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22 of the Best Ghost Towns in Northern and Southern California

California, the United States’ most populous state does not just boast of a bustling lifestyle and flourishing industries but has also been home to a whole lot of ghost towns abounding the northern and southern part of the state. Most of them were gold mining sites that had a booming population at a point of time, which eventually lost its glory with the decline in production. The remnants of many can be witnessed in the present times too while some have been transformed into popular tourist attractions. Let us take an insight into the popular ghost towns of California.

Ghost Town California

Northern California

1. Bodie, Mono County

Situated at the foot of the Bodie Hills, this ghost town had boomed in 1876 after the discovery of gold, post which the population of this place witnessed a steep increase. A telegraph line, many daily newspapers, saloons, jails and a cemetery were some of the amenities present in this town. The population declined in 1880 as prosperous mines in Tombstone, Butte, and Utah, attracted most of the menfolk. In 1910, a total of 698 people were recorded to have been living here. A sign of an official decline was observed in 1912 when the last edition of the newspaper, Bodie Miner was printed. Profits obtained from mining in 1914 were excessively low, while the Bodie Railway had been abandoned in 1917, with its iron tracks being scrapped. The records observed by the US Federal Census mentioned that 120 people lived there by 1920. Despite a terrible fire as well as low business prospects, the town still had people thriving in the 20th century. Presently it is in a decayed state, and has about 200,000 visitors every year.

Bodie California Ghost Towns

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2. Auburn, Placer County

Enlisted in the California Historical Landmark, the town attained its name from ex-soldiers who had come from New York’s Auburn. This town also underwent a gold rush and survived even when the stocks ran out. A network of roads developed and the town soon went on to become a flourishing mining hub. During its Gold Rush phase, a post office and a fire station were a few of the amenities that thrived here. The population gradually depleted turning it into a ghost town.

Auburn Ghost Towns in Northern California

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3. Coloma, Missoula County

Not much detail has been recorded regarding the settlement that existed here in 1893. Gold mining flourished from 1896 and an amount worth $200,000 to $250,000 had been extracted in gold. There was a mill built in 1916, while surveys on ore veins were even conducted. Eventually, the number of people living reduced drastically and in 2009 this site was an object of archeological study under the supervision of Dr. Kelly Dixon alongside graduates of the University of Montana.

Coloma California City Ghost Towns

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4. Cerro Gordo, Inyo County

They are abandoned mines in the Inyo Mountains adjacent to Lone Pine where mining operations had been undertaken from 1866 till 1957. High-grade silver, zinc ore, and lead were some of the produces. Silver and lead mining and production of zinc peaked during the 1880s and 1910. Like most other ghost towns, it witnessed a phase of boom and bust, and from a highly populous habitation, it gradually became a scantily inhabited town. In recent times it has been reduced to a ghost town, also serving as a major tourist spot. The town has several buildings, a general store, alongside an American hotel at present.

Cerro Gordo California Ghost Town

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5. Locke, Sacramento County

Locke, alternatively known as the Locke Historic District, is located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region of California. This town had been developed by Chinese immigrants in the first half of the 20th century. Its initial name was Lockeport, after the main owner of the land, George Locke. In fact, the town had been built in 1912, when tradesmen were given a contract to make three buildings by three merchants from China. The first building had a beer saloon and a store for dry goods. The second one was a gambling hall, while the third establishment comprised of a hotel and restaurant. With the prosperity of the town, it also became known the wrong way since it was the hub of illicit entertainment, nicknamed as “California’s Monte Carlo”. The lands were mostly dedicated to harvesting white beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, white beans, apples, and asparagus. Initially, there were about 1500 people living in the town, though at present the population has come down to 70 or 80, with most of them being the whites. Only 10 Chinese Americans live there at present as most of them had moved out to major cities in search of greater prospects.

Locke Ghost Town near Sacramento California

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6. Darwin, Inyo County

This is a census-designated area with just 43 people living here according to the 2010 census, which dipped from 52 as seen in the 2000 census. It is said to either attain its name after Dr. Darwin French or Charles Darwin. The town became a populous settlement in the year 1874 after the discovery of lead and silver. A post office had been set up in 1875, closed in 1902 for a while and then again opened. The town’s prosperity increased after the opening of the Eichbaum Toll Road in the year 1926. It had a host of facilities like a general store, saloon bars, and brothels. However, after the industries suffered a setback, the population underwent depletion though it did not disappear completely. In 2011, the town featured as a subject of Darwin, a documentary and in the following year, a video showed residents expressing their wish for a broadband connection over the dial-up access.

