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Back to the Past: Explore America’s Ghost Towns
Whether you’re an avid history buff or are simply curious about what life was like in a different era, a visit to one of America’s many ghost towns will transport you back to another era. As you walk through these now quiet towns, you’ll be able to imagine how they once bustled with those seeking their fortunes through mining and commerce. PLANNING TIP: Before you go, check the town’s hours of operation, as some are only open on a seasonal basis due to weather.
Goldfield Ghost Town | Apache Junction
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Superstition Mountains, the Goldfield Ghost Town dates back to 1893 when high-grade gold ore was found in the area. When the vein of gold ore eventually played out, so did the town, but It began a new life in 1984 when ghost town enthusiast Bob Schoose and his wife Lou Ann purchased the site of the Goldfield Mill and rebuilt the old town. Today, Goldfield Ghost Town is a multi-faceted attraction that offers mine tours, gunfight reenactments, a museum, gold panning, a narrow-gauge railroad and much more. It’s also the site of the Mammoth Steakhouse and Saloon that has a stagecoach from the legendary town of Tombstone on display.
While many of America’s ghost towns are located in the West, this one is located in West Virginia in the heart of the New River Gorge. Thurmond prospered as a stop on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway from the 1870s through the mid-1930s when it served the coal and timber industries. At its peak, the town had two hotels, two banks, restaurants, clothing stores, a jewelry store, movie theater, several dry goods stores and many business offices. The Thurmond Depot was restored as a Visitor Center by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1995, and the NPS has created a self-guided walking tour that includes the depot and the sites of many of the town’s historic landmarks.
Garnet Ghost Town in Granite County
Gold miners and their families flocked to this west central Montana town in the 1890s, and by 1898, around 1,000 people called the town home. Back then, Kelly’s Saloon was a popular gathering place, as was the Miners Union Hall that doubled as the town’s dance hall. More than 30 buildings have been preserved, and the town also has a Visitor’s Center. Excellent hiking is available 10 miles away in the Wales Creek Wilderness Study Area.
Terlingua Ghost Town in Terlingua
Described as being located “just a few exits past the end of the world,” Terlingua’s ghost town includes the ruins of the Chisos Mining Company which was once a quicksilver mercury mining operation, as well as a frontier graveyard that dates back to 1902. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the area. The historic Starlight Theatre, which at one time served as the town’s movie palace, is now a restaurant and saloon, and the town is the home of the Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff. The 2017 event will take place on November 1-4.
St. Elmo Ghost Town
The pursuit of gold and silver is what once brought nearly 2,000 people to St. Elmo. The town is set in the San Isabel National Forest approximately 100 miles west of Colorado Springs and dates back to 1880. At one time, there were over 150 patented mine claims in this area, and St. Elmo served as a hub for supplies arriving via the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad. But the tracks were eventually abandoned in 1922. It is said that St. Elmo’s population rode the last train out of town and never came back. Today, St. Elmo is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Colorado and visitors can walk through town and wander into some of the buildings. The St. Elmo General Store is the site of an antique shop and souvenir store that is open from Mother’s Day weekend into October, depending on weather.