California (Deserts)
Bodie Ghost Town

Northeast of Lee Vining, in a remote, high desert valley, stands a well-preserved and evocative relic of the gold-mining 1870s. 

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 10,000 people. The town was founded by Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1877, the Standard Company struck pay dirt and a gold rush transformed Bodie from a town of 20 people to a boomtown.

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With thirty saloons and dance halls and a population of ten thousand, it was once the raunchiest and most lawless mining camp in the west; over 150 wooden buildings survive in a state of arrested decay around the intact town center, littered with old bottles, bits of machinery and old stagecoaches. The ruins of the mines themselves, in the hills east of town, are off limits to visitors except on the frequent tours.

The Bodie State Park (open all year but often inaccessible by car in winter; $2 per person; tel 760/647-6445) is perhaps the best ghost town in the US, with many of its structures still intact but not gussied up for tourists.