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Aurora Nevada is a fascinating ex-ghost town with almost nothing too see. How can there be an ex-ghost town? Well, that is the interesting part of Aurora. Once a bustling mining town, home too Mark Twain, then a ghost town, now nothing remains.
Aurora claims Mark Twain as a citizen
The town was founded in 1860 with the discovery of the Esmeralda vein. By 1863 miners had come from all over and the town grown to 10,000 with 760 houses, 20 stores and 22 saloons. Like most western mining towns Aurora claims Mark Twain as a citizen and the location where his writing began. However, his later writings do clearly discuss his time in Aurora working as a miner and then writing a speech for the mayor. His residency is also confirmed through Nevada tax records from the period. The mines at Aurora were shallow and completely mined out quickly. By 1864, 7 of the 17 mills closed and by 1870 the town was mostly deserted.
demand for brick quickly took its toll on Aurora
A little mining continued for the following decades until 1919 when the post office closed. From the 1920’s through the 1960’s Aurora was know as a ‘real’ ghost town secretly hidden behind Bodie. In the 1970’s it became popular in California to build fireplaces from used brick. This demand for brick quickly took its toll on Aurora and the entire city was dismantled over the decade and scattered throughout California homes. Looters and vandals took the rest of the town. Today all the stands are two objects to big to fit in a car. One is a concrete wall from one of Aurora’s buildings and the other is the timbers, mortar, and pulley from a stamp mill.
famous Esmeralda mine
The surrounding hills and ravines also have some remaining evidence of humanity including the cemetery, a few buildings, the Napa mill and famous Esmeralda mine. Dozens of active mine claims surround the old town and extensive modern works scare the landscape northeast of Aurora. It’s fascinating how the entire town has disappeared sparing only the vast cemetery.
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Aurora Ghost Town
One of the true Nevada boomtown greats, Aurora’s gold and silver discoveries beckoned 10,000 people to central Nevada’s western border to grab onto their own piece of the American Dream. While not a whole lot remains in Aurora NV ghost town today, this once-booming gold mining town was once one of the most famous boomtowns in the West, with hundreds of houses, dozens of homes, stores, saloons, newspapers and schools, drawing the attention of failed-prospector-turned-writer Mark Twain himself. Today, Aurora makes for a great day trip when exploring Hawthorne , Walker River State Recreation Area , and nearby Bodie Ghost Town, with an amazing historic cemetery that tightens the lens on its prominent past.
One of the Nevada ghost town greats so legendary it drew the likes of Mark Twain himself, a historic cemetery, old mining ruins and the great backroads that lead to Aurora are must-dos when exploring the Walker River Corridor , nearby Bodie Ghost Town, and the eastern Sierra.
Named after the goddess of the dawn, Aurora town site sprung to life in 1863 when the Wild West Vein was first discovered, back when the region was still the Nevada Territory. Right around this same time, Samuel Clemens traveled to the area to assist his brother Orion Clemens—recruited to be the Secretary of the Nevada Territory. Sam Clemens decided to try his hand at prospecting while his brother helped lead the Nevada Territory to statehood, living and mining within some of the era’s most legendary boomtowns, like Unionville, Virginia City and Aurora. He didn’t last very long in Unionville or Aurora, but after becoming Mark Twain, romanced his adventures in both in his novel Roughing It .
Nestled in the foothills along the California-Nevada border, Aurora and nearby Bodie Ghost Town’s unique eastern Sierra location made it difficult to reach in its early years. Later after the toll road through Sonora Pass connected it to San Francisco, Aurora really boomed because it could more directly receive supplies, and much easier access for people to arrive, too. In its heyday, Aurora cranked out more than $27 million dollars in gold, and was so successful it became the county seat of both Mono County, CA and Esmeralda County, NV. Because of its high desert orientation and grim wintry conditions, Aurora’s population was predominantly made up of men—and at least half of the women who did live in Aurora were prostitutes, with mostly saloons, gambling halls, and brothels lining the streets. Lawlessness was common during the time, but especially ran amuck in Aurora where violence became part of its everyday story.
By 1864—the same year the Nevada Territory officially became a state—most of Aurora’s profits were already reaped. Just a year later almost all of the stamp mills were shut down, with almost all of the homes completely deserted by 1870. As immaculate as Bodie is today, Aurora was even grander, and would still be standing as Bodie is if it weren’t for demolishing Aurora’s buildings for bricks during World War II, then further decimated by vandals in the 1970s.
Exploring Aurora Ghost Town Today
Nearly all of Aurora’s buildings have been knocked down, and while some foundations can be seen, most of what was one of Nevada’s most famous boomtowns has been reclaimed by the high desert. The Borealis Gold Project—a modern day mining venture in the Hawthorne area—has current operations in and around historic Aurora so please be respectful when exploring. Aside from a few foundations here and there, the most important lasting piece of Aurora lies within its historic cemetery. A final resting place for prominent politicians, businessmen, gunslingers, prostitutes, and the hardworking men who made Aurora succeed, visiting Aurora’s historic cemetery is definitely one to add to the list for every Nevada backroader.
