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Seth Landman

New Kid in Town: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eagles

calico california ghost town facts

On June 1, 1972, a new California rock band called the Eagles released their first (self-titled) album. It came out right on the heels of their first single, “Take it Easy,” which hit the airwaves that May. The song clawed its way to number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 that summer. The album itself peaked at number 22 . 

That’s kind of a slow start for a band that would go on to become the second best-selling rock band of all time in the U.S. behind The Beatles. Yup, even though the Eagles have been often reviled and the subject of famous pop cultural jokes — none other than “The Dude” in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 cult comedy masterpiece The Big Lebowski proclaims his hatred for them after a particularly tough night out — the band just kept cranking out incredible songs. So here, on the golden anniversary of their debut, let’s take a moment to celebrate them. 

Surrounded by Stars

Amazingly, the Eagles formed as the backing band for another music superstar: Linda Ronstadt. The original members of the band — Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner — had come to Los Angeles separately as members of other bands trying (and failing) to make it. When they met while backing up Ronstadt, they decided to start a band together. 

After that, the great singer and songwriter Jackson Browne introduced Frey to David Geffen, who had just started his own record label, Asylum. Geffen signed Frey’s new band to a contract and — in a pretty weird L.A. kind of twist — supposedly even paid to get Henley’s and Frey’s teeth fixed . Geffen sent the fledgling band off to Colorado to work on their sound. 

While in Colorado, Geffen invited the famous producer Glyn Johns, who had already produced albums by The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Faces and Joe Cocker, among others, to come hear the band. Hilariously, when Johns saw them perform, he wasn’t impressed. He later remembered , “They were trying to be a rock ’n’ roll band but they couldn’t play it to save their lives.” He went back to see them rehearse and it wasn’t much better, but finally the band played “Take the Devil,” with four of them singing with acoustic guitars around a piano, and Johns saw that there was something pretty great happening. After that, Johns agreed to produce their first album; he even went on to produce two more after that first one.

calico california ghost town facts

The naming of the band ended up being similarly star-studded, depending on who you believe. Since the Eagles are in many ways the archetypical “American” band, their decision to use America’s national bird makes a lot of sense, but that reasoning is not what inspired the name. The most famous story is that the band was doing a photoshoot in the Mojave Desert in California. High on peyote, they saw an eagle flying overhead and felt it was a sign. 

However, there are other possibilities. Former band member Don Felder — who would later be fired from the band and sue them for wrongful termination — claimed that Bernie Leadon came up with the name based on a book he’d read where he learned about the Hopi People’s reverence for the bird. Even better, famous comedian Steve Martin claimed in his excellent memoir Born Standing Up that he came up with the name of the band. This much is definitely true: our inability to know the real truth just adds to the mystique. 

The Most Successful First Five Years Possible

The Eagles’ first two albums — Eagles and Desperado — weren’t huge hits. Eagles ended up peaking at 22 on the Billboard chart, and Desperado only made it to 41. However, the albums contained hit songs that grew in popularity with time. Between the two albums, there were five hit songs: “Take it Easy,” “ Witchy Woman ,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and, of course, “Desperado.” 

It was their third album, On the Border — the final album produced by Glyn Johns — where they started to truly find their audience. The album cracked the Billboard top 20, making it up to 17, and the third single off the album, “Best of My Love,” became their first number 1 single in March of 1975.

Then, things really blew up. For their fourth album, the Eagles released One of These Nights . It went all the way to number 1 and included three top 5 singles: “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take it to the Limit” and “One of These Nights,” which went to number 1 as well. Of the title song, Don Henley later said of its weird combination of country and disco , “We like to call it our ‘satanic country-rock period.’” Jokes about satanic country-rock music aside, the Eagles had clearly found their sound, making use of trends in contemporary pop music, all while keeping their country-rock background intact. 

The record company decided to capitalize, putting out an album of “greatest hits” — even though the band had only been making music for a couple of years. Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) included all their hit singles plus “Desperado,” which was a hit despite not being released as a proper single itself. The album was — and still is — one of the best-selling albums of all time, most recently certified at 38 million copies sold . 

