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Bodie, California

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Title: Bodie, California  
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Subject: Arrested decay, California Gold Rush, Dog Town, California, Mono–Inyo Craters, Benton, California
Collection: 1876 Establishments in California, 1962 Establishments in California, Boot Hill Cemeteries, California Gold Rush, California Historical Landmarks, California State Historic Parks, Former Settlements in Mono County, California, Ghost Towns in California, Historic Districts in California, Historic Districts on the National Register of Historic Places in California, History Museums in California, History of Mono County, California, History of the Sierra Nevada (U.S.), Mining Communities in California, Mining Museums in California, Museums in Mono County, California, National Historic Landmarks in California, Open-Air Museums in California, Parks in Mono County, California, Populated Places Established in 1876, Protected Areas Established in 1962, Sierra Nevada (U.S.), Symbols of California
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Bodie, California

Ghost town
Skyline of Bodie
Bodie is located in California
Location in California
Country United States
State California
County Mono
Founded 1876
Elevation[1] 8,379 ft (2,554 m)
Population (2015)
 • Total 0
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP code 93517
Area codes 442/760
Website Bodie State Historic Park
Bodie Historic District
Bodie, California, as seen from the hill, looking toward the cemetery
Location California
Nearest city Bridgeport, California
Architectural style Various; Southwestern U.S. frontier-style, late-19th to early-20th century.
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 66000213
CHISL # 341[2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[3]
Designated NHLD July 4, 1961[4]

Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, United States, about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Lake Tahoe. It is located 12 mi (19 km) east-southeast of Bridgeport,[5] at an elevation of 8379 feet (2554 m).[1] As Bodie Historic District, the U.S. Department of the Interior recognizes it as a National Historic Landmark.

Also registered as a California Historical Landmark,[2] the ghost town officially became Bodie State Historic Park in 1962, and receives about 200,000 visitors yearly.[6] Starting in 2012, Bodie is administered by the Bodie Foundation, which uses the tagline Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past.


  • History 1
    • Discovery of gold 1.1
    • Boom 1.2
      • Geography 1.2.1
    • Mining town 1.3
    • Decline 1.4
    • Ghost town and park 1.5
  • Climate 2
  • In fiction 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


Discovery of gold

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.[5][7][8] Bodey perished in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to Monoville (near present-day Mono City, California), never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him.[7] According to area pioneer Judge J. G. McClinton, the district'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".[9][10]

Gold discovered at Bodie coincided with the discovery of silver at nearby Aurora (thought to be in California, later found to be Nevada), and the distant Comstock Lode beneath Virginia City, Nevada. But while these two towns boomed, interest in Bodie remained lackluster. By 1868 only two companies had built stamp mills at Bodie, and both had failed.[7]


Bodie circa 1890

In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people.[7] By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5000–7000 people[11][12] and around 2,000 buildings. One idea maintains that in 1880, Bodie was California's second or third largest city,[13] but the U.S. Census of that year disproves the popular tale.[14] Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.[15]

Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid- to late 1880.[16] The first newspaper, The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County, published its first edition on October 10, 1877. It started out as a weekly, but soon became a thrice-weekly paper.[17] It was also during this time that a telegraph line was built which connected Bodie with Bridgeport and Genoa, Nevada.[17] California and Nevada newspapers predicted Bodie would become the next Comstock Lode.[18] Men from both states were lured to Bodie by the prospect of another bonanza.[19]

Gold bullion from the town's nine stamp mills was shipped to Carson City, Nevada, by way of Aurora, Wellington and Gardnerville. Most shipments were accompanied by armed guards. After the bullion reached Carson City, it was delivered to the mint there, or sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco.


