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