Reflecting on Success

Putting out an absurdly successful greatest hits album before you’ve even been a band for half a decade makes you think about the nature of fame in all kinds of interesting ways, I suppose,  but that didn’t make the Eagles any less successful in subsequent years. Guitarist Joe Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon, and the band released their classic album Hotel California in 1976. Like One of These Nights , it went to number 1. 

The title song is one of those strange rock songs that acquires a great deal of mystique over time. According to Glenn Frey, who wrote the lyrics, the song is meant to evoke the feeling of being in a strange place you don’t totally understand, a feeling Frey said mimics that of The Magus , the 1965 novel by John Fowles. The song moves from one strange image to another — people dancing in a courtyard, people gathering for a feast, and so on — and harnesses vagueness the way so many great songs do. For Frey, that vagueness was intentional: “It means whatever the listener wants it to mean.”

calico california ghost town facts

To me though, Hotel California ’s best track is “New Kid in Town,” J.D. Souther’s song about how fast things change when you’re famous. Souther said that the song came out of their fascination with gunfights, and how in Westerns, “At some point some kid would come riding into town that was much faster than you and he’d say so, and then he’d prove it.” For Henley , the meaning became a metaphor for life and love, like the band was saying “we know we’re red hot right now but we also know that somebody’s going to come along and replace us.”

The Eagles can certainly come off as self-important in interviews, and that probably has something to do with the massive amount of success they had before they’d even really got started. At the same time, it’s a little charming to read these quotes and understand that they knew how fleeting and lucky success is — and how quickly it can disappear.

The Eagles After Hotel California

Maybe it’s inevitable that such early success leads to conflict. The Eagles were like Icarus flying too close to the sun. Whatever it was, after their 1979 album The Long Run , the Eagles toured and ended up releasing a double album of performances from that tour and their tour after Hotel California . While on the road, they started arguing more often, and things blew up after Frey and Felder threatened violence against each other one night during a show in 1980. 

calico california ghost town facts

After that, the Eagles went their separate ways, carving out solo careers to varying degrees of success. They didn’t appear together in public for over a decade, but in 1993, when Travis Tritt recorded “Take it Easy” for an Eagles tribute album, the Eagles appeared together in the video . That reunion led to the Hell Freezes Over tour in 1994, for which the Eagles managed, miraculously, to reunite before hell froze over. 

The band continued touring over the following years, and in 2007 they released their final studio album, Long Road Out of Eden . Like their previous few albums, it went to number 1. It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of the band that they could break up and go nearly 30 years between number 1 studio albums. 

Glenn Frey died in 2016, and Henley said after a tribute to Frey that he thought the band probably wouldn’t perform again . But if there’s a lesson from the history of the Eagles, it’s that time changes things. Now, coming up on the 50th anniversary of their first album’s release, The Eagles are currently on tour , and it’s certainly possible they’ll keep going, and maybe even someday release another album. They’re one of the most successful bands of all time, and their story isn’t over. 


calico california ghost town facts

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Calico, California facts for kids

Calico is a ghost town and former mining town in San Bernardino County, California , United States. Located in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert region of Southern California , it was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, and was later converted into a county park named Calico Ghost Town . Located off Interstate 15, it lies 3 miles (4.8 km) from Barstow and 3 miles from Yermo . Giant letters spelling CALICO are visible, from the highway, on the Calico Peaks behind it. Walter Knott purchased Calico in the 1950s, and architecturally restored all but the five remaining original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. Calico received California Historical Landmark #782, and in 2005 was proclaimed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California's Silver Rush Ghost Town.

Images for kids

Calico Ghost Town, CA (6432318017)

Restoring Calico was one of Walter Knott's efforts to educate the public and honor the pioneers.

Calico ghost town

Entrance to the town

Calico train

Calico & Odessa Railroad

Calico Ghost Town 2004

Calico in the evening

Calico Mining Crew Silver King2

Original mining crew at the Silver King Mine.

Calico Ghost Town 2004 b

The town in 2004

Calico Ghost Town Historical landmark N°782

Historical landmark


Hank's Hotel


Lane's General Store


Maggie Silver Company and mine


Entrance to Silver Queen Mine


Anticline in the Barstow Formation


Warning sign


Assay Office

  • This page was last modified on 27 October 2023, at 13:13. Suggest an edit .

Legends of America

Legends of America

Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., calico, california – revived from a desert grave.