Getting There and Info to Know Before You Go
Aurora Ghost Town is located in central Nevada near the California/Nevada border close to Bodie Ghost Town. The closest living town is Hawthorne, which is about an hour east of Aurora, and makes for the best direct access. To find Aurora, depart downtown Hawthorne on State Route 359, then make a right turn onto Lucky Boy Pass. Follow this well maintained dirt road for about 20 miles until you reach Fletcher Stage Stop—part of Walker River State Recreation Area—at a four-way junction. From here, head south, following the road directly into Aurora Ghost Town.
When traveling Nevada backroads, be sure to live by the Dirt Road Code by traveling with 4×4 access and a spare tire. Carry plenty of snacks and water, be sure to let someone know where you’re headed and when you plan to return, and practice Leave No Trace methods whenever possible. That, and there is only one safe way to deal with historic mine sites—stay out, stay alive. From shaky timber, cave-ins, dangerous air quality and old explosives, exploring in and around old mining sites is extremely unsafe. Do not attempt to enter old mine shafts or adits when exploring any Nevada ghost towns.
Aurora Ghost Town is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only thing preventing you from accessing Aurora would be a seasonal, weather-related road closure. For more information on Aurora Ghost Town, and to check road conditions before heading to this historic townsite, get in touch with Visit Mineral County directly at (775) 945-5854.
Modern day mining at the Borealis Gold Project has mostly taken over historic Aurora, though visitors can still see a few intact mining relics and of course one of the coolest historic cemeteries in the state. No admission is required to access non-modern day mining areas, which will be obvious when exploring the area.
Twelve Mile Circle – An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Aurora: A County Seat in Two States. Simultaneously!
Nobody lives in Aurora today although upwards of five thousand people called it home immediately after its founding in 1860. No less a luminary than Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) called Aurora his home for several months during his mining days. It was a vibrant, successful town along the Nevada / California border. Both states claimed Aurora because of the gold and silver reserves just below the surface worth millions of dollars. That’s often the case when valuable natural resources are at stake. Everyone wants it for themselves and most of the time a condominium arrangement simply won’t work.
The border between the two states seemed a little iffy. But how could it possibly happen? Two completely straight lines form the border! One runs north-south from Oregon directly down the 120th meridian to the 39th parallel. The other extends from there, heading in a southeastern direction to a point where the Colorado River intersects the 35th parallel. Easy, right?
Well, not so fast. Surveying techniques were not entirely precise as we’ve noted a number of times on Twelve Mile Circle. It didn’t help that 39°N 120°W happened to fall right in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Also, on the other end, the Colorado River tends to shift from time-to-time. This complicated the measurement of the oblique line in particular. Several different surveys occurred and each one produced a slightly different result.
Consequently, both states claimed the town of Aurora, located along the oblique border ( map ). Perhaps that’s understandable under the circumstances. However, more bizarrely, it became the county seat for Mono County, California and what was then a larger Esmeralda County, Nevada than the present version at the same time! A single courthouse served both purposes.
Aurora held local elections in 1862 to determine representation for both counties and states. The same townspeople could vote in both elections. According to the State of Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs :
“During that year, many Aurora citizens participated in the politics of both counties and both states. Dr. John W. Pugh was elected to the Nevada Territorial Legislature and became the President of the Council (similar to the current State Senate). Timothy N. Machin was Mono County’s choice for the California Assembly, of which he became Speaker. Both elected officials were residents of Aurora.”
A more precise survey the next year placed Aurora about three miles inside of the Nevada Territory in what today is Mineral County. Even so, some California officials continued to conduct government business in Aurora until 1864 when the Mono County seat officially moved to Bridgeport.
California may have gotten the better end of the bargain. While Aurora may have been the second largest town in the Nevada when the border dispute was resolved in 1865 (Virginia City being larger), its heyday lasted only about a decade. It faded away once the gold and silver ran out. The county seat moved to Hawthorne in 1883. So Aurora became a ghost town by the 1920s.
Now it crumbles and rots into the surrounding terrain.
Twelve Mile Circle
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Nevada Traveler: Lost Aurora is little more than a memory
View of the remains of the mining town of Aurora in 1934, before nearly all of its buildings were sold off and salvaged. Today, only a handful of foundations and other ruins remain.
Friday, June 22, 2018
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“Aurora’s gone now, torn down for the bricks not long after the old man and I made our pilgrimage. The buildings are now a row of factory chimneys in California.” –David Toll, “The Compleat Nevada Traveler”
No place deserves to end up like the once-bustling mining town of Aurora. In the 1860s, Aurora was the toast of Nevada and California — who fought over whether which state it was located in — with more than 10,000 residents.
But by the early 20th century, Aurora was a virtual ghost town, most of its inhabitants having moved on to greener pastures and its buildings dismantled and recycled into materials for other uses.
The few remnants of Aurora can be found about 30 miles southwest of Hawthorne via State Route 359, Lucky Boy Pass Road and a dirt road marked for Aurora. The road is rocky, so a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
Gold and silver were first found in the Aurora area in August 1860. Within a short time, hundreds of miners were streaming into the region to get rich.
According to early records, the discovery site was named Aurora, meaning “Goddess of the Dawn,” while the mining district was named “Esmeralda,” in honor of the groves of piñon trees that covered the surrounding hills.
By 1861, the new town had grown to about 2,000 residents. It had tent saloons and restaurants, shops, more than a half dozen stamp mills to process ore and regular stagecoach service from Carson City.
