Driving thru highway U.S. 395, many will ignore the sign pointing them to a one of a kind town. Its name is Randsburg and is better known as a ghost town. Technically, is a semi-ghost (new term I just learned) cluster of old buildings. The 2010 census revealed a population of 69. I don’t know about you but that number make it really difficult to determine who is real and who is ectoplasmic.
In the late 1800s, the barren mountains (located in the Western Mojave Desert) surrounding the town didn’t have a name. During that time, many towns located in the California deserts were booming because of the much remembered gold fever. The Randsburg area was prospected a little but passed up for more interesting discoveries. All that changed in the early 1890s. Gold was found at one of the mountains and a mining camp was quickly set up.
The mine was called Rand and the city Rand Camp. Later, the name was changed to Randsburg. The mountains around the city were name Rand Mountains.
It is interesting to notice that the name Rand comes from a gold mining region in South Africa. There is a town called Johannesburg a few miles away. This area has nothing to do with the idea I have about South Africa (hopefully, the country is not that bleak).
The gold business made the area boom for some years. The town grew and more gold mines started to dot the landscape. When the gold fever started to calm down, silver and tungsten were discovered in the surrounding hills. This gave the town an extra shot
of optimism. But all good things come to an end. Once the resources were exhausted, the area became abandoned and desolated. The remaining residents survive doing a little bit of mining and tourism.
Today, Randsburg stands with the usual look it has wear for more than a century. Things have not changed a lot around here. Houses and businesses stand next to a mountain. They don’t follow any specific pattern. It is just a bunch of buildings here and there. There are no traffic lights, gas stations or big stores. It is a simple and quiet town that has survived the beating of the hot desert sun.
The town can be drived in less than 10 minutes. It is best to take a walk around it to pay attention to details (don’t do this on summer). Some people also stop to rest from their motorcycle or dirt bike trips.
Preferably, walk around the “main” street. Pay a visit to the museum (opened during the weekends), general store, saloons and antique stores (public restrooms are located around this street too). Close to the town entrance, the old jail house stands. Additionally, there are lots of mining related artifacts scattered around town. What I found most interesting is that houses are decorated with rusty shovels, rakes, trowels and carts. This confirms how Randsburg is a 100% mining town.
This is the first time I visit a ghost town (well, this road trip was full of a lot first times). It was a fantastical introduction of what to expect in abandoned towns. For me, it is all about the history found in every corner. What a great way to learn about the old times!! I didn’t get the chilling feeling you are supposed to get in a ghost town.
Have you visited a ghost town? Let me know in the comments section below.