Calico, California 1931

Calico, California 1931

Three miles north of Interstate-15, midway between Barstow and Yermo, California , sits the historic and restored ghost town of Calico, California .

It all began in 1875 when roving prospectors first found silver on the south slope of the Calico Mountains. However, it wasn’t until some five years later that additional ore discoveries worth $400 to $500 per ton brought about a small rush and the filing of many claims.

In the spring of 1881 came the discovery of the Silver King, Calico’s richest mine. Less than a year later, the new settlement supported several businesses on a commercial street flanked by tents and adobe buildings on a narrow mesa between Wall Street Canyon and Odessa Canyon. It took its name from the myriad of colors in the mountains, which are the backdrop for the town.

The weekly Calico Print appeared in October 1882, and a local stamp mill was built to begin working ores.

But in the spring of 1883, many of the local miners left Calico when borax was discovered three miles east at Borate. Later the same year, a fire destroyed much of the camp, but Calico again boomed in 1884 as additional silver discoveries were made. Gaining a population of some 2,500, the town supported two dozen saloons and gambling dives that never closed, as well as more legitimate establishments such as a church, a public school, a dance school, and a literary society, along with dozens of retail businesses.

After 1884 many of the mines consolidated, and late in 1888, the Oro Grande Mining Company erected an even larger stamp mill for $250,000 on the north bank of the Mojave River. Soon it connected the stamp mill, near Daggett , to the Silver King mine by the ten-mile narrow-gauge Calico Railroad.

By the late 1800s, Calico was bustling with prospectors searching for their fortunes, and the Calico Mining District became one of the richest in the state.

Calico, California Entrance

Calico, California Entrance

During its heyday, the district would produce $86 million in silver and $45 million in borax. However, when the price of silver dropped from $1.31 an ounce to 63 cents during the mid-1890s, Calico became a ghost of its former self.  The narrow-gauge Calico railroad was dismantled just after the turn of the century, and the town officially died in 1907 with the end of borax mining in the district.

Around 1917 a cyanide plant was built in Calico, recovering values from the Silver King Mine dumps, and the town was revived. However, by 1935, the town was entirely abandoned and left to Mother Nature’s elements in the Mojave Desert.

Revival and Restoration

In 1950 Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park bought the townsite and began restorations. Its owner, Walter Knott, spent much time in Calico as a boy, as his uncle lived there. He even helped to build a silver mill in Calico at the time of World War I. Knott’s time spent there, no doubt, influenced his decision to buy the town and restore it.

One of the rebuilt attractions is the one-mile short line “Calico & Odessa” railroad which loops through steep canyons and hills past old mines and buildings north of Calico. Though the original townsite has been mostly rebuilt by new and restored buildings, one-third of the town is original, and the remaining newer buildings were carefully reconstructed to recreate the spirit of Calico’s Old West past.

In November 1966, Knott donated Calico to San Bernardino County, and Calico now operates as one of the many San Bernardino County Regional Parks.

Calico Shoot Out

Calico Shoot Out

Though Calico is no longer a crumbling ghost town thanks to Walter Knott, it most definitely gives the visitor a feel of what life might have been like during those old mining days. The false front stores and saloons , towered by the craggy mountains above and overlooking the desert valley below, provide an otherwise unobtainable glimpse into Calico’s rich history.

Today, walking tours are available with Calico historians who examine the life of miners during its heyday. The narrow-gauge railroad operates within the town limits, the hard rock silver mine provides underground exploration, buildings such as the schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and saloons can be explored, as well as a live gold panning operation.

The Calico Townsite is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to dusk, featuring numerous shops, restaurants, and other attractions. In the canyons below the town, a full-service campground, camping cabins, and bunkhouse provide the opportunity for extended stays.

Its reasonable admission price and prices “inside” the town at its restaurants, shops, and additional attractions, make it one of California’s best tourist values.

If Calico’s rich history, meticulous restoration, and gunfights aren’t enough entertainment for you, there’s more!!  Allegedly, this old town is haunted by several lingering spirits.

Ghosts of Calico

John and Lucy Lane, courtesy Bancroft Library, University of California

John and Lucy Lane, courtesy Bancroft Library, University of California

One of the most often sighted spirits is that of Lucy Bell King Lane, a woman who spent nearly seventy years of her life in Calico .

