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  • Most fascinating ghost towns in the Wild West

    western ghost townI’m sure that all of us has had a phase in our childhoods when we where head over heals in love with western movies, cowboys and duels between the good guys and the bad guys. Western movies don’t seem to be as popular nowadays as during the first half f the 20th century.

    Italian spaghetti westerns were in vogue in the 60’s and 70’s, but now there seem to be a painful lack of new, fresh westerns. But if you miss the feel of a good western replete with saloons, sheriffs and bank-robbers, here’s what you can do: visit a real life ghost town. With a little bit of imagination, you will feel transported back to the 19th century.

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    Cerro Gordo, California

    ghost town californiaCerro Gordo is one of the most well-preserved western ghost towns you can find anywhere. The silver mine that was going to be the lifeblood of Cerro Gordo was discovered in 1865 by Mexican prospectors, and shortly after it was bought by an engineer from Virginia City. The town prospered for a good while, but it was finally abandoned in the 1950’s.

    Cerro Gordo is located in the Inyo Mountains, east of Sierra Nevada, and it is easily accessible by car. It is possible for visitors to sleep in the town (in the restored buildings) with prior reservation.

    Saint Elmo, Colorado

    St ElmoSt. Elmo is located in Chaffee County, Colorado, just west of Buena Vista. Technically, it isn’t a western town (mid-western, more likely), but it is so well preserved and it looks so much like the towns of western movies, that you can disregard the lack of sand tumbleweeds.

    There are 24 buildings in St Elmo, all of them built around 1880’s. You’ll find a saloon, a mercantile store, a jail and houses. There’s a general store which is open May through October, where you can find sunflower seeds for the hoards of friendly chipmunks who populate the Chipmunk Crossing.

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    Cochise, Arizona

    Cochise is the typical western town, but it is not completely dead, seeing as it still has a couple of residents who own the Cochise Hotel. The buildings of Cochise are well preserved but not restored, which gives them an authentic feel. The hotel, for example, is furnished with antiques from the 1880’s, dating back to the town’s settlement.

    As opposed to other ghost towns which survived on mining, Cochise was a fuel and water stop for trains circulating on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

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    Gold Point, Nevada

    ghost townGold Point, like the name says, used to be a prosperous town formed around a rich gold mine. The town was firs settled by ranchers in the 1880’s, but gold miners came only at the beginning of the 20th century, when gold was discovered in the nearby Goldfield.

    About 50 buildings are standing in Gold Point, and the town has been described as a history lesson. The most interesting buildings are Senator Harry Wiley’s home, the post office turned into a museum, and also the surrounding 16 mining camp. If you’re lucky, you might even see wild horses drinking water in one of the many watering holes nearby.

    Bodie, California

    Located in Mono County, just east of Sierra Nevada, Bodie was a bustling town in its heyday. More people are walking about this ghost town nowadays then when it was still alive, considering that about 200.000 tourists come here every year. Bodie was quite large by western town standards, and it had two banks, several daily newspapers, a miner’s union, and it even had a red-light district and a Chinatown.

    Brawls, shootouts and murders were common occurrences in Bodie. In a sense, Bodie can be considered the epitome of the western ghost town. Even if it can be sometimes crowded with tourists, it is definitely worth a visit.

    Santa Claus, Arizona

    Santa Claus ghost town

    Santa Claus ©Todd Huffman/Flickr

    The tiny Santa Claus in Arizona is not your every day ghost town. Most of these abandoned settlements were formed next to coal or gold mines or maybe the railroad, but Santa Claus was an artificially founded Christmas themed business initiative. Founded in the 1930s it has holiday themed restaurants, inns and pretty much everything.

    Kids could meet Santa Claus any time of the year and could enjoy a whole town dedicated to them. Its postmarks and post office also became popular among kids and families alike as you could get a letter from the white bearded man himself. But the business fell and the ghost town is for sale since 1983. You can see a super creepy old pink children’s train and the vandalized and abandoned buildings. It is a pretty nice detour if you are in the area.

    Calico, California

    A more classic addition to our list is Calico, CA, a former silver mining town that had lives its best days in the 1880s, but was completely abandoned by 1907 due to the decline of the price of silver. It was taken over and partially renovated by the famous Knott’s Berry Farm park so now has got some kitschy additions as well.

    Still, if you want some old school ghost town charm, you can visit one of the mines or take a look around the old scoolhouse or post office. You can still find them in their ghostly, spiderwebish state.

    So which wild west ghost town is first on your must visit list? Let us know if there is one really cool that we have not added to the list yet.

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    SpookyGirl TgAvatar
    SpookyGirl wrote on April 1, 2014:

    Do you know of any worthy ghost towns in the Northwest? The ones from the article are all from Southwest and too far away from me… :)

    erato wrote on April 2, 2014:

    The state of Washington has got quite a lot of nice ghost towns, like:
    Chesaw in Okanogan County
    Hot Springs in King County
    Wellington King County
    Elberton in Whitman County
    There are quite a lot in the region thanks to the population moving effects of the Pacific Railroad Company, the gold rush and the different mining companies.

     
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