Darwin Ghost Town Northern California

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7. Deadwood, Placer County

Deadwood, a town in the Placer County was established in the year 1852 post the discovery of gold in the adjacent areas. There were about 500 people residing here during its heydays but the population went on to decline in 1855 after the resources came to an end, transforming it into a ghost town.

Deadwood Ghost Towns Northern California

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8. Denny, Trinity County

This refers to two small mining settlements situated in the northwestern Trinity County. The first Denny known in maps as Old Denny was closely situated to two other towns namely Marysville and White Rock City. The area that time was occupied by gold miners. In fact initially, the town was actually called New River City from which it changed to Denny, after A.H Denny who had a store there and a few more in the Siskiyou County. As the profits of gold went down, the population lessened and the people went on to live in other places. Old Denny had been abandoned and people started settling in New Denny where reserves of gold were found.

Denny Ghost Town California

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9. Jericho, Nevada County

This was a bustling settlement since 1873 which has at present been reduced to the stature of a ghost town.

Jericho California Ghost Town

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10. Masonic, Mono County

Masonic, initially called Lorena, is located at a distance of about 10 miles to the northeastern part of Bridgeport in the Mono County. With the discovery of gold during the 1860s, the population peaked to about 1000 people.  The Chemung mine located adjacent to this settlement had been founded in 1909 and was famed for its production of gold. This particular settlement comprised of an upper, middle as well as a lower town. The Middle town was said to be the largest of the three, equipped with a boarding house, post office, general store, as well as the office of the newspaper (The Masonic Pioneer) of the town. The post office which had opened in the year 1905, went through a name change in 1906, closed down in 1912, again opened in 1913 and finally shut down in 1927. At the beginning of the 20th century, the production of gold depleted and the population of Masonic also underwent a downfall, with only 500 people living there in 1906. The Pittsburg-Liberty Mine had produced about $700,000 worth in gold before being shut in 1910. The town was in complete decline by 1911.

Masonic Ghost Town in California

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11. Angel’s Camp, Calaveras County

Also known as Angel’s City or City of Angels, this is the Calaveras County’s only incorporated city. This settlement acquired its name after George Angel, a soldier of the Mexican war, who had come here in the first half of the 1850s. After the discovery of gold in a nearby mine, the population rose at a rapid pace and the first post office was set up in the year 1851. Though the number of people living there lessened eventually, the city cannot be termed as a ghost town in the literal sense of the term as according to the 2010 census the place was thronged by about 3835 people.

Angels Camp Ghost Town Northern California

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12. French Gulch, Shasta County

This town was founded in 1849 by the French Miners and went on to become one of the prominent gold producing regions of California. In 1935 it was included as a California Historical Landmark. With the depletion of production, the population also experienced a downfall. As per the 2010 census, the town had 346 residents. A devastating forest fire in 2004 and the Carr fire in 2018, caused damage to a lot of public property and the residents were also asked to evacuate their homes though on a temporary basis.

French Gulch Ghost Towns Northern California

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13. Ballarat, Inyo County

Founded in the year 1897, the town witnessed its heydays until 1905, having between 400 and 500 people residing there. The place had three hotels, seven saloons, a post office (opened in 1897), a school, a station of Wells Fargo, as well as a morgue. George Riggins who had migrated here from Australia had proposed the name of this town. Its decline began after the suspension of operations in the Ratcliff mine. At present, the city has just a single resident named Rocky Novak who owns a general store which functions in the afternoon as well as during the weekends to cater to the services of the tourists.

Ballarat Ghost Town in California

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Southern California

1. Stonewall Mine, San Diego County

Presently this place has been incorporated into the Cuyamaca State Park, though at one point of time it had evoked too much of legal controversy. Gold had been discovered here in 1870 after which the operation of the mine started. The mining spanned between 1870 and 1899 during which a boom town named Cuyamaca City developed. In 1923, Ralph Dyar purchased the property, after which mining operations came to an end. This, since then has been a part of the state park and in the present times, it is a popular spot for hiking and picnicking, with the remnants of the city and mine still existing.

