Bodie State Historic Park is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the country.
Bodie’s heyday was in the 1870’s, several years after gold was discovered there, and after mining on the other (western) slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range had declined. At the town’s peak, it had 2,000 buildings, including more than 60 saloons and dance halls.
There is a legend of the “Bad Man of Bodie” who may or may not be a composite of several outlaws from the town.
At an altitude of 8,400 feet, Bodie’s climate is very harsh in winter, with strong winds and temperatures as low as 30-40 below 0. In early spring when we were there, there were threatening clouds all around us. In fact, this State Historic Park opened earlier than usual due to the lack of snow this year.
By the 1880s most of the mines in the town were depleted, and fire in the 1890s destroyed homes and businesses. There was a brief resurgence in the 1890s, as mining costs went down with the advent of electricity. Then another fire in 1932 destroyed most of the town.
In 1962, the remainder of the town received its designation as a State Historic Park. Today, a small percentage (110 structures) of the town remain in “arrested decay” much as they were when its last residents departed. They are maintained by the California State Parks System.
It’s amazing to think that the current ghost town represents such a small percentage of the town in its heyday. The structures in this ghost town include hotels, a barbershop, a firehouse, a carpenter shop, a hydroelectric building and power substation, a Methodist Church, residences of various prominent citizens, a livery stable, a Masonic hall, a school house, a post office, a cemetery, a miners union hall, an icehouse, a bank and of course the Standard Mine.
The mine yielded nearly $15 million over 25 years, was destroyed and rebuilt, and produced close to $100 million in gold and silver between 1860 and 1941. People are only allowed near it in the summer, when the park offers tours of the mine.
But a peek inside of the buildings reveals its ghost town status. Many of the artifacts inside the buildings are in various stages of decay.
There are various pieces of machinery laying around the grounds including cars, trucks, tractors and others, also in various stages of decay. The town has been frozen in time.