When Lucy was just ten years old, she moved with her parents, two brothers, and a sister to nearby Bismarck, which overlooked the town of Calico. To get to school, Lucy would have to slide down the steep slope in the morning and make the long tiring hike up the hill afterward. When she was 18 years old, she married John Robert Lane, and the two opened a general store that provided not only provisions to the mining population but also cloth, nails, and hardware.

They prospered briefly, but when the silver market began to decline, the couple left Calico in 1899. However, the couple returned in 1916, making their old store their home. Four years later, they moved into the old courthouse and post office building. Her husband John died in 1934, but Lucy would continue to live a long life, staying in the same house until she died in 1967 at the age of 93.

Lane's Store, Calico, California, Kathy Weiser

Lane’s Store, Calico, California, Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Today, their old home has become a museum that exhibits the life the Lanes lived, as well as a collection of mining materials, photographs, and Native American displays from the times before Calico’s silver deposits were discovered.

Though Lucy died four decades ago, she is evidently fond of her old hometown as she is frequently still sighted there. Most often, she has been seen walking between their old store and the home that she lived in until her death. When she is spied, she is described as wearing a long black dress, most likely the very lace one that she was buried in. Her favorite rocking chair has also been said to rock of its own accord, and often pictures are taken off the wall at night, only to be found the next morning in a neat pile on the floor. At Lane’s old store, clerks have often heard unexplainable noises and catch movement out of the corners of their eyes, which they also attribute to Lucy. The Lane house was the longest-occupied original structure in Calico.

But, favorite resident Lucy Lane is not the only phantom that lurks in Calico. At that very same schoolhouse sitting atop the hill in Calico, some people have reported seeing a little girl about 11 or 12 years, most often smiling through a window. Sometimes she even leans out and waves at passers-by.

Others have allegedly seen phantom school teachers and another small child who has been known to grab people’s legs or pinch their ankles. Some visitors have also reported seeing a floating red light inside the school.

Maggie Mine, Calico, California

Maggie Mine, Calico, California

But the most incredible story is one of two British tourists who reported having a long visit with a staff person in period costume, who explained to them that she was the “last teacher’ in Calico. As they were ready to leave, they had pictures taken with the self-proclaimed teacher. The last schoolmistress in Calico was Margaret Olivier, who passed away in 1932 and is buried in the Calico Cemetery. When the couple returned home and got their pictures developed, they were amazed to see that the “staff member” didn’t appear in the photographs. Later, they found that there had been no staff members working at the schoolhouse during their visit.

Though the hills surrounding Calico once held dozens of mines, and the many pits and ruins continue to attest to this, Calico features the Maggie Mine, which once produced some $13 million in silver ore, and now its tunnels can be explored by visitors. In the 1,000 feet of tunnels that are open to the public, it should come as no surprise that many believe that spirits lurk within the mine’s depths.

Several visitors have reported extreme cold spots throughout the mine and feelings of “one’s hair standing up” in various places, but most particularly where two miners known as the Mulcahey Brothers made their home in the mine. Though portions of the mine are blocked off behind grates, macabre mannequins add to the spooky feeling in the mine.

Hank's Hotel, Calico, California. Kathy Weiser

Hank’s Hotel, Calico, California. Kathy Alexander

Near the Maggie’s Mine is Hank’s Hotel, which once belonged to an angry old cowboy whose spirit allegedly once punched a man in the leg who was standing on his fence. But more commonly, people have reported something tugging on their wrists, hands, and clothing along the boardwalk in front of the hotel. These antics, however, are not generally blamed on the angry cowboy but rather on a 4-5-year-old child who has been seen roaming the boardwalk and the surrounding area.

Also said to haunt Calico’s boardwalks on Main Street is that of its last marshal, Tumbleweed Harris. Several visitors have described seeing a big man with a white beard which fits the description of the man who kept the peace in Calico for seven years.

At the Calico Corral, some people have often heard the voices of crowds and celebrations coming from the barn that once hosted regular Saturday night dances.  At Lil’s Saloon, one of Calico’s original buildings, sounds of an old-style piano and rowdy crowds have been heard when no one was in the building. Employees have also often reported hearing the jingle of spurs and other noises that can’t be explained.

