Bodie – A Wild West Gold Rush Ghost Town in California

Bodie is a ghost town located in California, USA. Once a buzzing gold rush settlement in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the town declined in importance as mining profits declined. The last resident left in the 1940s. The ghost town officially was established as Bodie State Historic Park in 1962. Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior recognises the designated Bodie Historic District as a National Historic Landmark.

Bodie Historic Park

About 200,000 people visit Bodie every year.

The settlement of Bodie was founded in 1859 when a group of prospectors discovered gold in the area. The town was named for one of the prospectors, W.S. Bodey, following his death in a blizzard the following November. The name became Bodie after a painter in the nearby town of Aurora lettered a sign “Bodie Stables”.

Bodie remained a small isolated mining camp until 1876 when the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore. It turned the settlement into a Wild West boomtown as people flocked to find gold. By 1879, the population was over 7,000.

The early days of Bodie

The early days of Bodie.

The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County was the first newspaper in the area, published for the first time in October 1877. A telegraph line was built to connect to Bridgeport and Genoa in Nevada.

Gold bullion from the town was shipped to Carson City, Nevada accompanied by armed guards. Some of it was then sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco. A narrow gauge railway was built in 1881 called the Bodie Railway & Lumber company. This transported lumber and supplies from Mono Mills south of Mono Lake.

Bodie Railway

The Bodie Railway transported timber to the town.

Bodie soon had all the trimmings of a large town including a Wells Fargo Bank, a jail, a brass band and 65 saloons along main street! Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences. There was also a red light district in the north of the town. It also had a Chinatown which intersected Main Street. Many immigrants had come from China seeking their fortune. The Miners Union Hall on Main street was a meeting point for the labour unions. It was also used for entertainment purposes and hosted dances, concerts and plays. Today, it is a museum.

Abandoned church in Bodie

The Methodist Church still stands today.

Towards the end of 1880, new finds in Butte, Montana and Tombstone, Arizona attracted some of miners from Bodie and thus began the decline of the town. Those who left were mostly single men and so the town became a more family orientated community. The Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church were both built in 1882.

There was a brief revival in the town’s fortunes in the 1890s as a result of technological advancements in the mines. A hydroelectric plant was built approximately 13 miles (20.9 km) away at Dynamo Pond and this powered the Standard Company’s 20-stamp mill in Bodie. It was one of the country’s first transmissions of electricity over a long distance.

Bodie in 1905

Main Street in 1905.

In 1913, the Standard Consolidated Mine closed and the decline of Bodie accelerated. By 1917, the Bodie Railway was abandoned and its tracks were scraped. By 1920, the population of the town was recorded by the US Federal Census at a total of 120 people. The last stragglers continued to live there through the early half of the 20th century. A fire in 1932 caused extensive damage. The last mine was closed in 1942 when all non-essential gold mines in the United States closed during World War II. The post office also closed this year and by 1943, only three residents remained.
Abandoned wild west ghost town in California

Some of the buildings are in a state of disrepair.

In 1961, Bodie was designated a National Historic Landmark and the Bodie State Historic Park was created the following year encompassing the remaining buildings. The town was named as California’s official state gold rush ghost town.

Abandoned buildings in Bodie

Some buildings are quite well preserved.

Today, about 110 structures remain standing and visitors flock to experience a real gold rush ghost town. Many interiors remain with authentic goods and furniture from late 19th century when the town was at its peak. It is now administered by the Bodie Foundation.

Location: Bodie, California 🇺🇸
Abandoned: 1900s


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *