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Wild West Ghost Towns: 25 Images Of Forgotten Places In The Desert

They are called ghost towns for only one reason, no money. If money is there, and other resources required for human survival like water, contemporary communities will develop. In the 19th century, during the gold rush, towns developed in the west around the gold mines. A ghost town is a term used to describe towns that failed to stand the test of time and died off the same time the gold mines stopped producing gold. Some of them were abandoned en masse, while in others people left gradually until no one was left.

There are also some of these ghost towns that were abandoned after a natural disaster like floods and earthquake. No one bothered to come back and rebuild after the gold mines were destroyed.

The world is full of ghost towns, but the Wild West ghost towns of America have a different taste. Thousands of people visit these towns every day. Each of them has a special feature. With some having only a door frame of a house left standing, while in others you find a single ancient car parked in the middle of nowhere.

Here are 25 Wild West forgotten ghost towns that you can still safely visit. Of course, if you don't mind a few spooks here and there.

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25 Ballarat Ghost Town

Via trover.com

Located at the foot of Mount Panamint, Ballarat served as a supply, as well a recreational center for Panamint and Death Valley between 1897 and 1917. You cannot imagine any lonely and empty place in the old west than this old town. The weather is extreme in Ballarat, with summer temperatures rising as high as 120°c, and winter going as low as below freezing point. It is a beautiful place to visit, from the rugged and steep Panamint to the Argus Range to the west.

24 Calico Ghost Town

Via videoblocks.com

Prospectors flocked in Calico back in 1800 in pursuit of its mineral wealth. After silver was discovered in the area, Calico became one of the fastest growing, and wealthiest districts in the state. One year later, business was booming. The town would produce silver and borax worth millions of dollars. Its population had grown to over 1200 people. In 1890, silver dropped to 63 cents, from $1.31, and that was the beginning of the end of Calico. It officially became a ghost of its glorious town in 1907.

23 Rhyolite Ghost Town

Via intoourelement.com

This is one of the towns that had a very short glory of at most seven years. Located on your way to Death Valley, the town enjoyed a brief boom and subsequent bust between 1900 and 1907, thanks to the discovery of gold mines in the area. Charles M. Schwab invested in the town's infrastructure, and soon the town had water and power supply, and also a railroad. After the earthquake of 1906, and the financial panic year of 1907, Rhyolite died off and became a ghost. That was after the local miners left in pursuit of greener pastures.

22 Bodie Ghost Town

Via tribupedia.com

Bodie was founded in 1859 by W.S Body, who discovered the deposits of gold at nearby hills. This Wild West town was a big one; at its peak, it had up to 10,000 people. The activities that kept the town booming started to decline in the early 20th century, and by 1940 all the glory was gone. The mining was officially shut down. In the modern days, Bodie is a State Historic Park, with more or less 100 abandoned houses.

21 Cahawba Ghost Town

Via pinimg.com

Also spelled as Cahaba, Cahawba was the first permanent capital in Alabama, which became a flood hazard. It is found at the conflux of two huge rivers. It lost its glory of being a capital in 1826, before becoming a distribution point for cotton, and a prison site for state soldiers. That continued for a short period, and after the civil war, Cahawba became a center for freed slaves. Floods continued to wreak havoc in the town, and by the early 20th century, Cahawba began its journey to becoming Alabama's best-known ghost town.

20 Garlock Ghost Town

Via scvhistory.com

This town was founded by Eugene Garlock at the fall of 1895 when he introduced an 8-stamp milling machine. The mill was the very first one in the town and was later joined, and swamped by many other mills around the area. All the mills were steam driven, except the first one of Eugene Garlock. Before becoming a ghost town, Garlock had grown to have a constable, a school, a couple of bars, a laundry shop, two hotels, and a dentist’s and a doctor’s office.

19 Pioneertown Ghost Town

Via wikimedia.org

Pioneertown was born in 1946 as a result of Hollywood movie stars building a permanent Wild West set in the desert. Among the stars who came to this high desert to stay included the cowboy stars led by Roy Rogers. After buying 13 acres of dry land, they built a complete set with a false facade Old West Mane Street, Pioneertown served as a filming location for over 50 movies and TV series. Currently, the ghost town is experiencing a young in flux, driving the old folks out of the town.

