was really eerie walking the streets and seeing the many buildings that remain. We were told by park rangers that the empty spaces between buildings actually used to be occupied by buildings as well. This was a pretty large town in it’s day!

As always, clicking on any of the thumbnails below will open the larger image.

A few people continued to live in Bodie until after World War II, when the last producing, mine, the Lucky Boy was shut down.

By then only six people were left in the old settlement and five of these would soon die untimely deaths. First, one of the men shot his wife and after she died, three men killed the murdering husband. According to legend, the ghost of the murdered man would visit the three men, shaking his fist. Soon, all three would die of strange diseases.

By the end of the 1940s, Bodie was a ghost town and was visited only by tourists interested in its history.

In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie became a State Historic Park, and two years later the ghost town of Bodie was dedicated as a California Historic Site. It has also been designated a National Historic Site.

A few of the buildings have white window shades or drapes in them and we learned that those buildings are actually residences for state park rangers and other staff. What an interesting place this would be on a moonlit night, eh?

If you know of anyone planning on visiting Yosemite National Park, be sure to tell them about Bodie Historical State Park just north of Lee Vining California.

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The Ghost Town of Cherry, AZ

Just up the road from our RV park is a dirt trail heading west (14 miles) to the hamlet of Cherry.

Cherry was settled in the late 1800’s as a mining community with the post office opening in 1884 and the first Grammar School opening in 1898.  By 1929, the area boasted over 400 residents.

In 1982 the last gold mine closed and today there are still about 75 full-time residents and a dozen or so part timers.

The “town” isn’t much to look at, having never been incorporated and never having a church, there are no commercial businesses left, but the homes along the hillsides are nestled into the trees and look very comfortable.

It’s a long (dirt) road but when we traveled it was graded smooth although a lot of switchbacks and “close to the edge” turns with NO guardrails.  We drove slow hoping we’d not meet an oncoming truck (and we were lucky).

The video below gives you a good idea of the view from atop one of the hills on the way to the top.

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WAIT! – Back Up

So as we traveled further south on Arizona State Route 80 just south of Bisbee, we caught a glimpse of yesteryear just a block over.  There were old buildings (as if that was anything unusual) and old gas station signs and old cars.  We had to go check this out …. so …. I stopped and backed the car up and turned it around to see what we had almost missed.

This was the (former) town of Lowell, Arizona.  You know, back in the day … the town was a “company” town.  The company made the town to house the workers.  The workers shopped at the company stores, went to the company movie theater and company dance hall.  The demise of Lowell was due to the fact that the company needed more land for their mining operations so they just “took” what was already theirs – the land and the homes along with it and displaced the workers.  But they left a short one-block section of Erie Street … and that’s what the pictures above represent.


The Lavender Pit (named after the Phelps-Dodge mining executive Mr. Harrison Lavender) was what consumed most of Lowell.  The pit (or the Queen Mine) have not been active since they both ceased operations in 1974, but the pit is still there (fenced) but you can drive right up to it and look over the edge and take pictures like mine in the slide show below.  The abandoned pit covers 300 acres, is 950 feet deep, and is a result of the removal of 351 million tons of material. Since mining operations ceased, the town of Bisbee reinvented itself as an artist community and historical tourist destination.

Take a peek at the pix of the Lavender Pit in the slide show below.

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It’s really hard to tell the size of the mine in these pictures, but I’m here to tell you that you could take a small motorboat down to that pool of water at the bottom and have room to pull a water skier around.  It is HUGE!

NEXT POST – On down to Douglas and the FENCE!