All that development soon attracted the attention of both California and Nevada. In the spring of 1861, California created Mono County and named Aurora as the seat. A few months later, Nevada responded by naming it the seat of Esmeralda County.
The battle over Aurora’s status continued for nearly two years, during which time there were dual county courts and officials. The matter was finally resolved in October 1863, when both states agreed to an impartial state boundary survey. When it was completed, Aurora was found to be four miles inside of Nevada.
Aurora’s fame spread and in April 1862, a young Samuel Clemens arrived in the camp to mine for gold. Clemens stayed in Aurora for several months and during that time did a little prospecting, speculated on mining stock and began sending humorous mining camp letters to Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper, under the pen name, “Josh.”
Impressed by his writing, the Enterprise offered Clemens a job, which he accepted. Once at the Enterprise, he began writing under his more famous pen name, Mark Twain.
Aurora prospered during the next few years. By the middle of 1863, it had grown to a city, with nearly two dozen saloons and stores, two newspapers, a dozen hotels, 16 mills and reached its peak with a population of nearly 10,000 people.
Like many mining towns, however, the wealth was temporary. Rampant mining stock speculation, overbuilding and overly optimistic projections of the area’s mineral reserves had created an artificial boom. By early 1865, the town had started to decline, losing half its population and businesses.
Aurora experienced a second, smaller boom in the late 1870s, but by 1883 had dwindled so much that nearby Hawthorne was able to take away the county seat. The post office closed in 1897.
But Aurora wasn’t finished. Just after the turn of the century, the mines were reopened and the town once again came alive. By 1906, several hundred people had moved back into Aurora, which again had a post office, newspaper and other businesses.
This later boom lasted until about 1919, after which Aurora slipped away for good. In 1946, scavengers leveled the town’s remaining buildings to reuse the weathered bricks for buildings in California.
Today, there isn’t much remaining of Aurora. Wandering the townsite, you can still find a few wooden shacks, cement walls, the remains of an 1897 stamp, foundations, cellars and a couple of stone walls.
The best testimonial to the town’s prominence is found in the large cemetery grounds, located on the hills to the north. There, you can find the impressive final resting place of a Nevada State Senator and a handful of other obviously noteworthy folks.
There are extensive mill foundations adjacent to the town site, overlooking one of the many huge open pits.
Additionally, you can find the picturesque stone and rusted metal remains of an old smelter or kiln in the canyon, alongside the road leading into Aurora. Wooden troughs show where a small creek was diverted to provide water.
Across the road from the smelter ruins, half hidden in the trees, you can also find some beautiful clay cliffs that resemble those found at Cathedral Gorge State Park in eastern Nevada.
Aurora is only 13 miles from the ghost town of Bodie, now a California State Park. You can drive between the two, along the Bodie Creek, but the seasonal road, which parallels a creek, is extremely primitive and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle.
David Toll’s Nevadagram web site (highly recommended!) recounts a visit he made to Aurora in 2006, which you can read at: http://nevadagram.com/nevadagram-60-august-2006-a-visit-to-aurora-nevadas-ghost-city-of-the-dawn-and-the-roop-county-fair/.
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Status: Ghost Town
Elevation: 8,379 Feet (2,554 meters)
Gallery: View 102 Bodie Photos
County: View Mono County Mines
Date Settled: 1861
Current Population: Park staff
Peak Population: ~10,000
Map: View on Google Maps
Bodie was a slow starter as far as gold rush towns go. For years, it was touted as the next place to go to hit it big. Bodie just needed someone to believe in it. The isolated mountainous location didn’t really encourage an influx of gold-seekers when there were more accessible locations to mine.
Waterman S. “Bill” Bodey believed in Bodie. He was the pioneer miner who first found gold in the high peaks east of the future town. Bill Bodey was working a placer claim he established in July 1859. In November of that year he froze to death in a snowstorm. The storm blocked the trail to Bodey’s cabin and he may have gotten lost trying to find his way back.
His name lives on in the name given to the new mining district in the locale a few years later. The story goes that a sign painter in nearby Aurora, Nevada, misspelled the name as “Bodie” and it stuck.
Quartz deposits containing gold and silver were located at Bodie beginning around September 1860. The Bodie Mining District was established in June 1861 and a stamp mill was built. Although rich placers were noted, a lack of water was a problem, especially during the freezing winter months. At this time, Bodie was still a small mining camp, with about 20 resident miners.
Mono County was established in April 1861 with the county seat at the young town of Aurora . There was a slight problem, though. Once the line between California and Nevada was surveyed, Aurora came out on the wrong side of the line, in the new state of Nevada.
Mono County did not believe enough in Bodie to make the mining camp the county seat. The town of Bridgeport, seven miles north of Bodie, was voted by the locals as the new county seat in June 1864. Bridgeport began as a campground for teamsters hauling lumber to the mines at Aurora, Bodie, and other camps.
Progress at the Bodie mines was reported in a letter from Aurora to a San Francisco newspaper in November 1863. The mines at Bodie were taking out the most valuable ore the author had “ever seen on this side of the mountains.”
A survey of Bodie Bluff in 1863 found that the summit was 750 feet from its base, where the miners’ cabins were located. The supervisor of one of the mining companies had built a “fine large shed” over the entrance to the Osceola mine shaft in the fall of 1863, to “protect the workmen from the cold and snow blasts that blow almost incessantly during the winter season.” The shed also served as a locale for sorting the ore.
Rumors were swirling in the summer of 1864 that New Yorkers with a half million dollars to invest in mining were on their way to Bodie. The New Yorkers ended up establishing the Empire Mining Company. For another decade, mining was sporadic and small in scale in Bodie. Reported mismanagement closed the Empire Mill and Mining Company, and it was sold in bankruptcy in 1868. The new owners planned to run the mill more regularly.
The governor of California, a Mr. Blasdel, bought the Home Stake mine and mill at Bodie in 1868. No major strikes in Bodie caused much excitement, though. That began to change by the mid-1870s, with more promising discoveries.
Silas Smith Believed
Silas Smith believed in Bodie. He opened a store there in May 1877, moving the building from his business in Aurora, Nevada. A post office was established by April 1877. In December of that year, the first non-stop stagecoach trip from Carson, Nevada reached Bodie. After February 1878, three stages a day linked Aurora with the growing camp.
A rich strike by the Bodie Mining Company in June 1878 convinced even more folks that Bodie really was the next big thing. Miners and would-be miners flocked to the area and it seemed like everyone finally believed in the promising town. By the end of 1879, Bodie peaked with an estimated population of 10,000.
Silas Smith and four other local men contributed funds to build a racetrack on the flat south of town along Bodie Creek. Gambling on the horse races became a popular pastime for the locals for decades to come.
With the gold rush to Bodie, dozens of businesses followed, hoping to part some of their earnings from the miners on payday. Saloons, dance halls, opium dens, and brothels soon lined the streets. Shootings became a common occurrence in the town.
Bodie Had A Lawless Reputation
Bodie had its share of mischief during the boom years. A tour guide published by California State Parks summarizes the town's lawless early days:
Killings occurred with monotonous regularity, sometimes becoming almost daily events. The fire bell, which tolled the ages of the deceased when they were buried, rang often and long. Robberies, stage holdups and street fights provided variety, and the town's 65 saloons offered many opportunities for relaxation after hard days of work in the mines. The Reverend F. M. Warrington saw it in 1881 as "a sea sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.",
One character caught the country’s attention, known as the “Bad Man of Bodie.” One former resident - Oscar Morgan, son of the Mono County sheriff - claimed in 1939 that the moniker applied to more than one person. Another former local thought the story was fictional.
One fantastic tale of the Bad Man of Bodie has him in a gunfight in the street at two feet apart from his opponent. After being shot in one arm and falling, the opponent is said to have managed to use his knees to hold his gun while firing the fatal shot with his good arm, downing the Bad Man once and for all.
A local legend tells of a little girl who was moving from San Francisco with her family to Bodie. She reportedly wrote in her diary “Goodbye, God, I’m going to Bodie.” This child definitely did not believe in Bodie.
Severe Wood Shortages and Mono Mills
Bodie was a large camp situated at high elevation, and in a barren landscape. Constant wood shortages for both use in the mines and by the citizens plagued the town. These shortages became an insurmountable problem by the early 1880s as mining activity peaked.
During Bodies Boom years, there was an estimated 60 miles of mine tunnels that needed timbering. The Standard Mill alone used 20 cords of fuel wood a day, and all the mines in the area used over 300 cords per day during times of peak production. Add to that the thousands of residents needing wood for cooking, heating, and construction, and Bodie was in need of entire forests worth of wood but no way to get it.
Bodie's insatiable demand for fuel wood and lumber led to the creation of the Bodie and Wood and Lumber Company’s sawmill in Mono Mills. Located around 32 miles south of Bodie near Mono Lake, Mono Mills was linked to Bodie by a narrow gauge railroad by November 1881. Spur lines to connect the mill to timber regions were finished in 1882.
Mono Mills was an isolated community that existed almost entirely to serve Bodies' need for wood. The railroad only connected Bodie to Mono Mills, there were no outside connections to either community.
Mining activity in Bodie had waned by the early decades of the twentieth century and demand for lumber products declined. With the decreased need for lumber, the rail line to Mono Mills was abandoned in 1918. The depot remains standing in Bodie but nothing is left in Mono Mills.
The Bodie boom started to slow during the latter half of the 1880s and the population dwindled from its peak of nearly 10,000. The two newspapers printed in town were consolidated to one, only to be published weekly.
The twenty-stamp Standard mill burned down in October, 1898. While the mill was totally destroyed, the company’s office and cyanide plant were saved; insurance only partly covered the damage. Construction of a new mill commenced immediately and continued through the harsh Bodie winter, and remarkably the mill was back in operation by February of 1899.
Mr. Cain's Town
Perhaps more than anyone who came before him, James Stuart Cain believed in Bodie. Born in 1854, Cain moved to Carson City, Nevada in 1875. He and his wife moved to Bodie, where Cain worked in the lumber, freighting, mining, and banking industries. Cain never gave up on Bodie, always predicting it would see another boom time. He purchased many properties in town and lived until age 84, dying in 1938.
Bodie was possibly the best-preserved town in the West in 1930, but most of its buildings were wooden. A disastrous fire in 1932 destroyed two-thirds of the business district. Most of the holdouts still living in Bodie did not rebuild, and the town was deserted by the late 1930s. For decades, a resident caretaker was the lone occupant.
