Broken down buildings, closed-off mines and tumbleweed are often all that’s left of old mining towns. Some of these deserted camps across America, however, have found new life, offering visitors a glimpse at what life was once like in the Wild West. Watch reenactments, eat at old time saloons, and step into the past at one of these eight ghost towns.
As one of the more developed ghost towns on the list, Bodie, is also one of the most popular—both then and now. The mines were so plentiful, producing an estimated 34 million dollars worth of gold, that the town saw rapid growth; Bodie went from a population of 20 to 10,000 in just 20 years.
Along with a population that size, came prostitutes, gunslingers, drinkers and gamblers, and according to Bodie.com: "The mixture of money, gold and alcohol would often prove fatal."
The Vegas-like history makes this a true Wild West ghost town.
Calico Ghost Town
Dubbed "California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town" by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Calico was once home to more than 500 mines and produced more than 20 million dollars in silver. Like most mining towns, Calico’s heyday was short, lasting only 12 years.
Get the full experience at Calico Days, held every year at the end of September, with events like the Miner’s Triathlon and a Burro Race.
Garnet Ghost Town
Named for the ruby-colored stone found in the surrounding area, Garnet boomed in the late 1890s but the excitement didn’t last long. By 1905, many of the mines were abandoned, in 1912 a fire burned many commercial buildings and by 1940 Garnet was deserted. Now it’s Montana’s most well-preserved ghost town.
Bannack drew people in for its gold, but even after gold became scarce, a small population remained to further develop mining techniques. The town held strong for more than 60 years and it took another 20 years for the population to dwindle. Now, as a state park and national historic landmark Bannack still draws a large crowd.
Be sure to visit during Bannack Days on the third weekend in July.
The discovery of copper in the Sierra Madres drew hundreds of hopeful miners to the area in the late 1800s. But the short, less-than-20-year-run of mining is just a small part of the history in this region, which attracted hunters long before and is now known for its livestock.
Check the calendar of events before planning your trip. Don’t miss the Woodchoppers Jamboree, movie night or Living History Day. Catch a performance at the 100-year old Grand Encampment Opera Hall, too.
Like many mining towns, the discovery of gold is what attracted most of Deadwood’s inhabitants. And it didn’t take long before notable outlaws and gamblers like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok came chasing it. Though it was once on the verge of becoming a true ghost town, Deadwood is now a hub for gaming in the West.
In addition to seeing Deadwood’s everyday attractions, including museums, theaters and historic houses, check out some of the annual events including Deadweird, the Days of ’76 rodeo, and Kool Deadwood Nites.
Although this mining town had a short run—the true mining boom lasted just five years—it survives today as a popular family destination, thanks to Robert Schoose, a ghost town enthusiast. Among the many activities to try, take a 25-minute mine tour and learn how to pan for gold.
Check out the Goldfield Ghost Riders at the annual Ben Johnson Days event in November.
South Park City
Learn what life was like in the late 1800s in this once-thriving gold town. Discover old-time remedies at the Drugstore, or watch the town come to life on "Living History Day," the second Saturday of every August.
Michelle Valenti is the senior editor at ReserveAmerica.com. When she's not at work, you can find her climbing rocks, riding trails, and setting up camp in fun outdoor locations around the U.S. Follow her on Google+.