Located in the Inyo Mountains on the eastern side of Owens Valley, Cerro Gordo is a currently a ghost town after almost 100 years in operation from 1866 to 1957. Several buildings still survive, including the general store and the American Hotel. The town is located on private land and permission to visit must be obtained.
The town site is currently on the ridge of the mountain range, and accessible from either the western side in Owens Valley, or from the East from the Saline Valley Road. Founding of the site is credited to Pablo Flores who began mining near Buena Vista Peak. Initial development of the area was hindered by Native American activity in the area. The establishment of Fort Indepenced helped “control” this activity and the amount of activity in Cerro Gordo increased. Early efforts were primitive with most mines being open pits or trenches and smelting was done in adobe ovens.
The location began to develop with the foundation of the first store at Cerro Gordo by Independence businessman Victor Beaudry. He soon acquired several claims in exchange for payment of debt at his store and soon built two smelters. In 1868, Mortimer Belshaw established a partnership with another stakeholder the Union Mine. He secured financing from Los Angeles, and built the first road, a toll road known as the “Yellow Road”, which gave him a lot of control over shipments coming down the mountain.
Cerro Gordo Trail Map