Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

March 11, 2016

Ghosts of the West: 5 Western Towns You May Not Know

Filed under: Westerns — Frank Fiore @ 11:55 AM

During the boom years of the Old West it was hard to believe that there would ever be such a thing as ghost towns in America. Yet, today, you can see them dotted across the western frontier. From Bodie through to St. Elmo.


Here are five of the most famous ghost towns of the West.

  1. Bodie, Calif. High in the Sierra Nevada, Bodie’s 100 original buildings are slowly being worn down by wind and weather. Gold was discovered here in 1859, and by 1880, Bodie had more than 10,000 inhabitants, though residents eventually abandoned their homes and stores to chase rumors of more promising mines. Now managed as a state park, visitors can enter for a modest fee and explore the town and cemetery.
  2. Virginia City, Mont. In 1863, Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar chanced upon the largest gold strike in Montana, and hundreds of prospectors descended on the camp. For a short while, raucous Virginia City served as the capital of Montana Territory. (Calamity Jane was even a resident.) Today, there are less than 200 residents, and more than half of the city’s 300 structures were built prior to 1900.
  3. St. Elmo, Colo. Allegedly named after a popular 19th-century novel, St. Elmo is one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns. Founded in 1880 during gold and silver booms, the town had hotels, saloons, a post office, and a railway station during its heyday. Summertime visitors can rent fishing and ATV equipment at the General Store.
  4. Elk Falls, Kans. Self-proclaimed “The World’s Largest Living Ghost Town,” Elk Falls declined in the late 1800s after a neighboring community was named the county seat. Today, Elk Falls is home to approximately 200 year-round residents who take pride in the town’s 40 outhouses, which are decorated and featured in an annual tour held the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Hanging Tree

  1. Vulture Mine, Ariz. The claims at Vulture Mine, on the outskirts of Wickenburg, Ariz., were once the highest yielding in the state, producing millions of dollars in gold between 1863 and 1942, when the mine was shuttered. Now privately owned, the area is open to the public on Saturdays and visitors can pay a fee to visit the mine.

Want more of the West? Then check out my first 5-Star Top 100:




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