A saloon in Bodie
Inside the gymnasium building – 26 August 2012

As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners' and mechanics' unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.[20]

As with other remote mining towns, Bodie had a popular, though clandestine, red light district on the north end of town. From this is told the unsubstantiated story of Rosa May, a prostitute who, in the style of Florence Nightingale, came to the aid of the town menfolk when a serious epidemic struck the town at the height of its boom. She is credited with giving life-saving care to many, but was buried outside the cemetery fence.[21]

Bodie had a Chinatown, the main street of which ran at a right angle to Bodie's Main Street,[17] with several hundred Chinese residents at one point, and included a Taoist temple. Opium dens were plentiful in this area.[17]

Bodie also had a cemetery on the outskirts of town and a nearby mortuary, which is the only building in the town built of red brick three courses thick, most likely for insulation to keep the air temperature steady during the cold winters and hot summers. The cemetery includes a Miners Union section,[22] and includes a cenotaph to President James A. Garfield.[23] The Bodie Boot Hill was located outside of the official city cemetery.[24][25]

On Main Street stands the Miners Union Hall, which was the meeting place for labor unions and an entertainment center that hosted dances, concerts, plays, and school recitals. It now serves as a museum.

Mining town

The first signs of decline appeared in 1880 and became obvious towards the end of the year. Promising mining booms in Butte, Montana; Tombstone, Arizona; and Utah lured men away from Bodie.[16] The get-rich-quick, single miners who originally came to the town in the 1870s moved on to these other booms, which eventually turned Bodie into a family-oriented community. Two examples of this settling were the construction of the Methodist Church (which currently stands) and the Roman Catholic Church (burned about 1930) that were both constructed in 1882. Despite the population decline, the mines were flourishing, and in 1881 Bodie's ore production was recorded at a high of $3.1 million.[15] Also in 1881, a narrow-gauge railroad was built called the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company, bringing lumber, cordwood, and mine timbers to the mining district from Mono Mills south of Mono Lake.

During the early 1890s, Bodie enjoyed a short revival seen in technological advancements in the mines that continued to support the town. In 1890, the recently invented cyanide process promised to recover gold and silver from discarded mill tailings and from low-grade ore bodies that had been passed over. In 1892, the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant approximately 13 miles (20.9 km) away at Dynamo Pond. The plant developed a maximum of 130 horsepower (97 kW) and 3,530 volts alternating current (AC) to power the company's 20-stamp mill. This pioneering installation marked one of the country's first transmissions of electricity over a long distance.[26]

In 1910, the population was recorded at 698 people, which were predominantly families that decided to stay in Bodie instead of moving on to other prosperous strikes.


The first signs of an official decline occurred in 1912 with the printing of the last Bodie newspaper, The Bodie Miner. In a 1913 book titled California tourist guide and handbook: authentic description of routes of travel and points of interest in California, the authors, Wells and Aubrey Drury, described Bodie as a "mining town, which is the center of a large mineral region" and provided reference to two hotels and a railroad operating there.[28] In 1913, the Standard Consolidated Mine closed. Mining profits in 1914 were at a low of $6,821.[15] James S. Cain was buying up everything from the town lots to the mining claims, and reopened the Standard mill to former employees, which resulted in an over $100,000 profit in 1915.[7] However, this financial growth was not in time to stop the town's decline. In 1917, the Bodie Railway was abandoned and its iron tracks were scrapped. The last mine closed in 1942, due to War Production Board order L-208, shutting down all nonessential gold mines in the United States. Mining never resumed.[7][8][29]

The first label of Bodie as a "ghost town" was in 1915.[30] In a time when auto travel was on a rise, many were adventuring into Bodie via automobiles. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article in 1919 to dispute the "ghost town" label.[31] By 1920, Bodie's population was recorded by the US Federal Census at a total of 120 people. Despite the decline, Bodie had permanent residents through most of the 20th century, even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932. A post office operated at Bodie from 1877 to 1942.[5]

Ghost town and park

In the 1940s, the threat of vandalism faced the ghost town. The Cain family, who owned much of the land the town is situated upon, hired caretakers to protect and to maintain the town's structures.[32] Martin Gianettoni, one of the last three people in Bodie in 1943, was also a caretaker.[33]

Bodie in May 1972

Bodie is now an authentic Wild West ghost town.[6] The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961,[4] and in 1962 it became Bodie State Historic Park. A total of 170 buildings remained.[32] Bodie has been named California's official state gold rush ghost town.[34]

Visitors arrive mainly via SR 270, which runs from US 395 near Bridgeport to the west; the last three miles of it is a dirt road. There is also a road to SR 167 near Mono Lake in the south, but this road is extremely rough with more than 10 miles of dirt track in a bad state of repair. The roads to Bodie are usually closed in winter due to heavy snowfall.