Bodie State Historic Park
The California Department of Parks has turned the ghost town into the Bodie State Historic Park. The remaining buildings have been kept in a “state of arrested decay” since 1962. The town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Over one hundred buildings still stand in Bodie. The Bodie Mercantile building in the town offers guidebooks for sale. Visitors can roam the town and the cemetery to learn about the former residents and workers.
Many of the buildings still have furniture and belongings inside – peer through the curtains and it looks like the folks just got up and left it all behind one day. The dusty desks in the school house are waiting for a new generation of believers.
The Hise Restaurant
A user contributed two 1930’s photos of a family business in Bodie. The following description was included with the photos.
“I have attached two photos of my great grandparents, Ray and Rose Hise, outside their restaurant which I believe is now known as Sam Leon Bar and Barbershop. I’m not sure who the other well dressed women are in the second photo with my grandmother. These were taken in the mid 1930s. They left in 1937, having lived there nine years."
"She had a thriving restaurant that was burned up in the 1932 fire on Main Street. Starting over, they rented this building that was once the town’s mortuary. The owner leased it to my grandmother to run her restaurant if she fixed it up."
"So they fixed the upstairs and had to put in windows in the front of the building. They put in used windows that don’t match. As you see, it is the same windows in the Sam Leon Bar."
"Thought you might enjoy these two photos of the Hise’s restaurant. Wiley Post and Wallace Berry once ate at her restaurant as she was known to be the best cook and made the best homemade pies.”
Bodie Photo Gallery
Over 100 photos are available in the Bodie, California photo gallery .
It All Started With The Gold Rush
The great California Gold Rush kicked off the entire saga of western mining. Read about it at The California Gold Rush .
"Where to Find Gold in California" looks at the density of modern placer mining claims along with historical gold mining locations and mining district descriptions to determine areas of high gold discovery potential in California. Read more at Where to Find Gold in California .
The Journey is the destination
Aurora Nevada – Mineral County Ghost Town
Aurora, Nevada is a ghost town in Mineral County about twenty eight miles southwest of Hawthorne, near the California border. Aurora is often mentioned as a footnote to larger better preserved town on Bodie , CA located just a few miles away. Like most unprotected ghost towns today the town site is a just a remnant of its past, having lost much through heavy damage from vandals over the years.
The road leading into Aurora was once a 4×4 road and difficult to make it back into Aurora. Often the winter snows and spring rains rutted out the road leading to the town.
Aurora was founded in 1860 by J.M Corey, James N Braley, and E.R Hicks while prospecting south west towards Mono Lake. The “Eureka” moment came when gold and silver quartz was found while searching for water and game. Soon the word was out, and a migration of miners came up from Monoville and several other California towns. Like many boom towns, Auroras population reach about 1,400 by 1861 and just one year later was almost 6,000. Aurora boaster an 8 position stamp mill and the ore was hauled from the town via Wells, Fargo and Company. The town was constructed mainly from brick, as wood is a scare and finite resource in the area.
The Esmeralda Star was the town paper when the town reach is maximum population of 10,000. Life is town was rough and conditions were very harsh. The territories of both California and Nevada tried to lay claim to the newly prized Aurora and in the spring of 1861, Mono County was founded by California, which fixed the seat of the county in the little town of Aurora. Not to be outdown, in November of 1861, Nevada setup the head quarters of Esmeralda County in Aurora. This dual county seat arrangement lasted for two years during which time both California and Nevada maintained two different county and exercised jurisdiction concurrently.
To settle the issue, Nevada and California jointly commissioned a survey to finally settle the issue and established the location of the border. During the elections held in September 1863 Aurora had the distinction of voting in two elections. The Mono County voting was held in the police station and voters could walk over to Armory Hall to vote in the Esmeralda county elections for Nevada. Three weeks after the election, the survey results came in and Aurora was officially 4 miles inside the state of Nevada. The Mono County Officials loaded up their records and assets into Wagons and moved the seat to Bodie, CA some 10 miles to the south west.
1862 found a young Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in town for several months looking the make his fortune. During his stay he worked as a laborer in the stamp mill for $10 a week including board. The young Mr. Clemens quickly gave up mining and sent several lively sketches to the Territorial Enterprise located in Virginia City. Several weeks later Samual Clemens was hired by the Enterprise where he adopted his pen name, and Mark Twain was born.
In 1863 Aurora is pictured as a cluster of huts made of stone, sheltered by canvas or tin roofs, with streets of wooden buildings , and many substantial brick structures near the center of town, and uncountable tents and dugouts in the surrounding hils. About 5,000 persons lived in these makeshift shelters and in the 700 houses, and enjoyed the services provided by the hotels , churches, 20 stores, 22 saloons and 16 quartz mills . National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form – July 30, 1974
As with many gold towns, Aurora life was bright and short. Shallow mines could not support the town of 22 saloons and 20 stores and mismanagement and poor investments doomed the small town. There was virtually no family life in the town. Prostitutes made up over 50% of the female population and by 1870 the gold and silver was gone, and the town soon faltered officially closing the post office in 1897.
