California’s Calico Ghost Town! Revisit The Wild West And Calico’s Abandoned Silver Mines!

Welcome To California’s Legendary Ghost Town!

If you’ve been following me yo know that I love ghost towns! There are so many scattered around the American West, but there is one just 90 minutes from Los Angeles!

Time to go for a drive into our past!

The fastest way to Calico from Los Angeles is the 15 freeway, but I went a quieter route: highway 14 out of LA then onto the 58 – a much more serene drive – even with those threatening low clouds!

You also drive past an airplane graveyard….dozens of planes grounded due to the pandemic, parked out in the desert where the weather is good…

It’s impossible to miss the entrance off the highway, as signs point you part of the way until this old miner greets you:

Calico has been around since 1881 – it was an active mining town because of silver in the hills…but was abandoned in the mid-1890s after silver lost its value.

What reminds is a fun, abandoned mining town that you can wander through and see lots of signs of its past.

As you can see, the town has a lot of their abandoned equipment still there – giving it a cool retro vibe…and that includes these remains of an original stone building:

Speaking of history, here’s a bit of just that about Calico, California:


In 1881, John McBryde and Lowery Silver discovered silver ore in the dusty mountains near Wall Street Canyon. Calcium borate (borax) was found shortly after. More than 500 mines were soon in operation, producing the biggest silver load in California history. The mines had pithy names like the Bismark, the Burning Moscow, and the Waterloo. Soon, the new settlement of Calico in Wall Street Canyon sprang up, filled with young adventurers from places as disparate as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and China.

And of course, the reason that Calico even exists – the silver mines!

The $$$ “Glory Hole!”

Yes, an inquisitive schooled in 1882 led to a town that was soon swarming with miners – all seeking their own “glory hole!”

Five thousand men swarmed up the canyons and gulches from their stone huts each morning to grab with picks and blast with powder for rich silver ore.

Imagine waking up in this:

According to legend, the gaudy colors in the mineral-stained mountains above the town reminded someone of a piece of calico. So that’s what they named the place…

I walked to the top of the hill and here’s what I found:


By the 1890s, silver lost much of its value as more mines were discovered, and by the mid-1930s, only four residents were left in Calico…no real need for a jail any longer…

In the 1950s, the town had an unlikely savior – it was reinvented by Walter Knott, the man who created the wild west-themed amusement park in Southern Calfornia known as Knotts Berry Farm.

Knott restored all but the five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880’s. Calico received State Historical Landmark 782 and in 2005 was proclaimed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.

I have shared some other unique ghost towns in the west, including one that just won an Oscar!

The Oscar-winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress winning “Nomadland” was filmed partly in “Empire” and abandoned Wild West town as well:

This mining town closed up for good, but they used the abounded town for some scenes from the movie…click here to see how they did it!

And if you really want to see some cool ghost towns in the wild Wild West, how about Pioneertown?

Alex and I explored here as well – then ate a great burger at a place with my name!

Click here for more history and exploration of abandoned ghost towns:

Welcome To Tombstone!

Yes, this is the REAL town of Tombstone – where the “Gunfight At The OK Corral” took place!

Click here to see the town up close and a reenactment of the actual OK Corral gunfight!

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Leave a comment and if you like this story, feel free to share on social media – and let me know if you’ve seen a real Wild West ghost town up close!



Categories: Art, Exotic Travel, Memoirs, nature, Pop Culture, Real Estate, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir

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17 replies

  1. What an interesting place! I love the ghost town and this would definitely be worth a stop in a US adventure (maybe if lockdown ever ends!)
    Great photos too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife and I just got back from Helena, Montana, yesterday after a visit to see our son. Since we spent most of our time with him and his girlfriend, we didn’t get much time to explore. We did have one day to drive around the surrounding areas. I know there are several ghost towns in the area that I will get back to in future visits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea that this is the former Knotts Berry Farm. I was there in my 20’s and have loved ghost towns ever since. Thanks for the great trip. I enjoyed passing by the graveyard for planes. The Navy and Air Force share a similar graveyard, affectionately called the bone yard, in Tucson, Arizona.

    Like

  4. I really want to visit a ghost town and after reading your post, now more than ever!

    Like

  5. What a fascinating place!! Thanks for these photos!!

    Like

  6. I think an empty town like this is rather creepy, John. Very interesting, but still creepy. It brings to mind West World for me.

    Like

  7. I too love ghost towns. There are a few in Canada as well. I always like to think of the people who once lived there. I’m sure there are many stories to tell.

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  8. Because we don’t have ghost towns here, I would love to visit some. I prefer the look of the ‘real’ ghost towns to the ones like Old Tombstone which are set up for tourism.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This looks so cool! I love ghost towns!

    Like

  10. Have you had a chance to visit the ghost town in Bodie CA? Went there two years ago and it was cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that! I have looked it up but it’s a bit more of a drive for me so I wanted to wait until fall when it won’t be so hot on the drive there!

      Like

      • If you plan your route out and travel up Rt 395 you can stop by this place too. Very cool place. Manzanar is the site of one of ten American concentration camps, where more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II from March 1942 to November 1945. It is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California’s Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, approximately 230 miles (370 km) north of Los Angeles.

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      • Thanks so much for this…I will put this on my list…I think a historically significant location like this would be worth seeing…I realize was a horrible stain on our history it is, but perhaps by people knowing more about it, we can avoid things like this going forward…thanks again!

        Like

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