Bodie is a popular destination for organized night photography, emphasizing the eerie nature of the park.

Today, Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Only a small part of the town survived, with about 110 structures still standing, including one of many once operational gold mills. Visitors can walk the deserted streets of a town that once was a bustling area of activity. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods.

The California State Parks' ranger station is located in one of the original homes on Green Street.

In 2009 and again in 2010, Bodie was scheduled to be closed, but the California state legislature was able to work out a budget compromise that enabled the state's Parks Closure Commission to allow it to remain open. As of 2012, the park is still operating, now administered by the Bodie Foundation.[35]


Taken on a stormy day at the Bodie Historic State Park, Bodie, California.
Bodie has many abandoned artifacts, such as this 1937 Chevrolet coupe.

Bodie is a rare example of the dry-summer subarctic climate (Köppen climate classification Dsc), with warm summers and long, snowy winters, and is part of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5.[36] Winds can sweep across the valley at close to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). Nights remain cold even through the summer, often dropping well below freezing. Bodie rivals notorious Barrow, Alaska as the locality in the United States with most nights below freezing;[37] in fact no month has ever been completely frost-free, with the fewest nights below freezing being two in August 1968, which also saw the highest minimum on record of 60 °F (15.6 °C) on August 1;[38] however, on average only two nights per year stay above 50 °F (10 °C), and minima that high have never occurred between September 14 and June 4. The longest frost-free period is a mere thirty days from July 20 to August 18 of 1901, but to illustrate the vast diurnal temperature range, Bodie had as many as 98 consecutive maxima at or above 68 °F (20 °C) between June 9 and September 14 of 2007.

The harsh weather is due to a particular combination of high altitude (8,400 feet or 2,600 metres) and a very exposed plateau, with little in the way of a natural surrounding wall to protect the long, flat piece of land from the elements. Plenty of firewood was needed to keep residents warm through the long winters. Bodie is not located in a forest, so lumber had to be imported from Bridgeport, Benton, Carson City[21] or Mono Mills.[39] The winter of 1878–79 was particularly harsh and claimed the lives of many residents. On average, there are 22.7 days with 80 °F (27 °C)+ highs, 19.6 days where the high fails to rise above freezing, and 35 nights with sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows. The record high temperature of 91 °F (32.8 °C) was set on July 21, 1988, while the record low of −36 °F (−37.8 °C) was set on February 13, 1903, which also saw the lowest maximum temperature of −4 °F (−20.0 °C).

Average annual precipitation is 11.79 inches (299.5 mm), with August on average being the driest month and January the wettest. There are an average of 60 days annually with measurable precipitation. The wettest “rain year” was from July 1968 to June 1969 with 22.18 in (563.4 mm) and the driest was from July 1999 to June 2000 with 6.24 in (158.5 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 7.39 in (187.7 mm) in January 1901, and the most in 24 hours 4.57 in (116.1 mm) on February 12, 1895. Average annual snowfall is 93.2 inches (2.37 m). The snowiest year was 1965 with 269 in (6.83 m). The most snow in one month was 97.1 in (2.47 m) in January 1969.[40]

