Hot Creek Geologic Site

Hot Creek Geologic Site is located near Mammoth, Lake just off the 395 Highway in Mono County, California. The stream originates from Twin Lakes in Mammoth and continues on to Lake Crowley. The site is located near and a beautiful cold water stream which is located over a geothermal vent. Warm water is heated from a magma chamber located about three miles below the earths surface and bubbles up into the steam warming the water.

Hot Creek located off the 395 highway near Mammoth in Mono County, California
Hot Creek located off the 395 highway near Mammoth in Mono County, California

The Hot Creek does offer excellent fishing opportunities and popular among fly fisherman. Fishing used to be limited to barbless hooks.

No Swimming

The stream is now closed to swimming becuase “Earthquakes can cause sudden geyser eruptions and overnight appearances of new hot springs at Hot Creek.  Water temperatures can change rapidly, and so entering the water is prohibited. ” Reports of hot water geysers up to 6 feet tall in 2006 and rapidly fluctuating temperatures apparently caused the closure of the stream to swimming.

My grandfather used to point out that some hot water vents where not in the same locations as when he was a child. Perhaps, within my life the hot springs area has become too dangerous to swim.

J Rathbun

As a child and young adult, the stream was open to swimming and my family did this routinely on almost every trip. I recall active conversations about the possibility of an geyser eruption which would kill us and we understood the risk of swimming. However, we also understood the possibility of an such an event was very remote when one considers the geologic time tables. My grandfather used to point out that some hot water vents where not in the same locations as when he was a child. Perhaps, within my life, the area has become too dangerous to swim.

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Convict Lake

Convict Lake is located on the east side High Sierra Mountains in Mono County, California below Mount Morrison (12,241 ft). The serene lake is nestled in a serene canyon and offers great opportunities for boating, hiking, fishing and camping. Overall, the lake if an oblong shape, and carved from the hard rock from glaciers and at 140 feet deep, it is one of the deepest in the area. Paiute Indians called the lake Wit-sa-nap

Another beautiful day at Convict Lake, in the High Sierra Mountains
Another beautiful day at Convict Lake, in the High Sierra Mountains

Some History

Originally known to Europeans as Monte Diablo and named Convict Lake after an prison escape on September 17, 1871 in near by Carson City, Nevada. About half of the twenty nine convicts followed Charlie Jones, who use to life in the area, into the area on Monte Diablo (Convict) Creek a few miles away from the lake. While camping near the creek, the party killed a local man.

The killing prompted the local community to form a posse on September 22, 1871 which encountered the convicts at the creek where a gun battle ensued. By November 1, the convicts were either captured, or dead and many of them executed on the way back. Convict Lake is certainly a well deserved if not macabre name.

Today

Today, the lake has all anyone could ask of a lake in the High Sierra. The lake and stream offers great fishing of Rainbow Trout and Brownie Trout.

It was like a scene from “Grumpy Old Men”, when a man walked into the store in a tuxedo while I am purchasing a fishing license.

J. Rathbun

There is a small boat rental shop near the north end of the lake. A trail circumnavigates the lake and offers a great hike and many places to picnic. In some areas around the lake the trail is inundated with California Wild Rose which offers a blast of pink in a green hedge.

California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) found around Convict Lake, California
California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) found around Convict Lake, California

Visitors to the lake may enjoy camping, fishing, hiking and boating. A small general store can help stock up your supplies or buy a fishing license.

For those not into camping, there is a nice small resort at the lake were you can rent a cabin, and on my last visit, a wedding was hosted there. It was like a scene from “Grumpy Old Men”, when a man walked into the store in a tuxedo while I am purchasing a fishing license. The resort is a decent size, meaning that it is not too large and does not detract from the scenery.

Overall, Convict Lake is a great place to camp and visit, and I just can’t wait to get back.

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Convict Lake Campground

Convict Lake Campground is a wonderful location to camp in the amazing High Sierra Mountain near Convict Lake in Mono County, California. The campground is located about 100 yards from Convict Lake and some of the sites will have views of the lake. Those sites which do not have a view of the lake must simply take in the wonderful rugged High Sierra Mountains as their back drop.

A deer walking the road into Convict Lake Campground
A deer walking the road into Convict Lake Campground

The campground is situated so that Convict Creek runs down its length on one side. The small creek offers a wonderful sound track to some of the campsites. It’s easy access allows you to walk from the campsite to the creek in about 10 seconds. This is a nice place to fish, or just take a nap in the afternoon. I can speak from first hand experience that bear will also use paths near to creek to enter and egress the campground.