Another spectral lady in a long white dress has frequently been seen walking near the outskirts of the ghost town and at the building that once housed the town theater, which is now the R&D Fossils & Minerals Shop, another female ghost named Esmeralda, has allegedly has taken up residence.

Dorsey, the mail dog

Dorsey, the mail dog

And finally, Calico had another famous resident – that of Dorsey, the “mail carrying dog.” Dorsey was found in 1883 by Postmaster Jim Stacy when the hungry and footsore black and white shepherd was lying on his porch. Stacy quickly adopted him, and Dorsey became his faithful friend. In addition to his postmaster duties, Stacy was interested in a mine in nearby Bismarck.

On one occasion, when Stacy needed to get an urgent message to his partner at the mine, he tied a note to Dorsey’s neck and sent him up there. Before long, Dorsey returned with a reply. Dorsey was soon carrying messages back and forth to the mine frequently when Stacy had the idea to make the dog a regular mail carrier. Soon, the dog was carrying all the mail from Calico to Bismarck, bearing his load in little pouches strapped to his back. For three years, Dorsey covered the mail route between the two camps and became so valuable that Stacy was offered $500 for the dog, to which Stacy replied: “I’d rather sell a grandson.”

Dorsey’s legend was revived in a 1972 album entitled “ The Ballad of Calico ” by Kenny Rogers. The song was called “ Dorsey, the Mail Carrying Dog .” And, of course, in haunted Calico, he has been revived in another way – the “spectral dog.” On several occasions, Dorsey has been seen as a shadow-like apparition at the cemetery and near the Print Shop that stands near the original location of the post office.

Unless you sit on Hank’s fence, it appears that none of the ghosts in Calico are malevolent, so don’t let them stop you from visiting this great old ghost town .

©Kathy Alexander, Legends of America , updated Augustt 2022.

Contact Information:

Calico California Ghost Town 36600 Ghost Town Rd PO Box 638 Yermo, California 92398

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California Through My Lens

Calico Ghost Town: Old Mining Town Turned into Tourist Attraction in Yermo

On the long desert drive to Las Vegas, one of the most exciting places you can stop is the famous mining town known as Calico Ghost Town. This town is a unique representation of the history of California mining, and it is a great place to explore with the whole family. While it is more geared to younger kids, it is still worth visiting as there is a ton to see and photograph. Here is all the information, and let me know what you think in the comments.

calico california ghost town facts

  • Open 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Adults –  $8, Youth (6-15) – $5, Children (Under 5) – Free
  • Attractions cost more like the mine and the train ride
  • Here is the map of the town
  • From my visits in 2015 and 2021

Here is the history directly from their site :

Calico   is an Old West mining town that has been around since  1881 during the most significant silver strike in California.  With its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over 12 years.  When silver lost its value in the mid-1890s, Calico lost its population.  The miners packed up, loaded their mules, and moved away, abandoning the town that once gave them a good living.  It became a “ghost town.”  

Calico Ghost Town 10

Walter Knott purchased Calico in the 1950s, architecturally restoring all but the five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s.  Calico received State Historical Landmark 782 and in 2005, was proclaimed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town. 

  The Town

calico california ghost town facts

The town is pretty massive, and my favorite part about it is the mountain behind that shows the city’s name. It is excellent for framing pictures of the old buildings. The town is an excellent representation of what life in the time period was like, but it also has a lot of modern additions; I mean, there is even Starbucks in one of the old buildings.

Calico Ghost Town 23

You can go inside some of the old buildings as well and they have antiques in them, like in the fire station photo below.

calico california ghost town facts

Here are some of my favorite spots.

Bottle House

Calico Ghost Town 11

I am not sure what the history of this house is, but it is made entirely of bottles and is an excellent place to take pictures. The house now caters to people with dogs by selling pet supplies, but that doesn’t make the outside any less epic.

calico california ghost town facts

Update 2021: It doesn’t seem to be a pet store anymore but I am not sure what it is as it was not open when I went.

Maggie’s Mine

My favorite place in the whole town is the old mine building connected to a mine you can actually explore. This attraction cost $3.50 when I went but it was worth it to walk through the mine.

