Calico Ghost Town Empty Saloon

Calico Ghost Town: Welcome to the Wild Wild West!

Posted on Posted in California, USA
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We’ve all heard of the California Gold Rush of 1849…but what about the Silver Strike? Although he largest silver strike in California couldn’t compare to the Comstock Lode of Nevada, the city of Calico boomed from 1881 to 1896. During it’s heyday, Calico boasted 22 saloons and 1,200 inhabitants. With about 500 mines, Calico was able to produce over $20 million in silver ore within the first 12 years of existence, but slowed to a trickle when the value of silver began to decline in the mid 1890s. Although a few hearty souls stayed around to work the (now) borate mines, Calico slowly and quietly sunk into a “ghost town” status.

 

Calico Ghost Town sign

 

Today, Calico Ghost Town is a popular tourist attraction in the middle of the Mojave Desert of Southern California, and is a part of the San Bernadino County Regional Parks system. Visitors from all over the country and world flock to the ghost town to relive that Wild Wild West we hear so much about, and to imagine what life was like back when life was harder, yet simpler at the same time.

 

Related: An Open Letter to the Lonely Nevada State Highways

 

Now that we’ve got the history of Calico Ghost Town out of the way, let me break it down a little further: there’s so much to do!

 

**Most points of interest are not ADA accessible, due to when Calico Ghost Town was built**

 

The Maggie Mine

The Maggie Mine was a heavily-worked mine in the 1880s and is the only silver mine that is still safe to venture into. Before you enter the mine, you pass through an outer exhibit and gift shop, which provide background history on the mine, it’s workers, and what you’re about to see. There are antique mining artifacts that any museum would love to have, samples of stamp mills, and stunning photographs that can’t be missed! You have to pay a small, nominal fee to enter the mine, but believe me: it’s totally worth it! You can only walk about 1,000 feet into the mine before you have to turn around, but how cool is it to be able to experience what it’s like to work in a mine!

 

Maggie Mine

 

The Maggie Mine is the only mine that is safe to enter. All other mines are extremely dangerous and should not be approached for any reason!

 

The Calico Odessa Railroad

The Calico Odessa Railroad was built in the 1950s and has been in operation ever since. The 8-minute ride takes visitors to see mining sites, abandoned mines and equipment, and helps bring out the inner-child in all of us. The Railroad charges a small, nominal fee, but will get you off your feet, into some shade, and put some creases in your brain.

 

The Calico Odessa Railroad

 

Gold Panning Adventure

Full disclosure: I did not pan for gold on my latest venture to Calico Ghost Town, but I did when my elementary school came, as well as a trip with my mom and siblings a few years after. I can’t describe how excited I was to be able to pan for gold and come away with a few flakes in a little vial. I’m sure they’re not worth much, but I worked for those flakes! Gold panning is hard and takes a lot of patience and endurance. Bless those 49ers! Visitors can pan for gold and come away with their own little vial of Fool’s Gold, or iron pyrite.

 

Chinatown Ruins

During Calico’s heyday, numerous Chinese immigrants lived and worked around town. As was typical of the time, the Chinese lived in their own community and some of the original structures have survived. Many of the Chinese worked as cooks and waiters in the numerous restaurants, in the boarding houses as well as laundry houses. Some of them even owned their own restaurants, which wasn’t too common during those days.

 

Chinatown Ruins

 

Lil’s Saloon

After a hard day of working in the mines, the Calico inhabitants sure knew how to unwind. During it’s heyday, Calico boasted about 22 saloons! While that number might not seem like too many, compare it to the 1,200 inhabitants and you get a saloon for every 54 people. Yowza! Nowadays, only one saloon is open to the public and it doesn’t disappoint: Lil’s Saloon is open for business. Stop and get some grub or a bottle of Sarsaparilla and have a seat at the old poker table. You’ll be in great company with the likes of Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and other varmints hanging on the wall. Better yet, put on your headphones and listen to some good ol’ “saloon music” (read: ragtime)!

