Bodie Visitor Information
Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills, east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County,
California, United States, and is about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe.
Situated 12 miles east-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 8379 feet,
the town has an historic district. As Bodie Historic District,
the U.S. Department of the Interior recognizes it as a National Historic Landmark.
Since becoming a state historic park in 1962,
the town receives about 200,000 visitors yearly. Summers in Bodie are hot, and in winter,
temperatures often plummet well below zero degrees Fahrenheit and winds can sweep across the
valley at close to 100 miles per hour. Nights remain cold even through the summer,
often dropping to well below freezing. The harsh weather is due to a particular combination
of high altitude and a very exposed plateau, with little in the way of a natural surroundings
wall to protect the long, flat piece of land from the elements.
Residents require plenty of firewood to keep warm through the long winters.
Bodie is not located in a forest, so people import lumber imported from Bridgeport, Benton,
and Mono Mills California and Carson City, Nevada. The winter of 1878–1879 was particularly harsh
and claimed the lives of many residents. The first signs of the decline of the Bodie community
appeared in 1880 and then became obvious towards the end of the year. Promising mining booms in
Butte, Montana; Tombstone, Arizona; and in Utah lured men away from Bodie. The get-rich quick,
single miners who originally came to the town in the 1870s moved on to other gold rushes, which
eventually shaped Bodie into a family-oriented community. Two examples of this settling were the
construction of the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church (which burned around 1930)
that were both constructed in 1882. Despite the population decline, the mines flourished,
and in 1881, ore production in Bodie reached a high of $3.1 million.
In addition, in 1818, the town experienced the construction of a narrow gauge
railroad called the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company, which brought lumber, cordwood and timbers
to the mining district from Mono Mills south of Mono Lake. During the early 1890s, the town
of Bodie enjoyed a short revival by way of technological advancements in the mines.
These advancements supported growth of the town. In 1890, the recently invented cyanide
process promised to recover gold and silver from discarded mill tailings.
In 1893, the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant, located approximately 12.5 miles
away at Green Creek, above Bridgeport, California. The plant developed a maximum of 130 horsepower
(97 kilowatts) and 6,600 volts alternating current (AC) to power the 20-stamp mill.
This pioneering installation is one of the first transmissions of electricity over a long distance
in the country. In 1912, the last edition of Bodie newspaper, The Bodie Miner, went to print.
In a 1913, a 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, at the center of a large mineral region and offered reference to two hotels and a
railroad operating there. In 1913, the Standard Consolidated Mine closed.
James S. Cain bought up everything from the town lots to the mining claims,
and reopened the Standard Mill and hired former employees, which resulted in an over $100,000
profit in 1915. However, this financial growth was unable to prevent the decline of the town.
In 1917, the people abandoned the Bodie Railway and scrapped its iron tracks. The last mine closed in
1942, due to War Production Board order L-208, which shut down all nonessential gold mines in the
United States. Mining never resumed.
People considered Bodie a ghost town starting in 1915. In a time when auto travel was on the rise, many were driving on an adventure to Bodie in their automobiles. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article in 1919 disputing Bodie as a ghost town. By 1920, the U.S. Federal Census recorded the population of Bodie as 120 people. Despite the population 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.