- Where the west was once
you want to recapture the spirit of the Wild West, one of the more
interesting ways to do so is to take a visit to Bodie, once a Gold Rush
town high up in the mountains on the border between California and
Bodie is one of the great "ghost towns" of the American
West, and one
of the largest. The town, which was an active mining community from
1860 to 1942, enjoyed a short five year period as one of the Gold-Rush
boom towns of the Wild West, when it was reputedly the second largest
town in California, and a town that
was so lawless and violent that it's name was known all over the USA.
Today it's a ghost town, a
California State Historic Park and a National Historic Landmark.
Largely abandoned since the 1940s, part of the
town, comprising some 110 mostly wooden buildings and an old stamp
mill, is today preserved in a state of "arrested decay", a
collection or long-abandoned homes, shops and other buildings from the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The site is open all year, though in winter may be
accessible only on skis. During the summer months, from May to
September, visitors can tour the stamp mill, and learn how gold was
extracted and processed.
Located in eastern California, over 100
miles south of
Lake Tahoe, and almost on the border with Nevada, the site lies at an
altitude of over 8,000 ft – in a wild and desolate landscape,
very cold in winter, hot in summer, and arid in all seasons.The site is
best visited between May and September
In 1859, a gold prospector named William Bodey (pronounced Boe-di)
discovered gold-bearing rock in this inhospitable part of the
California desert. Claiming the stake, he and his two fellow
prospectors established a base cabin on the spot, hoping that they
would soon be very rich men. Alas it was not to be.
As winter was fast
approaching, Bodey and one of his companions promptly set off
buy provisions to tide them over the coming months; the nearest store
at Monoville twenty miles to the south. They bought the provisions all
unfortunately on the
way back to their claim, they got overtaken by the first serious
snowstorm of the winter. Valiantly they trudged on, until they had
almost made it back to their claim, when Bodey collapsed ; his
companion went to find help, but by the time he returned, snow had
covered all their tracks, and Bodey could not be found. His corpse was
not located until the snows melted the following spring.
As a tribute to William Bodey, the place where the prospector had
staked his claim was named Bodie, Bodey's companions changing the
spelling to fit the pronunciation, as they
reckoned that a town called "Bodey" might sound a bit morbid.
Once this was one of the wildest places in the Wild West.
Mining at Bodie was actually not very productive
until in 1876 the Standard Company discovered a rich gold-bearing lode,
that rapidly transformed Bodie into one of the great Wild West Gold
Rush boom towns. However like many Gold Rush towns, Bodie enjoyed just
short sharp heyday, lasting less than ten years. During that time the
town had up to 10,000 inhabitants, mines, mills, shops, a newspaper and
up to 65 bars – all the essential infrastructure of a town of
its time. It was reputed to be one of the most lawless towns in the
Wild West. Yet by 1880 the decline had already begun, but Bodie
remained an active mining town. By 1892, it had a railroad and
even a mill powered by
electricity provided from a hydro-electric plant 13 miles away.
However by 1910, fifty years after William Bodey
staked his claim, the town's decline had become unstoppable, and its
population had fallen below 1000. The last mine, and the town's
post office, closed in 1942.