A resurgence of Aurora started in 1906 when mining resumed in the area. A post office was again opened to serve several hundred people, and a weekly called the Aurora Borealis was the paper of record. During the revitalization of Aurora, the Aurora Consolidated Mining Co. claimed 1.8 million dollars in gold during World War I. However, in 1919 the post office closed again and the town faded into history. After World War II much of the brick town was demolished to satisfy the demand for the used brick market in 1946.
The site of Aurora is all but gone and consisting of little more than a cross roads, a cemetery and a few foundations.
Aurora Town Summary
Aurora trail map, aurora personalities.
- Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps , Stanley W Paher
- Library of Congress
- National Register of Historic Places
- Nevada Historical Society – Research Library- Nevada Newspaper List
- Aurora’s “Red Light District”
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8 Spookiest Ghost Towns in California
A California ghost town might be the kind you think of, an abandoned mining camp with tumbleweeds blowing down a deserted main street, past a long-disused saloon or general store, toward the old cemetery. You can find those in the Golden State, but there’s more: Abandoned reminders of a grand social experiment, the remains of internment camps, and what’s left of a medicine man’s so-called “health resort.” Some of them may even be spooky, with stories of hauntings and restless spirits.
Know this before you go: Some ghost towns are at high elevations. Others in the desert are hot in the summer, with no shade. They often don’t have water and other amenities. The terrain in a ghost town may be uneven, and you might encounter snakes and other animals. Take sturdy shoes, water, a hat, sunscreen, and snacks. And be sure your vehicle is up to the drive.
If you only see one ghost town in California, Bodie is the one to visit.
Bodie was a gold-mining town the started in 1876. At its peak, more than 10,000 gold-seekers lived there. The wild, wide-open mining town was so wicked that some people thought even God had forsaken it.
Today, Bodie is a pilgrimage site for people who love ghost towns. It has almost 200 structures still standing, kept in a state of "arrested decay." The large site with so many things to see is unparalleled among California ghost towns.
Bodie is also said to be not spooky or haunted but cursed. Legend has it that any visitor who dares to take anything—even a rock—from this Gold Rush ghost town, isolated beyond the eastern Sierra, will be punished. But in fact, the curse was invented by park rangers, who wanted to keep people from stealing things.
Bodie is a California state park, located east of the Sierras, 13 miles east of US Highway 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport at 8,500 feet elevation. The paved section of the road to it takes about 15 minutes to drive. The last three miles of rough dirt road will take you 10 minutes or more to cross. In the winter, the road becomes impassable, except by snowmobile.
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Some people say Cerro Gordo is a better ghost town than Bodie because it's less crowded with sightseers. To offset that, it has far fewer buildings, and it's harder to get to.
Cerro Gordo is privately owned, and the only way to get a look around is to take a guided tour. You can get tour tickets at the Cerro Gordo Mines website . Structures still standing include a hotel, bunkhouse, the 1877 Hoist Works, a private residence, and other buildings. The old general store doubles as a museum.
Cerro Gordo's silver mining history began in 1865, but it was almost as hard to get to then as it is now. Mule-drawn wagons had to haul the ore 275 miles to Los Angeles, an expensive process. Only high-grade ore could make a profit. By 1868, the richest veins played out, silver prices fell, and mining ceased.
Over the next 50 years, the mines produced silver, lead, and zinc. By 1938, Cerro Gordo was abandoned. But today's caretakers say they may have left a few stray spirits behind . Don't worry about it being spooky; they are only seen at night.
It's just outside the boundary of Death Valley National Park at 8,500 feet elevation and eight miles east of Keeler off California Highway 136. The road is steep in places and not for vehicles with low ground clearance.
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Purists might complain that Rhyolite is technically in Nevada, but it's only 10 miles from the state line and well worth a stop if you're touring California ghost towns.
In its heyday, Rhyolite had three train lines, three newspapers, three swimming pools, three hospitals, two undertakers, an opera, and symphony and 53 saloons. It lasted from 1905 through 1910.
The thing that makes Rhyolite unique are its buildings made from permanent materials rather than canvas and wood. Also worth a look is the nearby Goldwell Open Air Museum and its collection of sculptures.
Rhyolite is between Beatty, Nevada, and Death Valley National Park off Nevada Highway 374, which becomes California Highway 190 at the border. It is open to the public with no admission free.
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Calico is one of the easiest California ghost towns to get to, just off Interstate Highway 15 between Barstow and Las Vegas.
Calico's 1881 silver strike was the largest in California history. The price of silver declined in 1896, and by 1904, it was abandoned.
Walter Knott, who also started Knott's Berry Farm , purchased Calico in the 1950s. He restored all but five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. Today, Calico is part-authentic ghost town, part-regional park, and part tourist attraction. Don't turn up your nose and let its overt commercialism keep you from visiting. There's plenty of history if you take the time to look for it.
Gold mining at the Malakoff Diggins near North Bloomfield started in 1851. During the town's heyday, it had nearly 1,500 inhabitants and more than 200 buildings.
By the 1860s, the easy-to-reach gold was depleted. MIners depended on hydraulic mining techniques to get to the gold ore, washing away entire mountains in the process. That was what led to the town’s final demise. When hydraulic mining was declared illegal in 1883, the town went into a slow decline.
Today North Bloomfield is in Malakoff Diggins State Park . You can see the former mining sites and original historic buildings along North Bloomfield Road, including a church, school, barbershop, and fire department.
