GOODBYE, GOD. I’M GOING TO BODIE
“Goodbye god, I’m going to Bodie” – diary entry of a little girl moving from San Francisco to Bodie
My favorite California destination to come back to again and again, Bodie is an eerie ghost town that once housed 7,000 residents and is now home to a few helpful park rangers and some squirrels. Located 8,000 feet in elevation, near the California / Nevada border, about 75 short American miles (120km) southeast of Lake Tahoe, Bodie is a perfect tie-in to any trip to the more-famous lake. Getting there is half the fun, as you drive south through some canyons and finally veer off onto a hairy 13-mile dirt road into the heart of the high desert landscape.
Bodie thrived in the 1870s, when prospectors predicted it would bring enormous amounts of gold. While the town did produce some gold, production quickly declined. At its peak, Bodie’s main street featured 65 taverns and a thriving red light district. Bodie also had a Chinatown, which contained numerous opium dens and a Taoist temple. But the prosperity would quickly wane. By the 1910s, Bodie had become a ghost town, down to just about 100 residents. By the 1960s, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Today, Bodie is kept in a state of “arrested decay”, meaning that, while the park service does not restore Bodie’s buildings, they also don’t allow them to further deteriorate or fall down. The once-standing 2,000 buildings have now been chipped away to just 170. With imagination, you can still piece the city back together and imagine what it would have looked like in its heyday.
A visit here is essential to any California road trip. The town looks otherworldly from a distance, driving around the bend in the road and seeing it silently spread out in the valley. Also, from up close, a curious visitor can admire the small details such as the now-antique curtains, gas tanks, gravestones, farm equipment and furnishings.
Must drive. Only one road in and out of the park. From Highway 395- 7 miles south of Bridgeport. Take State Route 270 East to Bodie. The road is paved for 10 miles, then unpaved for the final 3 miles to Bodie.
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Nearby Bridgeport (20 miles to the northwest) has a very American assortment of motor inns. The Bodie Victorian Hotel has historic rooms starting at $60. Be sure to make a reservation on weekends.
Nothing available. Bring plenty of water and some picnic foods from Bridgeport. May 15th through October 31st – Bodie is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Summer – 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; In winter or as posted -9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
This is one of the most interesting places in the United States for a photographer. Be sure to stay until sundown, when the shadows creep out and the textures of the old buildings are illuminated.
Hours vary by season. May 15-October 31, 9am-6pm; winter 9am-3pm or as posted. Photo opportunities get better later in the day. Summer gets hot. Winter sees snows which often close the access road. Bodie hours may vary due to weather or season and are posted at all entrances.
Entrance Fee: I remember paying $5 per car. Lately I have read that is is $7 a car.