Photo Essay

A Town Lost in Time – Bodie State Historical Park

August 29, 2017

Peering into the window, an old newspaper lies on the window sill. The faded pattern is still visible on the peeling, water-stained wall paper. Next to the door frame, a battered chair sits covered in decades of dust. Looking at this scene, I couldn’t help but wonder who were the last people to live here. What were they like? What was an ordinary day for them? This fascinating look at a time gone by is just one part of the allure to visiting Bodie State Historical Park.

Bodie Ghost town

A look into the past.

There are many windows for visitors to peek into – the general store, schoolroom, hotel, billiard room, barbershop, and countless homes – while strolling through the remnants of Bodie. What once was a booming gold town, now stands as a historic state park that transports you to another time. It is an utterly fascinating place to explore.

Bodie State Historical Park

The Dolan House, across from the Mill

Bodie’s heyday was short lived from 1879 – 1882. But the town lingered on, despite a string of misfortunes, until the 1940s, when the last residents departed. The residents could only take with them what they could carry. Everything else was left behind.

Bodie Ghost Town

Looking into the hotel

Once you make your way down the short path from the car park, it is up to you where you want to explore first.

As you enter onto Green Street, the Methodist Church is immediately ahead. So that was my first stop. Walking up the stairs, you can take a good look at the interior. I loved the organ on the back wall.

Bodie Historical State Park

Bodie’s Methodist Church

Bodie Ghost Town

Inside the Methodist Church

From there, I quickly realized that visiting the place is not just about looking at the buildings, but examining the facets of everyday life left behind.

Bodie Ghost Town

The old firehouse

But with decades of decay quite evident in many interiors, there was an apocalyptic feel to the place. It’s almost as if everyone abandoned town in a hurry. There are few places that can properly be labeled a ghost town. Bodie is one of them.

Bodie State Park

The decay of time

The town is dominated by the mill located on the hill. It is certainly the largest complex on the site. Here is where the town mined its millions (briefly).

The mill

Though the larger sites were impressive, like the school, for me, it was looking into the homes to glimpse a snapshot of daily life. And you never knew what you would see. Possibly the odd shoe on the floor amongst the rubble. Or a mattress spring, a few ironing boards, magazines, or the odd knick knack.

Bodie Ghost Town

One of the more decayed interiors

And it’s not just in the buildings where you can find tools from the past. The entire park is strewn with odd bits of machinery, milk cans, water buckets, tools, etc. Though you may be tempted to take home an original souvenir, beware the Bodie curse………..for those who take from the town, a string of bad luck follows.

Bodie State Historical Park

To better inspect some of the items left behind, head over to the museum, where there are many objects on display in wonderful condition.

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie’s Museum

I’d been wanting to visit Bodie State Park for several years, and it did not disappoint. I’m looking forward to when I can go again as I am sure I will notice so much more.

Bodie State Historical Park

The Swazey Hotel


South of Bridgeport, CA, Bodie is located at the end of SR 270 off highway US 395. The 13-mile drive makes its way through the western Sierra hills. The last 3 miles are a dirt road. A 4×4 vehicle is not necessary, but you will need to drive slowly. As SR 270 is not always open, be sure to check road conditions before you head out.

Bodie State Park

Amazing scenery on the SR 270 to Bodie

Plan on spending a few hours to see the entire site. The mills are only accessible by tour (separate admission – tickets available at the Visitor’s Center). Restrooms are located by the car park. There is very little shade so hats and sunscreen are recommended. Bottled water is sold at the small gift shop/museum but there are no food services on the premises.

Bodie Historical State Park

Dechambeau Hotel and the Athletic Club

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