Climate data for Bodie, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 61
Average high °F (°C) 40.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 22.6
Average low °F (°C) 4.7
Record low °F (°C) −27
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.66
Average snowfall inches (cm) 17.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.1 7.3 6.3 5.7 4.2 4.1 3.4 3.5 2.8 3.5 5.1 7.2 60.2
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 4.9 4.4 5.2 3.1 1.6 0.4 0 0 0.2 1.1 3.1 5.4 29.4
Source: NOAA (1981–2010 normals),[41] Western Regional Climate Center (extremes)[40]

In fiction

  • Bodie was the setting for the young reader's novel Behind the Masks, by Susan Patron.[42]
  • Kathleen Haun's historical novel No Trees for Shade (2013) is set in Bodie in 1880.[43]
  • Key incidents in Chapter One of James Rollins' tenth Sigma Force novel, The Sixth Extinction (2014), span nearby Mono Lake, the secret military testing site neighboring Bodie Park, and the ghost town itself, where terrorists attack a National Park Service Ranger and details unfold about both the area's significance to the rest of the plot.[44][45]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Bodie".  
  2. ^ a b c "Bodie". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  4. ^ a b "Bodie Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  5. ^ a b c Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press.  
  6. ^ a b DeLyser, Dydia (December 1999). "Authenticity on the Ground: Engaging the Past in a California Ghost Town". Annals of the Association of American Geographers (Association of American Geographers) 89 (4): 602.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f Piatt, Michael H. (2003). Bodie: "The Mines Are Looking Well...". North Bay Books.  
  8. ^ a b Quivik, Fredric L. (2003). "Gold and Tailings: The Standard Mill at Bodie, California".  
  9. ^ McClinton, J.G (29 October 1879). "Cold History Condensed". Daily Bodie Standard. 
  10. ^ Loose, Warren (1971). Bodie Bonanza: The True Story of a Flamboyant Past. New York, NY: Exposition Press. pp. 26–8. 
  11. ^ Jimenez, Corri Lyn (2000). "Bodie, California: Understanding the Architecture and Built Environment of a Gold Mining Town". Master's Thesis. University of Oregon. 
  12. ^ Piatt, Michael H. "What the Historic Record Reveals About Bodie's Peak Population". Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  13. ^ "California State Park employment flyer". Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-24. 
  14. ^ "1880 California census" (PDF). 
  15. ^ a b c Chesterman, Charles W.; Chapman, Roger H.; Gray, Clifton H., Jr. (1986). Geology and Ore Deposits of the Bodie Mining District, Mono County, California. Sacramento: California Department of Conservation/Division of Mines and Geology. p. 32. Bulletin 206. 
  16. ^ a b Smith, H.L. (1933). The Bodie Era: The Chronicles of the Last Old Time Mining Camp. Sacramento: California State Library. 
  17. ^ a b c d Cain, Ella M. (1956). "Development of the Mines". The Story of Bodie. San Francisco: Fearon Publishers. pp. 17–8, 24.  
  18. ^ Smith, Grant H. (1943). History of the Comstock Lode, 1850–1920. Reno: University of Nevada. pp. 191–200. 
  19. ^ Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. January 24, 1878. Bodie has taken from us some good men, and that is not good for us 
  20. ^ McGrath, Roger D. (1987). Gunfights, Highwaymen & Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier. University of California Press. 
  21. ^ a b Sprague, M. (2003). Bodie’s gold: tall tales and true history from a California mining town. Reno:  
  22. ^ "Bodie Cemetery, Miners Union Section". Find a Grave. 
  23. ^ James A. Garfield cenotaph at Find a Grave
  24. ^ DeCloedt, Lonnie. "Rosa May". Weekly Pioneer. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  25. ^ "Bodie Boot Hill Cemetery". Find a Grave. 
  26. ^ "Dynamo Pond Project". Bishop Field Office. Bureau of Land Management. 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  27. ^ Moffat, Riley (1996). Population History of Western U.S. Cities and Towns, 1850–1990. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 21.  
  28. ^ Drury, Wells; Aubrey Drury (1913). California tourist guide and handbook: authentic description of routes of travel and points of interest in California. Western guidebook company. p. 279. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  29. ^ Billeb, Emil W. (1968). Mining camp days: Bodie, Aurora, Bridgeport, Hawthorne, Tonopah, Lundy, Masonic, Benton, Thorne, Mono Mills, Mammoth, Sodaville, Goldfield. Berkeley, CA: Howell-North Books.  
  30. ^ Van Loan, Charles (September 21, 1915). "Ghost cities of the West: Bad B-a-d Bodie". Saturday Evening Post 55: 18–9. 
  31. ^ "Bodie Not Dead, Says Camp Representative". San Francisco Chronicle: 6. January 28, 1919. 
  32. ^ a b Finnegan, Lora J. (September 1993). "Bodie: Even a ghost needs friends". Sunset 191 (3): 71. 
  33. ^ Watson, James (2002). Big Bad Bodie. San Francisco: Robert D. Reed. p. 27.  
  34. ^ "California Codes (420-429.8)". California State Legislature. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  35. ^ "Helping to preserve Bodie State Historic Park". Bodie Foundation. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  36. ^ "Bridgeport, CA hardiness zone". Arbor Day Foundation. 
  37. ^ "Coldest Places in United States". Current Results. Retrieved 2014-06-28. 
  38. ^ NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data
  39. ^ Varney, Philip; Drew, John and Susan (2001). Ghost Towns of Northern California: Your Guide to Ghost Towns & Historic Mining Camps. Stillwater, Minnesota: Voyageur Press. p. 135.  
  40. ^ a b "Bodie, California – Climate Summary". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  41. ^ "Station Name: CA BODIE CA ST HISTORIC PARK". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  42. ^  
  43. ^ Haun, Kathleen (2013). No Trees for Shade: Bodie, California, 1880. Aventine Press.  
  44. ^ Rogers, Amy (August 12, 2014). "New release book review: The Sixth Extinction (Sigma Force) by James Rollins". 
  45. ^ (Sigma Force #10)"The Sixth Extinction"Reviews: . Goodreads. 