Stonewall Mine Ghost Town San Diego California

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2. Bombay Beach, Imperial County

This has been enlisted as a CDP or census-designated situated upon the Salton Sea, having about 295 people living here according to the 2010 census. Initially, the town was said to have a dense population most of whom have been drowned by the dangerous Salton Sea, never to recover again. The settlement is situated at a low altitude and has evolved into a popular tourist spot.

Bombay Beach Ghost Towns in Southern California

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3. Calico, San Bernadino

Situated in the Calico Mountains (of Mojave desert) the foundation stone of this town was laid in 1881. Famed for its silver mines, during its heydays, the town also had a post office (establish at the beginning of 1882), a weekly newspaper named as the Calico Print, five general stores, a meat market, three hotels, brothels, bars, three restaurants, and boarding houses. There were also two lawyers, two constables, two doctors, five commissioners, a deputy sheriff as well as a JP (Justice of Peace). Silver production reached its height from 1883 to 1885 with Calico having more than 500 mines and over 1200 people living there. Its fortunes further increased when colemanite had been discovered in Calico mountains. With a decrease in the value of silver, the population depreciated rapidly transforming it into a ghost town. Presently the community has been transformed into a park named as Calico Ghost Town.

Calico Desert Ghost Town in California

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4. Goldstone, San Bernadino County

Located in the Mojave desert, this town had seen a period of prosperity after the discovery of gold though it encountered a sudden decline in the middle half of the 20th century, with the reason being unknown. Presently the place lay in rubbles and has been a site for the Deep Space Network of NASA.

Goldstone California Gold Rush Ghost Towns

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5. Eagle Mountain, Riverside County

It was founded in the year 1948 by Henry J. Kaiser, a famous industrialist, instrumental in setting up iron ore mines. In fact, this was one of the largest iron ore mines of South California. When mining production was at its peak, the town had over 4000 people living here. However, in 1981 the Kaiser Corporation decided to close down the mines causing the population to dwindle majorly. The last store shut down in 1982, while the post office closed in 1983. Presently it appears to be a deserted town, while the only building present is that of the Eagle Mountain Elementary School opened for the kids in the locality.

Eagle Mountain Ghost Town in Riverside California

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6. Johannesburg, Kern County

A popular mining district, this was located in the Rand Mountain region of the Mojave Desert. The town was famed for the production of gold and silver, getting its name by the miners who had once worked in South Africa’s gold producing regions including Johannesburg. The place had converted into a bustling village in 1895 having about 4000 residents after gold was discovered. It got is first post office in the year 1896, followed by saloons, churches, a general store and also an opera house. After three consecutive fires within a short span of time the town underwent a massive downfall and the population vanished in no time. The gold sources eventually dried up making the town even more abandoned with just 69 people living there as per the 2010 census.

Johannesburg Best Ghost Towns in Southern California

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7. Mentryville, Los Angeles County

This used to be a flourishing town famed for oil drilling during the 1870s. The oil strike happened for the first time in 1876 after which the settled boomed till 1900. The oil field of Pico Canyon was said to be the most prosperous of all. The Los Angeles Times in 1900 had described Mentryville to be an ideal community.  There was a schoolhouse, bakery, social hall, boarding house, machine shop, and a blacksmith shop. The town attained its name after Charles Alexander Mentry who took charge of the oil fields. He had stayed in this town until the last days of his life and had even constructed a 13-roomed mansion that is present even in recent times. As the flow of oil slowed down and the industry underwent a rapid change, Mentryville gradually became abandoned, transforming into a ghost town.

Mentryville Ghost Town in California

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8. New Idira, San Benito County

The New Idira Mercury Mine was instrumental behind the naming of this community, which shut in 1972 leading to a decline in the population, converting the settlement into a ghost town.

New Idira San Benito County Ghost Town

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9. Atolia, San Bernadino County

This site had a famous tungsten mine, the production of which had begun in 1905. The place attained its name after Atkins and De Golia, two officials of the mining company. The town had 2000 inhabitants initially and there were amenities like a movie theater, saloon, and a dairy.

Atolia Ghost Towns California

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So on your next trip to California, don’t just be in awe by taking a look at its fast city life, but also make a point to visit some of the ghost towns mentioned here. The list given above does not cover a large number of the abandoned towns though as there are lot many than the ones just referred to here, with Branson in the San Diego County, Belleville, in the San Bernadino County, Randsburg in the Rand County to name a few.

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