Calico: From Mining Center to Ghost Town

California is home to a myriad of ghost towns, but one just north of Barstow is a favorite in Southern California. With a museum, railway, gold panning activities, and even cabin rentals, Calico Ghost Town, a former mining center, is known as a regional tourist destination today.

Founded in 1881, its boomtown days saw production reach $86 million in silver and $45 million in borax. Calico's population peaked at 1,200 before fading away in the early 1900s, according to San Bernardino County officials, who in 2002 pitched the state to designate Calico as official ghost town of California over its rival, Bodie.

It ended up as a compromise -- or as California Senator Debra Bowen called it, the "Great Ghost Town Compromise of 2002" -- in 2005 with Bodie taking the moniker of official gold rush ghost town and Calico becoming the official state silver rush ghost town.

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Calico Ghost Town I Photo by Bebe Kropko

For many Southern Californians, Calico was a day trip attraction since 1951 when Walter Knott purchased the town. He restored the remaining fragile buildings, then replicated the environs next to his popular fried chicken restaurant in Orange County. In 1966, Knott gave San Bernardino County the deed to Calico, and that recreated mining town in Buena Park grew to became Knott's Berry Farm.

Today, the town is an escape for families those who wanted to get away from the city or suburbs, to take in the desert with little risk.

Calico Ghost Town, State Historical Landmark 782, sits on a portion of a 480-acre San Bernardino County Regional Park and holds events and festivals -- the annual Civil War re-enactment on President's Day weekend and a Mother's Day weekend full of music and cowboy poetry, to name a few -- throughout the year.

Getting There

Calico Ghost Town
36600 Ghost Town Road
Yermo, California
Interstate 15 at Ghost Town Road Exit
Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Christmas Day)

Photography by Bebe Kropko

"Desert Love" by The Bandana Splits is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (aka Music Sharing) License.

Edited by Ed Fuentes

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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