In place of gunslingers and Gold Rush fortune hunters, tourists now flood the once raucous and bustling streets of Bodie, California. A State Historic Park that hosts over 200,000 visitors annually, Bodie boasted a reputation as one of wildest upstarts in the West.
At 8,375 feet, the high desert town has seen its share of extremes over the years. Arid summer temperatures and winter lows well below zero demanded that only the fittest survived in the fledgling mining camp.
In 1859, a fierce blizzard took the life of the town’s namesake, W.S. Bodey (spellings have varied historically), a prospector from New York. In the subsequent years, only a few wily miners persisted at the diggings. A vein worthy of folklore was revealed following an 1875 cave-in at Bunker Hill Mine, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Bold prospectors and corporate mining operations poured into Bodie with the same fervor that fueled Virginia City, San Francisco, and other boomtowns of the region.
Virtually overnight, Bodie grew from a small mining camp to a notoriously unruly town rife with saloons, brothels, opium and violence. By its 1880 heyday, nearly 10,000 residents made the wild west town their home.
While there were early mining successes, the abundance and richness of the ore were largely inflated. By the turn of the century the boom had run its course, and by 1913, Bodie’s most successful mining company, The Standard, had also crapped out.
Fires and the ravages of time have destroyed all but 10 percent of the town’s structures. What remains of Bodie was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and buildings now stand in a state of arrested decay, just as the day their inhabitants left.
Visit the Bodie Foundation for information on special events including a monthly photographers day where sunrise access is granted.
Park hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 15 through October 31 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 1 through April 14.
The last 3 miles of SR 270 are unpaved and quite rough, though passable in a car at low speeds. Check for winter road closures before departure as Bodie receives significant snowfall.