BODIE: Gold Rush Ghost Town


As tourists we visit many places but once you set your foot in Gold Rush Ghost Town Bodie, we’d become time travelers not only visiting one of the most notorious place people have lived, but also beyond the time back into over 100 years. We are all time travelers at Bodie.

This is Bodie, or rather the remains of Bodie. Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills, east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, USA. Only about 5 percent of the buildings it contained during its 1880s heyday still remain. Today, it stands just as time, fire and the elements have left it – a genuine California gold mining ghost town at an elevation of 8400 feet (2600 m). The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and in 1962 it became Bodie State Historic Park.

Summers in Bodie are hot, and in winter, temperatures often plummet well below 0 °F (−18 °C), and winds can sweep across the valley at close to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). Nights remain cold even through the summer, often dropping well below freezing. The harsh weather is due to a particular combination of high altitude (8,400 feet (2,600 m)) and a very exposed plateau, with little in the way of a natural surrounding wall to protect the long, flat piece of land from the elements.

We arrived way too early  and had to return four hours later.  The drive up there (twice!!) did not bother me at all.  (I don’t know about my buddy but I was simply excited thinking what’s ahead of me) Visitors arrive mainly via CA-270 which runs from CA-395 near Bridgeport. There is also a road CA-167 (off CA-395) near Mono Lake, and this route was the one we traveled up to Bodie.  Although CA-167 was often said to be “a bad state of repair”, it was not as bad as we thought it to be (as of June of 2012) and we were not even in a 4WD, just a standard mid-size rental car.  We decided to use CA-167 because we spoke with few local people before the trip up and that was what they suggested. The roads to Bodie are usually closed in winter due to heavy snowfall.How come we got there too early?  Our plan to get the sunrise at Bodie went over hyper-drive on steroid….


Very friendly park rangers greet you at the gate. They live on the property. I asked them if they ever get bored living there, “I got a satellite dish”, a ranger on the right replied with a smile.  $7.00 per person.  $2.00 Bodie Booklet (map+)

My buddy Martin takes a short walk on the southern end of Wood Street

When the house with white curtains on the window like you see it here, it means it’s a current resident for park rangers.  Those homes are all original homes from back then and upgraded to date (with air conditioner? and a satellite dish).   Other houses you can peek through the windows as if you were traveling through the time.  Bedrooms, Kitchens, Outhouses and dinning rooms…. etc.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Clint Eastwood when I first saw this in front of me. I stood still for few minutes and I found myself standing there with no other time travelers (tourists) around me.  I chuckled a little and felt special :)  Totally impressed.  Impressiveness so different from standing at the edge of Grand Canyon but heavily impressed, nonetheless. Today, Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Time travelers (visitors) can walk the deserted streets of a town that once was a bustling area of activity with over 10000 people at its peak. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods.

Bodie has many abandoned artifacts, such as this 1937 Chevrolet coupe and others.


Martin selects his angle

A small part of the town survived, with about 110 structures still standing (of about 2000 buildings), including one of many once operational gold mills.

Bodie eventually turned into a family oriented community. Two examples of this settling were the construction of the Methodist Church (which currently stands) and the Roman Catholic Church (burned about 1930) that were both constructed in 1882.


Bodie Hotel

Inside of Bodie Hotel

As with other remote mining towns, Bodie had a popular, though clandestinely important, red light district on the north end of town. From this is told the unsubstantiated story of Rosa May, a prostitute who, in the style of Florence Nightingale, came to the aid of the town menfolk when a serious epidemic struck the town at the height of its boom. She is credited with giving life-saving care to many, but was buried outside the cemetery fence due to her profession.

In 1893, the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant, located approximately 12 miles (20 km) away on Green Creek, above Bridgeport, California. The plant developed a maximum of 130 horsepower (97 kW) and 6,600 volts alternating current (AC) to power the company’s 20-stamp mill. This pioneering installation is marked as one of the country’s first transmissions of electricity over a long distance.

As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners’ and mechanics’ unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, over 60 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.

There’s a story about a little girl (Anna Louise Lockmoor) whose family moved from San Francisco to Bodie. She wrote in her diary: “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”. The phrase came to be known throughout the West; however, a local news reporter insisted that it was “Good, by God, I’m going to Bodie”.

Martin frames his shot

Bodie is, in a way still a gold mine for photographers. SBJPG will visit Bodie as a part of California: Cross-state photographic workshop (working title) in 2013. Stay tuned!!  日本語

A view from Bodie Cemetery

There was a mortuary nearby Bodie cemetery on the outskirts of town, which is the only building in the town built of red brick three courses thick, most likely for insulation to keep the air temperature steady during the cold winters and hot summers.  Come to think of it, dead lived(?) in a better conditioned place than livings……

I found a steal jail cell door on the ground in front of the Bodie jail.  I tried to pick it up with no success.  It must have been over 300lb or somethin…

DeChambeau Hotel & Post Office (L), and I.O.O.F. Hall (R)

William S. Bodey discovered gold in 1859 but without knowing the town becoming most thriving metropolis of the mono county, he perished in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to a nearby city.

Bodie was once called, “wildest camp in the west”, but by 1940 its population was recorded at a total of 90 people.

Despite the decline, Bodie had permanent residents through most of the 20th century, even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932. The last mine closed in 1942, due to War Production Board order L-208.


The School House. Built in 1879. (School #2) The first school, located two blocks up the street, was burned down by an early-day juvenile delinquent.

In 2009 and again in 2010, Bodie was scheduled to be closed, but the California state legislature was able to work out a budget compromise that enabled the state’s Parks Closure Commission to allow it to remain open. As of 2012, the park is still operating, now administered by the Bodie Foundation.


Next weekend (8/11/12) is Bodie’s annual Friends of Bodie Day.  2012 is a special one with its 50th anniversary as a State HIstoric Park!! If you like to attend the party: FRIENDS OF BODIE DAY.

My friend and I spent little over 4 hours there and there were 69 official vista spots (in a guide-book $2), but I’d have to say there were so much more to see and photograph. It certainly was a great trip this time, and totally helped me prepare for my next trip(s) up there.  I even want to try going back out there during winter season when almost impossible to reach there due to heavy snow.  I would like to bring a model(s) in proper period costumes :)  Oh, that could be a spanking hot photo session (workshop). SBJPG Photographic Workshop @ Bodie is a part of CALIFORNIA: Cross-State Photographic Workshop in 2013.



BODIE: State Historic Park Tour Guidebook ($2.00 at the gate)
Bodie Foundation
California State Parks
Wikipedia – Bodie
Wikipedia Japan – Bodie


2 responses to “BODIE: Gold Rush Ghost Town

  1. Cool post! I like the pics and the story behind it. :) It makes me want to dig for gold!


    • Hi River Under Water,
      I first want to apologize that it took me way too long to reply your comment. (and of course Thank You!) I’ve wanted to do so quite some time now; however, due to my health issue I haven’t been able to make myself to do ordinary things. I’m going to get my you know what together and be more active with my blog this year. Thank you again for checking out my blog ‘long ago’!! Im gonna go my best to keep it up… cheers. Kenji

      Liked by 1 person

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