Bodie – a Real Wild West Ghost Town

The above image is of the Swazey Hotel.

Bodie is a true wild west ghost town in California and a state historical landmark.  The Bodie Foundation maintains the town in a state of “arrested decay.”  This means that the Foundation does just enough to prevent structures from collapsing or otherwise turning into ruins.

The town was named after its founder, William S. Bodey (the town’s name was intentionally spelled as “B-O-D-I-E” to aid in its pronunciation) and is located along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County.  It’s about 75 miles from Lake Tahoe and about 30 minutes from Mono Lake.  In 1859 Bodey discovered gold and put up a mill.  A boomtown was born. People flocked to Bodie in hopes of striking it rich.  By 1879 about 8500 people called Bodie home and there were more than 2000 buildings.  But just as quickly as it became a boomtown, it declined.  Gold became harder to find and more costly to mine.  The exodus started.  By 1886 the population had dropped to less than 2000.

Despite a brief revival in the late 1890s, the town was rapidly disappearing.  By 1910 only about 700 residents remained.  By 1920 only about 120 remained.  The inhabitants abandoned the town by 1943.  It was now a ghost town.  It became a state historic park in 1962.  Unfortunately, only about 5% of the town’s structures still stand (about 110 buildings).  Products from the era still remain on store shelves, as do the furnishings.  People left in a hurry.

Life must have been miserable for the town’s inhabitants.  Many horrible people frequented the town.  Street fights, robberies and murders were commonplace.  At one point about 65 saloons were in the town, along with a number of brothels and gambling halls.  The miners were a rough lot.  A reverend called Bodie a “sea of sin.”  The place was so notoriously lawless that a little girl from the era is still quoted as saying “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”

At 8379 feet and sitting on an exposed plateau, Bodie has an extremely harsh climate.  Sub-zero temperatures and 100 mile-per-hour winds are not uncommon.  In fact, the average low ranges between 5 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit in December, January and February.

Visitors can spend hours roaming Bodie’s dirt and gravel streets, peering into windows and taking in a real life wild west ghost town.

Old vehicles can be seen at various points within Bodie

A broken down and abandoned vehicle within Bodie.


Boone Store & Warehouse in the Bodie ghost town

Boone Store & Warehouse in the Bodie ghost town.

Leave a Comment

error: Alert: All content is copyright protected. If you are interested in reproducing any content or purchasing images, please contact Doug Oglesby. Thank you.