Calico Ghost Town 7

Walking through the mine is a great way to experience the way miners worked. They had mannequins showing how people slept and worked in the mine. They also had a sign that showed the “glory hole,” where they pulled out $65,000 worth of silver.

Calico Ghost Town 6

I am claustrophobic but never felt scared in the mine. It is well kept up, lit, and ventilated, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

calico california ghost town facts

When you exit, you are at the base of the scenic view.

Scenic View

calico california ghost town facts

At the back of the town is a short little hill you can walk up, giving you a great view of the town below. This area can also be accessed from where the mine exit is as well. If it is hot, make sure you know there is no shade here, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great view.

calico california ghost town facts

There is also a view down towards the mining area from above here as well.

School House

Calico Ghost Town 27

My favorite place in the town for photography is the old historic schoolhouse. This site is nestled under the mountain that has the Calico sign on it, making it a great place to take pictures.

calico california ghost town facts

There are plenty more places to explore in the town, such as the general store, sweet shop, barbershop, and gold panning area if you are interested in experiencing more. Calico Ghost Town is a great place to go at least once; let me know what your favorite spot is in the comments.

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Home > Road Trip Itineraries > West Coast > California Road Trip Itineraries > Southern California Road Trip > Calico Ghost Town: A Place for Those Who Love the Old West!

Calico Ghost Town California

Calico Ghost Town: A Place for Those Who Love the Old West!

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If you’re a fan of stories of the Wild West, you won’t be able to resist the temptation to visit at least one of America’s ghost towns. These towns in the Old West  still retain their old, dusty western charm. In California , there are multiple ghost towns (we have already talked about Bodie , one of the best-preserved towns), and today we talk about Calico , also known as Calico Ghost Town , a mining town near Barstow .

Calico is a perfect intermediate stop for those traveling from Los Angeles to La Vegas . The town was founded in March 1881 and grew rapidly thanks to deposits of silver, borax, and gold. At one point, there were 1200 inhabitants, 500 mines, and 22 saloons, but its decline was just as fast. Calico became a ghost town in 1907, when borax deposits were discovered in nearby Death Valley .

Things to Do in Calico and Attractions

Entertainment in calico ghost town, calico: tickets, hours, location.

things to do in Calico

In Calico, you will also find a replica of the old school that has been rebuilt on the original site, as well as what is left of the homes of Chinese immigrants. During the week classes are reenacted in the school, while on Sundays you can enjoy the sermon of the preacher. Finally, don’t miss the train ride , which will take you to see the old mines up close.

Calico California events

  • Hours : Open every day
  • Reservations : Not required
  • Entrance fee : $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-15, free for children 5 and under
  • Length of the visit : An hour or two may be sufficient
  • Best time to visit Calico : You can go any time of year, although in the summer it gets hot. During the week some attractions may be closed.
  • Location: Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, CA, just east of Barstow. Exit I-15 on Ghost Town Road.

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

lorenzo puliti

lorenzo puliti

I am fascinated by the wonders of the world I never tire of going in search of them.

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Why Calico Ghost Town Is Full Of Spooks That Are Worth Seeing

Calico Ghost Town is a pleasant stop full of mining history and abandoned structures for city dwellers wishing to escape to the desert.

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Calico: from thriving mining settlement to a deserted ghost town, attractions in calico and things to do in the area, how to get to calico ghost town.

Calico Ghost Town, a legendary mining town on the long Mojave Desert road to Las Vegas, is one of the most intriguing destinations one may see along the way. Calico attracts many visitors thanks to its unique portrayal of California's mining history.

Although it is neither authentic nor incredibly evocative, as only approximately four buildings are practically untouched from the mining era, the town offers a variety of things to do and see. Full of spooks, it is worth a visit for fans of stories set in the Wild West, as it still retains its old, dusty western appeal despite catering primarily to younger children.

Like hundreds of other forgotten mining communities in the Wild West, Calico saw a period of rapid growth, a brief boom, and a rapid decline when the silver and borax mines became less economical.

After the value of silver plummeted in the mid-1890s, the mining town, which had existed since 1881, was abandoned.

However, at its peak, Calico's 500 mines produced over $20 million in silver ore over 12 years. A large portion of Calico's inhabitants left in the mid-1800s as silver's value collapsed.

