Monday, 1 July 2013

Mono Lake and Bodie Ghost Town

After three days in Yosemite we headed east over the Sierras to see the ghost town of Bodie. The road out to the east from Yosemite seems to be much quieter than that in from the west and hence is easier driving although it does rise up very high to over 9000 ft.

Tioga Lake

As we have now come to expect, the scenery is magnificent with Lake Tioga looking very blue and large (plus some snow still on the nearby peaks)

Tioga Pass Road

and the road down through the Tioga Pass is a challenge to the brakes of anyone not driving in a low gear.

Mono Lake

Eventually you get to the 365 which has Death Valley to its south and Nevada to it north and a view of Mono Lake appears.

As is usually the case with a large natural feature in the USA, the National Parks Service have a centre on the lake and we signed up for a free tour which will explain its unique ecology. We were the only people who went on the tour that day and therefore we had our own personal guide who enthusiastically answered all of our numerous questions. Tours is one of the things which the National Parks Service does very well and we have never met an unhelpful Ranger.

The Lake is very large – one could say 165 km2 but that does depend on the depth of the lake and this is the issue. In the early 1940s, Los Angeles started to draw water from the rivers which feed the lake and hence the surface started to drop (by over 20 feet). There are no outflows to the lake and so the composition of the water changed and it is now very alkali with a PH factor of 11 (as we found out when we measured it with litmus paper).

PH Level 11

As the water level dropped, Tufa towers appeared

Tufa Tower

Tufa being created by the actions of calcium rich fresh water bubbling up through the lake bed into the carbonate rich lake water creating Calcium Carbonate towers under the surface of the lake - go to the Mono Lake website for more details.


Tufa is very light in weight and in some countries is used in rockeries.


On the surface of the lake are billions of Alkali Flies which provide food for migrating birds

Shrimp Catching

and beneath the lake surface are billions of Brine Shrimps, again with their own unique role in local ecology.


The shrimps are easy to catch and many years ago, formed an essential food for local Indian tribes – apparently one shrimp is worth 10 calories and hence it does not take many shrimps to provide a meal.

Numerous statistics are given about the lake here. It is a great and unusual place to visit.


Bridgeport Court House 

We are staying at an RV camp near Bridgeport which is a perfect example of very small town America. The Court House is an original dating from 1890

BP Shops

and it is easy to see the original buildings behind the facades of some of the shops

BP Classic Sign

and the motel still has the original sign from the 1950s

Rain heading for Bridgeport

Our campsite is near the Bridgeport Reservoir which is rather low due to a poor winter snowfall. A dusk approaches, a rain storm heads in from the east

Sunset over Bridgeport

and the resulting sunset is very atmospheric.

The Ghost Town of Bodie


A few miles down the road is Bodie which once was a large town on the western side of the Sierra Nevada. In 1879 there were 10,000 people living there, all attracted by the prospect of finding Gold.

Bo view towards Post Office

Nowadays, after the gold fields went dry and a number of fires, only about 10% of the town remains and no one lives there apart from a few park rangers during the summer

Bo Desolation

season when large numbers of visitors make their way up the 13 mile road (the last three of which being rough and

Road into Bodie

unpaved) to see the remains of this genuine wild west town.

In its heyday, the town had a lawless reputation. Killings were regular, robberies, stage holdups and street fights were common and there were 65 saloons providing drink and other entertainment. In 1879, upon hearing that she was being taken to Bodie by her parents, a small girl wrote “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”, and in 1881 it was described by a clergyman as “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempest of lust and passion”.

Bo Bent Telegraph

Everything about the town reminded us of the wild west we had seen in films or read about in books or had imagined. Even the telegraph poles are slightly bent and it is easy to imagine a desperado appearing on the horizon and riding down the road into town

Bo Wheaton and Hollis Hotel

to stay at the Wheaton and Hollis hotel (above)

Bo Inside Hotel

which still has the remnants of it trading days

Bo Inside Saloon

behind the very dusty and dirty glass windows.

Bo Cain residence

The remaining houses are in various states of preservation

Bo Lottie Johl House

and in some the insides show the

Bo House Inside 

dust and decay of the years since they were abandoned.

Bo House Inside-1

 Bo House Inside-2 

The remains of a Gold Mine are on the edge of the town

Bo Standard Mill-1

BO Standard Mill

this being known as Standard Mine in 1877 and from which $15 million of Gold was extracted over 25 years.

Bo Remains of Bank

All of the gold was initially stored in the town bank before being shipped out by stagecoach.

Bo Bank Safe

All that remains of the bank is the safe (in the above two pictures).

Bo Boone Store

The town store is is quite good condition

Bo inside Boone Store

and its insides show what it looked like back when it was open.

Bo 1927 Dodge Graham 

For effect, a 1927 Dodge Graham truck is parked outside.

Bo School House

The old school house is one of the few two storey buildings remaining standing.

Bo Inside School House

The inside of the classroom is pretty much as it would have been at the time

Bo School Reading Text    

and we were particularly taken by the reading text on the easel which pupils would have been expected to read.

The Town has an air of desolation about it but going there (and driving the last three miles on a very rough track) provides a unique opportunity to visit a town which feels to be straight out of the wild west.

As we drove out of Bodie on the same unpaved rough road, we had a great view of the mountains we had driven 

Road out of Bodie

over when we left Yosemite a couple of days earlier.

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