North Bloomfield is in California’s Gold Country, northeast of Sacramento off California Highway 20 near Grass Valley and Nevada City.
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Allensworth holds a unique place in California history. Founded by former slave Colonel Allen Allensworth in 1908, it was to be a place where African Americans could live and thrive without oppression.
The all-Black town’s success was featured in many national newspaper articles around the turn of the twentieth century. By 1914, it had more than 200 inhabitants. Soon afterward, the town water supply started drying up, and the Great Depression came in the early 1930s.
Public services shut down, and residents moved to the cities to look for work. The Post Office closed in 1931. By 1972, the population was down to 90, and it later dropped to almost zero.
Today, Allensworth is a California state park where you can see then restored buildings, including a library, church, schoolhouse, and hotel.
Allensworth is in the Central Valley, north of Bakersfield and west of California Highway 99.
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In 1944, radio evangelist Curtis Howe Springer got title to a piece of the Mojave Desert as a mining claim. He named it Zzyzx, which he said was the last word in the English language.
Instead of digging for minerals, Springer created a small camp around a palm-lined, natural spring. He bottled the water and sold it to travelers. He also operated a health resort (or so he called it).
In 1976, the U.S. government reclaimed the land. Today, it is home to the Desert Studies Center of the California State University system. You can see the springs and a few abandoned buildings.
Zzyzx is a few miles southeast of Interstate 15 at the Zzyzx exit, near the town of Baker.
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If you think of a ghost town as a place that was busy in the past but is now empty or nearly empty, the former internment camp at Manzanar
More than 10,000 Japanese Americans lived at Manazar from 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945. Unlike the people who flocked to the other ghost towns in this guide, Manzanar's residents were more likely to try to get out (or so some people thought). Military police with submachine guns stood watch in eight guard towers around the perimeter of the camp.
Today, you can learn more about Manzanar's history in the visitor center and visit Block 14, where you will find two reconstructed barracks and a mess hall. You can also take the self-guided loop drive and see the cemetery. Even if Manzanar doesn't have ghosts, it can give you a spooky feeling to think of its former internees.
Manzanar National Historic Site is nine miles north of Lone Pine off US Highway 395. There is no admission charge.
If you loved these ghost towns, you might also want to visit:
- Silver City , near Lake Isabella, which is more like a museum of ghost towns, created from more than 20 historic buildings moved there from mining camps.
- The Lost Horse Mine at Joshua Tree National Park is known for its well-preserved stamp mill.
- For a rare look at the mercury mines that supported California's gold rush, visit New Almaden , near San Jose.
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These Are 10 Of The Most Remote Ghost Towns In The USA To Visit
The United States has plenty of excellent and remote ghost towns, and they are ideal attractions for an adventurous road trip.
Times change, and the many ghost towns dotting the United States are a reflection of that. In the Appalachian mountains, many communities died out as the coal mines were abandoned, while in the West many towns were abandoned after the gold or silver ran out. Other communities were abandoned due to urbanization and other circumstances.
Today there are plenty of ghost towns to discover all over the country. Some of the ghost towns are protected and impressive, while others have largely disappeared, and there is little more than the cemeteries left. Here are the most remarkable ghost towns in the United States that are very remote.
10 Bodie, California: One Of The Best Preserved Ghost Towns In The US
Bodie is one of the most famous ghost towns in the United States and is protected as a state park of California . It is located in the high desert in a remote part of the state right on the state line with Nevada. While many of the buildings have been lost to fires and time, the collection of buildings at Bodie is very impressive, and visitors really feel like they are in the Wild West.
9 Aurora, Nevada: A Town Lost To History
Just over the mountains from Bodie in Nevada is the ghost town of Aurora. Aurora is remarkable as it was once one of the largest towns in Nevada, with a population of around 15,000, and it was visited by Mark Twain. Today, there is little left of the town except for the cemetery. Aurora stands in stark contrast to its well-preserved neighbor, Bodie.
Related: Aurora: One Of Nevada's True Great Ghost Boomtowns (& It's Near Bodie)
8 Bannack, Montana: A Well-Preserved Wild West Town
Head up to Montana, and one of the best ghost towns to explore is the Old West town of Bannack. The buildings are protected and well-maintained. Come during Halloween and see the ghost town once again come alive as the locals dress up in Halloween costumes in the town.
7 Berlin: Where Ichthyosaurs & Ghost Towns Come Together
Remote in the deserts of Nevada is the forgotten ghost town of Berlin, which is among the best ghost towns in the US to visit. Like many old abandoned mining towns, not much is left of the town, although some buildings remain. What is special about this ghost town is that one of its main attractions is the fossils of Ichthyosaurs - ancient marine reptiles from the times of the dinosaurs.
Related: The State Park Where Ghost Town Meets Dinosaur Fossils
6 St Thomas: The Mormon Town Claimed By Lake Mead
St. Thomas was founded as a Mormon ghost town that was initially abandoned as a result of a tax dispute. After it was found, the town was actually in a different state than previously thought. Later, new settlers moved in, but they too were compelled to leave due to the rising waters of Lake Mead after the construction of the Hoover Dam. Today, St. Thomas reemerges when the waters are low .
