We have seen them in movies, read about them and even driven to see what remain of the "old west'. On any given days visitors can see re-enactments of a bygone era that once lived in these ancient ghost towns. For those looking for something different to do this year, a visit to one or all of these ghost towns, is sure to be a day pleaser.
Bodie was founded in the 1800's where, at it's heyday, the population was over 10,000 people. Born out of the discovery of gold, it grew to have over 2000 buildings among which were more than 65 saloons and numerous brothels. Shootouts, holdups and barroom brawls occurred every day, and legend says a little girl, moving with her family to Bodie prayed " goodbye God, we are going to Bodie".
Fires, decline in mining which caused the closing of many mines, abandonment of the Benton Railway, and World War 11 all played a part in the demise of the town. By the end of the 1940's Bodie became a Ghost town, left to neglect and the occasional visitor. Today Bodie is a National Historic Site where visitors can walk the deserted streets, enter the many historic buildings that still remain as they once were, stocked full of supplies, or visit the only operational mine still standing. To get to Bodie take CA 270 from CA 395 near Bridgeport, the last three miles is a dirt road.
Calico is one of the few ghost towns that charges an admission price. A former silver mining town, it is located in the Mojave desert with a history similar to many southwest mining towns, but here many of the original structures still exist and in October, the town holds a journey back into the past at their annual 'Calico Days'.
Dating back to 1881, during the largest silver strike in California, the area attracted over 1200 people and had over 500 mines in the nearby hills. At it's peak there were 22 saloons, a red- light district, and their own Chinatown. With the decline of the mines the area became deserted, by 1929, and was left to decay. In 1951, an ex miner Walter Knott, who founded Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, bought and re-built Calico into a modern 'ghost town' and tourist attraction.
The main street is lined with about 30 replica wooden adobe buildings which are used for various stores and commercial purposes. Up the hills are mine buildings, one of which can be visited on a guided tour. During the day cowboys stage mock gunfights, the narrow gauge steam train takers rides around, and special events are staged. In 1966 the town was donated to San Bernardino Colunty and is now a regional park.
Situated off the I-15 near the I-40 junction, 12 miles east of Barstow, Calico is open from 8 a.m. to dusk with admission currently $6 for adults and $5 for children over 6 years. Camping is available a few miles away, and there are many hotels and restaurants in nearby Barstow.
Unlike Calico, the ghost town of Oatman is a unique tourist destination, sure to be enjoyed by lovers of old West history and lore who want to visit a real old west gold mining town. Many of the original structures were burned in a fire in 1921, however the present structures are quite old and built to the standards of the past.
Another attraction to Oatman is it's accessability off the Sitgreaves Pass, which is part of the remaining "old Route 66" filled with history of it's own. The ghost town can be reached, either from the Arizona side at Topock, or the California side at Needles.
In the town one is free to walk along the wooden planked sidewalks, with shops selling novelty items, souvenirs and handmade 'Old West' era clothing; explore the old jail and take a peek into a upstairs room of one of the buildings which still has furnishings from the past. Unlike many ghost towns, Oatman has restaurants that serve not only Navajo flat bread and tacos, but burgers, sandwiches, ice cream and other snacks.
One of the most unusual sights in Oatman are the Burros walking the streets, they are the direct descendants of the burros used by the gold miners and left behind. Burros are free to roam in the hills surrounding Oatman and many of them visit the town on a daily basis, but feeding them is against the law. Another place of interest is the 'old Oatman Hotel' where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their wedding night in 1939.
Tombstone has survived two major fires and the loss of the mining industry, yet today this ghost town welcomes thousands of visitors who come to walk along one of the most the most notorious streets - Allen Street - where old west heroes and villians, worked, fought and played earning it the nickname "the town too tough to die".
Visitors can relive, in it's original location, the classic showdown that made the town famous, the O.k. Corral' gunfight; and every October, the 'Helldorado Festival' featuring Wild West shows, street entertainment and a carnival for kids.
Plan on staying awhile, as Tombstone has historic Inns that date from the 19th century complete with vintage furnishings, RV Parks, restaurants, and saloons and maybe, just maybe a ghost.