  • Calloway, R.A. (1979). Bodie State Historic Park: resource management plan, general development plan and environmental impact report. Sacramento: Calif. Dept. of Parks and Recreation.  
  • Jackson, W.T. (1962). Historical material on the mining town of Bodie, California: a critical bibliography. Sacramento: California Division of Beaches and Parks.  
  • Johnson, R.; Johnson, A (1967). The ghost town of Bodie, as reported in the newspapers of the day. Bishop, Calif: Printed and distributed by Chalfant Press for Sierra Media.  
  • McDonald, D. (1988). Bodie, boom town-gold town: the last of California's old-time mining camps. Las Vegas, Nev: Nevada Publications.  
  • Morse, T.I.; Joseph, L. (1990). Photographing Bodie: a photographer's guide to the ghost town of Bodie, California. Santa Barbara, Calif: Global Preservation Projects.  
  • Piatt, Michael H. (2003). Bodie: "The Mines Are Looking Well...". El Sobrante, Calif: North Bay Books.  
  • Retailers Protective Association (1880). Delinquent list of Virginia City, Gold Hill, Carson and Reno Nevada, and Bodie, California.  
  • Wedertz, F.S. (1969). Bodie, 1859–1900. Bishop, Calif: Chalfant Press.  

External links

  • Official Bodie Foundation – A non-profit organization
  • Official Bodie State Historic Park website
  • Bodie area maps and information
  • National Park Service: A History of Chinese Americans in California: Bodie Chinese American Community
  • Learn about and tour Bodie online at
  • Story of Bodie – Stereoscopic Video Project
  • Bodie in 1865 and recent photographs
  • Historical Population Line Graph Image #1
  • Historical Population Line Graph Image #2
  • Bodie Fan Community
  • Warren A. R. Loose Gravesite; Jordan Hydroelectric Powerhouse Victims Cemetery; Masonic Section, Wards Section, and Outcast Section of the Bodie Cemetery at Find a Grave.
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