The miners loaded their mules and left, leaving behind the town that had provided so well for them. After falling into disrepair, Calico was purchased in the 1950s by Walter Knott.

Knott, who as a young man worked as a carpenter in Calico, and whose uncle John King was a founding partner of the Silver King Mine, gave the town back its "ghost town" appearance.

He brought back to their 1880s appearance all but five of the original structures.

In 2005, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized Calico as an essential part of California's history by naming it State Historical Landmark 782 and California's Silver Rush Ghost Town.

Currently, Calico is accessible to people from all over the world as a part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system.

Calico Ghost Town is intriguing for more than just its history and landmarks; it also features shops, restaurants, camping, and hiking, to name a few of the many activities available.

Historic structures from the Gold Rush era, like the town hall, Lil and Joe's Saloons, Lucy Lane's house, and Smitty's Gallery and Store, have been preserved despite being surrounded by newer buildings with the traditional architecture and façade of a typical Old West town.

Calico has what remains of the Chinese settlement and a new school built in the original style. Monday through Friday, instruction takes place in the classroom, while Sunday services are open to the public.

Take advantage of the train ride that takes visitors into the heart of the historic mines . Established in 1958, the Calico Odessa Railroad has provided continuous service to the area.

  • The tour, which operates every day from 9 am to 5 pm, lasts for around 8 minutes.
  • Adults pay $5, kids aged 5 to 10 pay $2.50, and kids aged four and under get in free.

The train trip takes visitors on a journey around the hill, where they can view historical sites and mining equipment while learning intriguing facts about the area's past.

Related: Wild West: Swap Vegas For Goldfield, Nevada's 'Living Ghost Town'

Highlighting the short 8-minute train ride is the Maggie Mine, a silver mine in operation in the 1880s and the only mine visitors can safely enter today. It's not as deep as the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine in CO , but it's worth a visit.

Starting off the self-guided tour will be a blacklight exhibit showcasing the mineral content of some of the local rocks. The tour then continues down the Mine's drift, where visitors learn about the Mine's past and the lives of its miners in the nearby Calico Range.

There is an Assay office reconstruction and stamp mill artifacts on display outside the Mine that visitors can peruse before venturing inside to learn more about the silver extraction process.

Vintage mining artifacts, pictures, and informative presentations are all available here.

Calico Ghost Town may be reached from the city of Barstow in roughly 15 minutes via Interstate 15. Follow the signage for Calico from the exit for the 15 freeway on Ghost Town Road and travel north. Approximately 3.5 miles into the journey, travelers will begin to encounter left-hand-side signage pointing the way to the abandoned settlement.

The ghost town stands on the north side of the vast Mojave Valley, on the edge of dry mountains at the mouth of a tiny canyon (Wall Street Canyon) among multicolored rocks; the St. Louis Mine, one of several in the area, is located 1.5 miles upstream.

Related: The Eerie California Ghost Town Looks Like An (Abandoned) Wild West Movie Set

The slopes are almost entirely free of vegetation, exposing the rocks in all their glory; some outcrops' rich red and purple hues attest to their high mineral richness.

Some of the hills around the city are composed of strata that have been forcefully folded and twisted, providing more proof of previous metamorphic activity.

A circular road connecting exits 191 and 194 of I-15 serves as the primary route to the town, with a short offshoot leading to a parking lot.

  • Best time to visit Calico: Tourists can visit any time of year; however, summers can get quite warm. Some sights might be closed during the week.
  • Hours of operation: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm, excluding Christmas Day.
  • Entrance fee: Adults pay $8, youth (4-11) pay $5, and children (3 and under) pay nothing.
  • Annual Family Pass: $50.00 (Valid for one year from the purchase date)

Enjoy OC

Calico Ghost Town

If you drive on highway 15 north past the city of Barstow, you will come to the quaint town of Yermo. About 120 miles from Orange County, this small town has a population of a mere 2,000 residents. It is in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California and is not known for the “wilderness” its Spanish name is derived from. No, Yermo is arguably most known for its ghostly neighbor – Calico Ghost Town. 