I can speak from first hand experience that bear will also use paths near Convict Creek to enter and egress the campground.

J. Rathbun
Convict Creek offers fishing and a few spots to take a nap.
Convict Creek offers fishing and a few spots to take a nap.

Overall, I have enjoyed every stay at this campsite, and each visit is memorable. The campground offers great access to all of the activities at Convist Lake and a good place to jump off when exploring the Eastern Sierra.

Depending upon the time of year, you may need to make reservations. My past few trips were hunting for Fall Colors and in October the camp ground typically has some good first come first serve camp sites. The campground is typically serene, quiet and a wonderful place to be.

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Chemung Mine

Located off the Masonic Road between Bridgeport, CA and the Masonic town site, are the remains of the Chemung gold mine.  The Chemung gold mine operated from from 1909 to 1938 and produced over one million dollars in gold.  In the 1920s, the Chemung mine was producing low grade and high grade ore.  The ore was processed onsite, and then shipped to near by Bodie for smelting.

The Chemung Mine located just outside of Bridgeport, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Chemung Mine located just outside of Bridgeport, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Along with the increase cost of mining supplies which reduced growth, a poor gold market and the cost of hauling the ore to Bodie over the poor roads for smelting and little mine was doomed and closed its doors in 1938.

The Chemung mine history is not a mining failure, but a failure of management and litigation.  During its time of production, the mine built and tore down three mills.  During the last year of operation in 1938, 20 men worked the site and less than one year later the mine was closed.  The mine itself produced well, however endless litigation for various reasons doomed the mine.

The Chemung gold mine over looking the Bridgeport Valley.. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Chemung gold mine over looking the Bridgeport Valley.. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s new life was found in the mine with the efforts of Elton “Heinie” Heinemeyer.  Heinemeyer mined for years but never struck it big.  Well liked by the town of Bridgeport, CA Heinemeters well being was the source of concern for the people of Bridgeport and it is reported that he would always find time to visit and entertain those who traveled to check up on him.

Currently, the mill building structure is intact but the years of harsh weather have taken its toll.  A mild wind will cause some of the walls to shake or shudder, and the lower outer wall is leaning outward.  In June 2016, bars restricted access to the mines themselves although the mines do offer a cold breeze on a warm day to cool you down.

The Chemung mine still maintains and impressive structure. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Chemung mine still maintains and impressive structure. Photograph by James L Rathbun

There are stories that the site is haunted by a spirit or ghost, but only on Saturday nights, which seems a bit odd to me.

The Chemung Mine working still seem ready to go. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Chemung Mine working still seem ready to go. Photograph by James L Rathbun

On a personal note, the Chemung mine surprised me.  I have been to Aurora three times, Masonic at least three times, and Bodie… at least ten.  My last visit to Bodie was in 2013. Afterwards this last trip, I was looking in Google Earth when I “discovered” the Chemung gold mine.  How had this mine, such an impressive structure, evaded my radar for so many years?  It took me three years from that day to make my first visit to Chemung, and this place is definately on my list for a repeat visit.

Time, weather and gravity have taken its toll on the structure of the Chemung Mine.. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Time, weather and gravity have taken its toll on the structure of the Chemung Mine. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Chemung Mine Trailmap

Resources

Bodie California

Bodie, California is the ghost town by which all others are judged.  Located at 8300 in the Bodie Hills above Mono Lake, Bodie is the largest and perhaps best preserved ghost town in America. Established as a ghost town and state park in 1962, the town site is now administered by the Bodie Foundation.

Bodie, California c1890
Bodie, California c1890

Currently preserved in “Arrested Decay” a condition and phrase coined by the State of California for the Bodie, the town site is preserved as it was found in 1962. This essentially maintains the structures as the were at that time, and work may be done to keep them to that standard. Some buildings get new roofs, windows sealed and foundation rebuilt to preserve the state of degradation. It is because of this forward thinking policy that the town remains in the state of decline that it does.

Bodie CA is a town lost in arrested decay. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Bodie CA is a town lost in arrested decay. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Standard Mill, Bodie, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Standard Mill, Bodie, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun

I remember my first visit to Bodie was probably in the the late 1970’s.  My father drove our old Ford truck into the town, and as I jumped out my eyes found the old Standard Mill.  The Standard Mill still dominates the valley with its grayish-blue siding, multiple smoke stakes and extreme size.  The Standard Mill is the most intact mill in California and processed over $14 million dollars in gold during its 25 years of service.

