Bodie Ghost Town

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An image of the desolate Bodie Ghost Town, with tourists roaming about.

Bodie State Historic Park is a gold-mining ghost town in California. Visitors get to stroll through the lonely streets of a town that once swelled with almost 10,000 residents. Waterman S. Body (William Bodey) found modest quantities of gold in the hills north of Mono Lake and named the town after himself. A mining cave-in in 1875 uncovered pay dirt, leading to the Standard Company’s purchase of the mine in 1877. People came to Bodie because of the major Gold Rush and transformed it from a sleepy little village to a bustling metropolis.

Volcanic eruptions that occurred between 15 and 5.5 million years ago covered the region with lava, lava domes, and stratovolcanoes like Mt. Biedeman and Masonic Mountain, resulting in the majority of the gold found in the Bodie Hills. The Bodie Hills volcanic field is its name, and it is part of the original Cascades arc, created when the Farallon Plate was subducted beneath the North American Plate. During this time period, various hydrothermal systems changed the rock and left mineral deposits containing gold, silver, and mercury. During the California Gold Rush, millions of years later, the Bodie and Aurora mining possibilities were unveiled.

From 3.9 million to 100,000 years ago, a second age of volcanic explosions developed in the Aurora volcanic field. Starting at Locomotive Point, lava erupted, forming cinder cones, domes, and shield volcanoes such as Beauty Peak. Unlike the Bodie volcanic field, the Aurora volcanic field is linked to the western extension of the Basin and Range Province.

Gold prospecting firms have investigated the Bodie Hills for hydrothermally altered rock regions. They are looking for sinter terraces which are old hot springs, pools, and geyser vent mounds that have crystallized into rock. If they detect gold in those rocks, they presume it was brought up by hot water from gold veins below. In the Bodie Hills, there are three mining areas (Masonic, Bodie, and Aurora), as well as nine hydrothermally altered zones. Although the mining regions have been depleted, the alteration zones continue to interest prospectors.

Only a tiny section of the town has been kept in “arrested decline.” The interiors have been left in their original state and are filled with products. The remnants of Bodie, which were designated as a National Historic Site and a Condition Historic Park in 1962, are being conserved in a state of “arrested degradation.” Today, tourists, howling winds, and the occasional ghost visit this once-thriving mining community.

The town of Bodie is deserted. It appears nearly the same now as when the last occupants left almost 50 years ago. There are no commercial facilities at Bodie, such as food or gasoline, in order to maintain the ghost-town feel. Inside the museum, there is a bookshop where one may ask about daily tours.