5 Thurmond: A Coal Mining Ghost Town Of West Virginia
West Virginia is full of old coal mining ghost towns, but what makes Thurmond special is that it is owned by the National Park Service and used as their base for the New Gorge National Park (America's newest national park). Today, visitors and see the old train depot and learn about what the coal mining years of the 1800s were like remote in the Appalachians.
4 Monowi: Population - One
Monowi is famous as a ghost town in Nebraska as it is an incorporated village with a population of one. The sole remaining resident of Monowi is the elderly woman, Elsie Eiler, who keeps the town running by electing herself, paying taxes to the town, issuing herself a liquor license, etc. She continues to operate a bar for anyone who would like to visit.
3 Chaco: See Ancient Great Ancestral Pueblo Houses
When most people think of ghost towns in the United States, they think of European settlements. But the lands of what is now the United States are full of ghost towns from the peoples who went before. One of the best examples is the Great Houses of the Chaco Valley . These were the largest houses in the United States for hundreds of years and remain well-preserved today.
2 Vulture City: Arizona's Eeriest Ghost Town
Vulture City is one of the best ghost towns to explore in the Southwest. It is a privately owned ghost town and a great place to learn about the days of the Wild West of the region. Its story sounds like an Old West novel filled with Apache raids, stagecoach robberies, lawlessness, and more.
Related: Tour Vulture City, Arizona's Eeriest Ghost Town
1 Scull Shoals: A Town Reclaimed By Forests
It can be more interesting when one must hike to visit a ghost town. Unlike the ghost towns of the Western deserts, the ghost towns of the East Coast tend to be reclaimed by forests. Scull Shoals in the state of Georgia is an Appalachian ghost town lost in the forest that hikers need to hike to in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
Graveyard of Dreams: The Story of Aurora and Rhyolite: Aurora, Nevada
Aurora, nevada, horse-drawn hearse used in aurora, nevada, to take citizens to their final resting place, (utah state university, merrill-cazier library, special collections & archives, p0126, 1-03.), “aurora, almost forgotten save by those who neighbor it, though it was once the mining sensation of the west, a municipality of some few thousand inhabitants”.
Now it stands forgotten, but once it was strong and vibrant. Here is the story of Aurora, one of the first big strikes in Nevada.
Three prospectors working east of California near Mono Lake found an interesting-looking quartz when they were out hunting for game in August 1860. Thus began the whirlwind journey of Aurora as the golden child of Esmeralda County. Aurora had an “unusally [ sic ] high concentration of silver present, rivalrying [ sic ] the richest ore of the Comstock Lode.”
Headstone of an Aurora resident with the wife calling for vengeance for her husband
(utah state university, merrill-cazier library, special collections & archives, p0126, 1-04.).
Due to the location of Aurora, both California and Nevada claimed Aurora as their own and dubbed it a county seat of both states. Thus they had double elections for each county until a national surveyor came and determined that Aurora was four miles away from the California line, thus making it the county seat of Esmeralda, Nevada.
Six major mines kept seventeen stamp mills busy crushing the rich ore, and by 1804, the population reached 10,000. These mines led to silver production reaching several million dollars a year during the Civil War.
With such prosperity, the town also faced a significant rise in violence. With violence came the creation of a vigilante committee to help protect the city. After a robbery, the committee caught the robbers and prepared to hang them at dawn. The justice from the next county over sent a telegram telling the town to wait until he could arrive. They sent a telegram back saying they were set to hang four men in half an hour. Through swift, terrifying justice, there were no more issues of violence afterward.
After producing $27,000,000, the mine dried up. A population that had risen to thousands dropped to 500 citizens in 1880. There was a brief revival in 1914 during the First World War, but it died off by 1918. By the census of 1950, the town was empty. What was left of the town was given over to the winds of time, as seen in the following quote, “The triumph of time is nearly complete.”
 W. A. Chalfant, Gold, Guns, & Ghost Towns ( Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1947), 57.
 robert silverberg, ghost towns of the american west (athens, oh: ohio university press, 1968), 153.,  silverberg, ghost towns of the american west , 154. ,  silverberg, ghost towns of the american west , 154.,  silverberg, ghost towns of the american west , 155–156.,  silverberg, ghost towns of the american west , 157.,  silverberg, ghost towns of the american west , 158..
Get to Know a Nevada Ghost Town: Aurora
Nevada’s history is full of mining boom towns with unique stories to tell. Then there’s Aurora, a town so remote that no one knew exactly where it was. The uncertainty resulted in Aurora serving as the county seat for two different counties… in two different states… at the same time.
Get to know this Nevada ghost town: Aurora
The ruggedness it took to survive in Aurora wasn’t for everyone. Mark Twain, briefly lived in the area, making $10 a week working at a stamp mill. Ultimately deciding mining wasn’t for him, Twain left town for Virginia City to try his hand at writing.
As for the mining, Aurora’s ore was mostly been depleted by the end of the 1860s after producing $29 million worth of ore. There were a few attempts to reestablish mining in the area. Discovery of gold in nearby Bodie, California in the 1870s and again during World War I produced some small, but non-sustainable success. By 1920, the town was all but abandoned. Demand for recycled brick during the 1940’s led to the demolition of what parts of the town still stood.
The foundation of where the town used to stand can still be found about 30 miles southwest of Hawthorne, Nevada in present day Mineral County.