Evelyn Myers, a three year old girls grave marker located in Bodie, CA reminds us that not all mine camps were filled with men. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Evelyn Myers, a three year old girls grave marker located in Bodie, CA reminds us that not all mine camps were filled with men. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Formed in 1859, the town under went several mining booms, busts and fires.  At it’s peak in 1879, Bodie hosted 5000 – 7000 souls, 65 saloons, a “Redlight” district, a china town, four volunteer fire stations, several newspapers, churches and of coarse, a Jail.  Bodie maintain a rough reputation over the years and suffers from murders, shoot outs, stage robberies and the odd bar room brawl.

They say you were wild and woolly, Bodie

And fast on the draw as them make ’em;

That you lived at ease with the bad and the bold,

Who thought nothing of shooting a man down cold,

And defying the law to take ’em

Lillian Ninnis
Bodie, California, Dec. 1, 1909, Bridgeport quadrangle, picture by G.R. Davis, topographer.
Bodie, California, Dec. 1, 1909, Bridgeport quadrangle, picture by G.R. Davis, topographer.

By 1910 the population settled at about 700 people, mostly families, as the miners and those who service the miners moved on to more prosperous areas.  The last printed paper was in 1912, and signaled the beginning of the end for the scrappy little town.  Although labelled a ghost town in 1915, Bodie continued to linger and dwindle is size until 1940 when the Post Office closed.

The interior of a general store is virtually the way it was when the store owner left Bodie, Photograph by James L Rathbun
The interior of a general store is virtually the way it was when the store owner left Bodie, Photograph by James L Rathbun

Under threat and vandalism the state of California took over the town site, and currently hosts some 200,000 visitors per year.

"Bodie Bill" - Age 2 1/2 years - Firebug of the Bodie Fire, June 23, 1932
“Bodie Bill” – Age 2 1/2 years – Firebug of the Bodie Fire, June 23, 1932

Remote locations, harsh weather and rustic builds make Bodie is a popular site for photographers.

The road into Bodie is accessible to almost any vehicle, but can server as a launch point the many back roads and trails. Nearby attractions are Masonic, Chemung and Aurora who like to get off the beaten path.

A weathered wagon wheel in Bodie reminds us of a bygone era. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A weathered wagon wheel in Bodie reminds us of a bygone era. Photograph by James L Rathbun
General Store still found in Bodie, California. Photograph by James L Rathbun
General Store still found in Bodie, California. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A deteriorated globe in the schoolhouse windows reminds us of the life that used be in Bodie. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A deteriorated globe in the schoolhouse windows reminds us of the life that used be in Bodie. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Gold was first discovered in the Mono Lake region in 1352 and placer gold was then discovered at the future site of Bodie in July, 1859* by William S. Body. On July 10, 1860, the Bodie Mining District was organized. In August, 1859 quarts veins were also discovered in the area, but the lack of -water and the extreme difficulties of transporting supplies and equipment over the mountains and desert tended to severely restrict mining activities at Bodie for some time. From 1860 to 1877, Bodie polled only some 20 votes a year, and in 1865 the town still had only SOP 14 small frame and adobe houses.
In 1876-77, however, new quartz discoveries were made at the Bodie and Standard mines, touching off a great gold rush to Bodie in 1878. From a few shacks, a term of some 250 wooden buildings rapidly appeared in the desert and the population leaped to 10,000 or 12,000 persons, with the usual assortment of gambling dens, breweries, saloons, and the nightly shootings, stabbings and brawls. Bodie soon merited the title of “Shooters Town,” and a “Bad Man from Bodie” was then universally recognized to be a particularly unpleasant individual. In 1879, when Bodie reached its pinnacle, its main street was over a-mile long and built solidly with one and two-story frame buildings. In 1881 a 32- mile narrow gauge railroad was constructed from Mono Lake to Bodie to carry in fuel and lumber. % 1883, however, the boom was over and all but the Bodie and Standard mines closed down; these two mines finally consolidated in 1887. In 1895 Bodie had a small revival when the cyanide process of recovering gold was put in use, Mining continued intermittently up to World War II, when Bodie finally became a true ghost town.

NATIONAL SURVEY OF HISTORIC SITES AND BUILDINGS

Town Summary

NameBodie
LocationMono County, California
Latitude, Longitute38.2121401, -119.0120874
GNIS1658094
NewspaperBodie Standard 1878 – ?
Bodie Morning News

Resources

Bodie Map