18 Animas Forks

Via coloradopast.com

Animas Forks is located high on the Colorado Rockies 11,200 feet above seas level, 12 miles northeast of Silverton mining outpost. It is indeed a ghost town; extremely remote, and hard to reach. You must be a real ghost town purist to make it here. It's also well preserved. The first prospectors set up shops in the 1870s, which was followed by a host of other social amenities including saloons, offices and boarding houses. The town was fully decamped in the 1920s and has since remained abandoned.

17 Nelson Ghost Town

Via wikimedia.org

Imagine in one hour you’re enjoying the pretty view of Las Vegas, and in the other hour, you're in the middle of nowhere. In 45 minutes, to be precise, you'll have arrived in the Nelson Ghost town. It is located at the ending of a winding road and beautified by a lot of cacti. The town was discovered in 1775 by Spanish settlers who first name Eldorado. It is quite peaceful as a ghost town, unlike the lawlessness and unending violence during its glory days. You can tour the mines, or troll the ruins.

16 Amboy Ghost Town

Via amazingplacesfinder.com

This ghost town that is commonly referred to as “not dead yet” is located at Santa Fe railroad in between Arizona's Kingman, and California's Barstow towns. It was founded in the days of locomotives, although nowadays the train doesn't stop. Amboy has been used as filming locations in a few Hollywood movies, with the stars accessing the place on private choppers. You can drive to Amboy on the once famous route 66. The completion of the interstate highway made Route 66 obsolete, and this was the main reason Amboy town died.

15 South Pass City Ghost Town

Via westernmininghistory.com

South Pass City is among the most frequented Old West ghost town, thanks to the massive number of hikers who stop here to take a rest. The town was founded in 1867 during a huge gold rush in Carissa mines. It followed a familiar trend by boomtowns that were on the rise in the 19th century. It rose really quickly and cracked real soon. And it was no more. A series of minor booms that followed later were not strong enough to revive its lost glory.

14 Goldstone Ghost Town

Via cdn.com

Gold was discovered in this town in the early 1880s. However, it was until 1915 that Goldstone became a boomtown. Gold was found in Redfield mines that rose from $1,600 to $3,000 per ton. The gold town became a magnet, and soon it started flocking with people, with a daily mail delivery and a lodging house. A town housing 150 men already. Today the town has transformed to more of a site than a ghost town. It is now a deep space network for NASA, with just a few foundations, and rubble scattered here and there.

13 Thurmond, West Virginia

Via pinimg.com

This town is a quick reminder of when America ran on coal. It thrived as a boomtown in the Appalachian region and was the greatest town along the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway line. Local bank accounts started to overflow thanks to the area coal fields that brought in more revenue than any other area along the railway. In the early 20th century, the town had grown to two banks, a movie theater, and other essential amenities. Thurmond fell when diesel replaced coal was, and it soon became a ghost town.

12 Ibex Ghost Town

Via coloradopast.com

Ibex Ghost Town came up as a result of copper and silver discovery in the area. Frank Denning and Stanley Miller made the findings in 1881 at Ibex springs. The two young miners named this place the Ibex, a name attributed to mountain goats found in Europe. Located at the southeastern end of the Death Valley national park, Ibex Ghost Town is not easily seen by an average visitor. And it is one of the ghost towns you should visit before it dies forever.

11 Gold Point

Via goldpointghosttown.com

Gold Point was once a booming silver mining camp. The town had 125 homes, pretty good number of bars, a post office, and a bakery. In the modern days, a ghost enthusiast Herb Robbins has, after purchasing this ancient place, refurbished it to one of the best travel destinations in the west. There are some restored mine cabins used as night lodgings, old saloons decorated with western artifacts, and also hiking opportunities in the nearby mining ruins.

10 St. Elmo

Via wikimedia.org

Located in the Sawatch Range deep in Colorado, St. Elmo is said to be one of the oldest gold rush ghost towns that are well preserved by the Centennial State. The town looks so much of a special-effect location created for a movie, all the way from the lonely gravel road that leads here, to the town itself. Most of the area residents left with the train’s last stop in St. Elmo in 1920, and they never looked back.