 

Lil's Saloon

 

Calico Ghost Town Lookout Point

Step back in time and survey the land like it used to be done. At the top of town, you can scramble to the top of Lookout Point and take in a killer view of the Silver King Mine Ore Chute, just below the big white “CALICO” on King Mountain. Then, turn around and gasp in awe as you comprehend the solidarity the old miners faced, living and working in the middle of a barren wasteland. Beautiful in it’s own right, but dry as a bone and unforgiving. The old Silver King Mine was one of the most productive during it’s time and demonstrates the typical mining technology of the age: gravity.

 

Siver mines

 

Calico lettering on the mountain



Itching to pan for gold, survey the land, and step back in time? Calico Ghost Town is a fun and educational visit that will be worth your while!

 

Calico Ghost Town Stagecoach

 

Calico Ghost Town Main Street and Lookout Point Sign

 

Calico Ghost Town Fire Brigade

 

Calico Ghost Town

 

Calico Ghost Town

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25 thoughts on “Calico Ghost Town: Welcome to the Wild Wild West!

  1. This looks so much like a movie set up. The pictures have a haunted look about them. Wonder how many stories they have. It is really intriguing how a place teeming with people gets abandoned.

  2. This looks like a great experience. I actually love the idea of seeing a ghost town though I have never done it yet. My Mother in Law is named Maggie so it would be fun to get a snap of this mine and send it home to her!

  3. It really looks like a ghost town and must be fun for those who like horror stories. Gold Panning is interesting and I would really mine for Gold flakes though takes lots of endurance and hard work. Nice mining place and you had a true spooky adventure.

  4. Calico Ghost Town looks so very cool, I have always wanted to visit a ghost town in the wild west. It really looks like you have stepped back in time onto a movie set. Climbing/scrambling to the top of the Lookout point looks like fun too and it is a bonus with those views. My bestfriend lives in California so I am definitely going to ask her about this place.

  5. There are so many ghost towns like this in Arizona, too. But this looks like the ones they used in the movies1

  6. I would love to visit a ghost town like this – it actually looks like a movie set! The fact about it having its own China town is fascinating, I had no idea that there were Chinese immigrants in the US that far back! I love the idea of sitting in an old saloon with the music playing (even if it is through headphones!).

  7. Wow this place looks like the westerns I used to see as a child. They also remind me the desert of Almeria, Spain. Did you know that many European Western movies have been shooted in Almeria desert, since they coulndt afford traveling to the US`?

  8. This is so cool! I love the idea of visiting a ghost town and this looks awesome. It’s great that it’s now an attraction people can go to and learn from. It’s so hard to imagine life then!

  9. Oh my I love towns like this one. How cool that you can pan for gold and actually find some. My dad used to pan for gold and also diamonds in Venezuela when I was a kid and he did find a few nuggets and some diamonds that were probably not worth much. But the best part really is the memories of spending time in places like this. I love the saloon, how funny that is has carved in the doors kids welcome, and the sign reads no spitting, no drunkiness and no loose woman. I had a laugh at that one. I will have to make sure to put this one on my list and take my kids with me I think it makes for a great family adventure.

  10. You can’t find a town that is more Wild West than this! I have always wanted to visit a ghost mining town like this. I am not really a history buff but I love learning about the stories of old and abandoned towns. It is so interesting to see how a town rose up to power and wealth and then just disappear after a few years and centuries!

  11. Calico Ghost Town looks like a great place to visit. I love that you can visit the mine, and really feel what it was like to live in those times. I love the sign above the saloon ‘no loose women’! Not sure that would work these days! A fun place to visit, and I love your photos too 🙂

  12. Loved the rugged feel of the place. I can almost imagine a gunfight with this backdrop, he he….
    Just the sheer contrast of the blue sky against the red earth is mindblowing.

  13. Love ghost towns! It definitely looks like one! I would love to vsitit this place and experience the vibe. Thanks for the blog and love the photo’s!

  14. Wow ghost town 😟? Sounds scary to me, but looks like an interesting experience. It’s interesting to know that they pan the gold here.

  15. This looks like such a fantastic way to spend a day. The railroad looks like so much fun. I feel like I would be such a little kid here.

  16. I’ve actually never heard of the Silver Strike, so thanks for the history lesson! Calico despite being a ghost town seems to still hold a lot of charm. I love how they’ve turned everything into an attraction with loads of history incorporated. That’s also an insane lookout point!

  17. Your pictures look like am reading some horror story . Am really scared of such places but you did a great job with those pictures. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

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