Visit to Bodie, CA (pop. 0)

Lee Vining, CA

Thirty miles north of Lee Vining is the ghost town of Bodie, known today as Bodie State Historical Park.  Bodie began as a mining camp of little note following the discovery of gold in 1859 by a group of prospectors, including W. S. Bodey.   Bodey died in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip, never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him.   According to local lore the town’s name was changed from “Bodey,” “Body,” and a few other phonetic variations, to “Bodie,” after a painter in the nearby boomtown of Aurora, lettered a sign “Bodie Stables.”

The ghost town of Bodie

Mining in the district progressed at a slow pace until 1875 when a mine collapse revealed a rich body of gold ore.  Bodie was soon transformed from an isolated mining camp comprised of a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown.   By 1879, Bodie had a population of over 7000 people and around 2,000 buildings.   Over the years, Bodie’s mines produced gold valued at nearly $34 million.  The boom years were over quickly as unsuccessful mines began to close.  The population dropped quickly and continued to dwindle into the 1900s.  Mining continued until 1942.  The family of Bodie’s last major landowner hired caretakers to watch over the town and protect it from looters and vandals.  In 1962 California State Parks purchased the town to preserve the historical buildings.

Cain Residence

The kitchen of a residence (looking through a window)

Two major fires and years of decay have destroyed most of the town, but about a hundred buildings remain, many with the contents inside them left intact as if the owner just walked out and left them there.  The town is preserved in a state of “arrested decay.”  This means that building roofs, windows, and foundations are repaired and stabilized, not restored.

The Boone Store and Warehouse

One of two morgues in the town still has new caskets visible through the windows.

The Miners’ Union Hall now houses a small museum and bookstore.  We had never heard of a “Weeping bottle” before and found it to be very interesting.

At the town’s peak 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.  One of the remaining saloons has a pool table visible through the window with the cue sticks still sitting on top.

Up the hill on the edge of town is the remains of the Standard Stamping Mill.  The Standard was the most successful of thirty mining companies operating in the Bodie Mining District.  Heavy iron rods, known as stamps, broke up quartz rock containing gold and silver.  Mercury (and later cyanide) was used to separate the metals from the crushed rock.

Standard Stamping Mill

The Burkham House with an elegant bay window

Apparently people in Bodie were not too concerned with the views from their porches.  The Burkham House pictured above has a nice porch in the front.  The view from that porch is in the photo below.

View of the Standard Stamping Mill from the front porch of the Burkham House

There is no porch on the back but maybe there should have been one.  If there would have been one, the view would be better than the one in the front of the house facing the stamping mill.   The photo below shows the view from the back of the house.  It’s difficult to see in the photo but there are beautiful snow-covered mountains in the distance.

Mountain view from the back of the Burkham House

All that remains of the town bank is the brick safe room with a large safe visible through the lower part of the door.

Remains of the Bodie Bank

Originally a lodging house, the building pictured below became a school after the first school was allegedly burned down by an early day juvenile delinquent.  In 1879-80 the school saw its highest enrollment of 615 students.  It closed in 1942.

The schoolhouse

The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the town.  A group is in the process of identifying unmarked graves and replacing grave markers with wooden markers used in the early years of the town.

The cemetery is still considered active, as the last person was buried there in 2003.  Bobby Bell was born in Bodie in 1914 and lived there most of his life.  He was one of the last residents and helped stabilize some of the buildings in the 1960s and 70s.  His grave marker reads “Hello God, I’ve just arrived here from Bodie.  I am the Last of the Old Time Miners.”

OK, that’s enough history.  Tomorrow the nimble hiker has a little “walk” planned near June Lake.  More on that late . . .

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20 Responses to Visit to Bodie, CA (pop. 0)

  1. Laurel says:

    I’ve heard about Bodie for years but never knew that it was so interesting! Thanks for the great photo tour. It’s almost like the entire town is a museum. So strange that people would just walk away and leave their belongings behind.

  2. We’ve been to Bodie a few times and never cease to be amazed at the “arrested decay” that exists there. The buildings are preserved there like no other place. It truly is a walk thru a different time.

  3. Debbie L says:

    This was so interesting! It lets your imagination really wonder about life back then! The good old days!

  4. Linda Wolfe says:

    Interesting post.

    Linda Wolfe


  5. That is the neatest looking ghost town I’ve ever seen. Thanks for taking me there…we didn’t want to drive all the way out there!

  6. Mary says:

    What a cool place! I would love to go there.

  7. Ingrid says:

    Love those old buildings. If walls could talk!!!

  8. debbiemc14 says:

    I love that place. I only lived a few hours away and loved to take guest there. Such a great area!

  9. Pam says:

    It’s amazing and wonderful to me that it is in such good shape. You might expect to see more broken windows etc.

  10. Joan says:

    Really nice photos! We tried to get to Bodie once but the road was blocked with snow. It’s on our list.

  11. Jeff says:

    Great to see how others enjoy our favorite go-to spots. Eastern Sierra never disappoints, if you are looking for a hike beyond Lundy Lake will not disappoint either, nor does the gas station food at the Whoa Nellie Deli. Looking forward to your next post!

  12. Sandra Silva says:

    It is so nice to read you blog. We have been to Bodie many times and really love the old place.

    Sent from my iPhone


  13. pmbweaver says:

    It is hard to believe that people just up and leave a town and leave so much behind. Oh my gosh, the legs on that pool table are awesome!

    Never heard of a “Weeping bottle” either. Wonder how they catch the tears.

    That is one awful view out the front.

    That schoolhouse doesn’t look like it could hold 600+ students. Bet it got a bit hot in there.

    What a neat place to visit.

  14. Never heard of a weeping bottle either. That sounds like a very unique idea and one that I kind of wish was still part of tradition.

  15. LuAnn says:

    We really enjoyed our time in Bodie. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  16. pam says:

    I’ve seen lots of posts about Bodie but your perspective was different, just goes to show that everyone can take something different away from visiting a place.

    • placestheygo says:

      I’m not sure why our perspective was different. Interesting. We did purchase the booklet that went with the town for a self guided tour and then proceeded to visit all 50 of the places and read about them. Sure made the town come alive.

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