9 Daggett

Via kcet.org

The Daggett town, now a ghost town was founded in the 1960s, 15 years before Waterman filed a claim of silver discovery 6 miles to the north on the mountains of Calico, also called the town of Calico. The town came to life after the silver discovery and the construction of the Mojave Daggett railway in 1882. It was called Calico Junction and later renamed to Daggett in 1883 to avoid confusion between the Town of Calico and Calico Junction. The town began to fall when mining operations shifted to Lila C in Death Valley after borax was discovered there.

8 Vulture Mine

Via lindaandrews.wordpress.com

 

Vulture mine is said is to have been the best yielding gold mine in the state of Arizona. Located at the outskirts of Wickenburg, Vulture mine produced millions of dollars in gold between 1863, and 1942. It closed down in 1942, transforming the once a famous gold town into a ghost town. Now the ghost town has been converted to travel destination by a private investor, and it is open on Saturdays, at a fee.

7 Courtland, Gleeson, and Pearce

Via pinimg.com

Just a quick drive along a dirt road from the well preserved Arizona’s tombstone, winding through the southeastern desert of Arizona, you’ll come across these three real-abandoned ghost towns of Courtland, Gleeson, and Pearce. The crumbling remnants of once very successful mining spots from the 19th century constitute to Arizona’s trail of ghost towns. Each of them varies with their degree of ghostly, with Courtland being the most desolate. The other two are a little welcoming and are all registered with the National Register of Historic Places.

6 Ruby

Via bp.blogspot.com

If having ghost towns in your state is an achievement, then Arizona needs an award. Ruby is highly regarded as one the most preserved ghost town in the state of Arizona. It is also said to be among the fastest growing towns of its era. It is located in the Coronado National Forest, 70 miles southeast of Tucson near the Mexican border. This town is known for the string of double homicides of the 1920s, which reportedly led to the most extensive manhunt in southwest history. Ruby ceased to exist in 1941 after years of success. In the modern days, you can visit ruby at designated visiting hours at a fee.

5 Bannack

Via myitchytravelfeet.com

Bannack is the only ghost town believed to have real ghosts residing in it. Paranormal researchers and living history enthusiasts are quite common in this place. Bannack town is regarded as the most preserved ghost town in the state of Montana – a National Historic Site. While the town suffered a lot of cold-blooded murders and robberies, the residents had not realized that their beloved town sheriff, Henry Plummer orchestrated the criminal activities in the area.

4 Virginia City

Via ytimg.com

Virginia City is a real ghost town, although you can't tell at first sight. Apart from lurking behind in time, the city serves as one of the best places to find well-preserved mining camps. It became a boomtown following the gold rush era, with reports showing that the Virginia City gold mines produced gold worth $30 million in the first three years. The city began to decline when Plummer bandits started terrorizing the miners, robbing them of anything of value they had. Virginia City began to crumble immediately it began to rise, and 25,000 residents reduced to less than 1,000.

3 Belmont

Via pinimg.com

Unlike Nelson Ghost town, Belmont is a little too far from Las Vegas, but it is worth the drive. It is located north of Tonopah. (pah is a Paiute word meaning water). Belmont rose to glory so fast due to the mining sites in the area, but, just like many other mining towns, it was abandoned years later when the mines lost their treasures. And that’s how it ended up in this list. There’s an iconic brick house used as a court built in 1876, but there are still other ruined structures you can see when you visit.

2 Lincoln

Via pinimg.com

This town has trail o communities who discovered it before it settled to the name Lincoln. It was first founded by Spanish settlers who loved the lush valley of Rio Bonito. They named the place La Placita in 1849. Lincoln County was created in 1869, and the town changed its name to Lincoln. Economic and political conflict of interests resulted in the Lincoln County war that lasted until 1882. Lincoln city is still home to some community frozen in time, with structures and plaques always looking as they looked hundred years ago.

1 Kelso Ghost Town

Via thosesomedaygoals.com

Kelso was founded in 1905 with the train depot as its significant structure. Several other administrative buildings sprouted up around it. In the 1740s and oil firm, and a borax mining site were opened at nearby locations, marking the beginning of its booming season. At this time, the small desert town housed a maximum of 2000 people. Ten years later the mines closed down, and people left one by one. The last nail on Kelso’s coffin was hit when the train depot closed in 1986.

References: la.curbed.com, digital-desert.com, mentalfloss.com, americancowboy.com, mnn.com, rootsrated.com, gobankingrates.com

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