Calico Ghost Town

The town of Calico was once upon a time a budding and bustling mining town in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert. The town was founded in 1881 when California’s biggest silver strike in history was discovered there. This town produced $86 million in silver during its most successful years as an active mining community. Also, during this time, the population of Calico surged to 1,200 residents complete with 22 saloons, a section of town known as “Chinatown,” and even a notorious red-light district. 

The silver mining boom period unfortunately was short-lived because by 1890 the value of silver dropped dramatically in markets across the country. After that downturn many miners left Calico in search of work but some mines clung on with the mining of the mineral Borate. The mining of Borate was successful for a few years with a profit of $45 million dollars. In the 1930s the mining company Total Wreck attempted to mine for gold but by 1941 Calico was abandoned completely and left to fade away like so many other mines abandoned throughout the country. 

As it turned out, all was not lost for this small piece of important western history. In the 1950s Mr. Walter Knott – yes, the same Knott from Knott’s Berry Farm – purchased the complete town of Calico. Mr. Knott set out to restore the town and successfully architecturally restored all but five of the original buildings. According to the San Bernardino Parks, Calico received State Historical Landmark status in 1982 and in 2005 was proclaimed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town. 

Today the Calico Ghost Town is a much-loved piece of history with visitors from all over the globe. So, what is there to do there? 

Here is your complete Calico Ghost Town Guide! 

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  • Lil’s Saloon : Located in one of the original adobe buildings all around Calico is the beloved Lil’s Saloon. Although mostly known for its beer garden the entire family can dine here on a fare of hot dogs, pizzas and other snacks. Enjoy your meal as you are immersed in the old saloon environment straight out of a classic western movie. 
  • Old Miners Café : One of only three eateries in Calico is Old Miners Café located on top of the hill. The food is classic easy grabs such as sandwiches, ice cream cones and salads. On some days you can even enjoy live bands playing outside on the covered patio. 
  • Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner : Although not technically in Calico Ghost Town but in Yermo, you cannot take a trip to this area and miss out on the vibrant fare at Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner. First opened in 1954 you will be transported back in time with movie and TV memorabilia, bright checkerboard flooring, and old fashioned malts. 
View this post on Instagram A post shared by John Lopez (@johnlopezphotography)

Things to Do

  • Gold Panning : My children’s favorite activity hands down is panning for gold. A fun and unique hands-on educational experience. Your whole family can sift through sand looking for those glittering signs of wonder. Open daily.
  • Maggie Mines Tour : The Maggie Mine was once in its glory days a functional mine for silver. Now it is a safe tourist adventure to explore a mine from the 1800s. On the self-guided tour, you will explore local rocks and gems as well as learn what life was like for those original inhabitants of Calico. Tours run continuously from 9am – 5pm. 
  • The Calico Odessa Railroad : Running since its completion in 1958 is the well-loved Calico Odessa Train. All aboard this 8-minute tour, you rumble around the Calico hills learning all about mining equipment and historical sites in the ghost town. Best part? The train is pet friendly and free for your furry family members.
  • Shopping : While there, make sure you support the local small businesses and pick up a souvenir or two or three. Shops include Calico Woodworks, Lane’s General Store, Calico Photo Shop, Odessa’s Calico Crafts, Print Shop, R & D Fossils & Minerals, Basket & Candle Shop, Pottery Shop, Calico Leather Works and Dorsey’s Dog House.  

Outdoor Adventure

  • Off Road Driving : The Doran Loop and Odessa Canyon is one of the most popular OHV routes in the Calico Mountains. This 6-mile trail actually follows the once paved road Doran Scenic Drive. This narrow route is full of boulders, off shoot routes and embedded rock. High clearance vehicles, skid plates and differential shocks are required. 
  • Biking Trails : Spanning 30 miles is the intermediate rated Calico Ghost Town Regional Park single bike track. Spanning up and through the hills you will get a panoramic view of the town as you speed up and down the trail. 
  • Hiking : Located just 30 minutes from the heart of Calico Ghost Town is the lightly trafficked Rainbow Basin Slot Canyon. Only 1.5 miles in length, this trail takes you on a sandy wash through some unique slot formations. 
  • Camping : Calico Ghost town is a popular camping destination with family and group sites. There are also bunkhouses and cabins available by reservation .

Nitty Gritty 

  • Address : 36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, CA 92398
  • Hours : daily 9am to 5pm
  • Youth (4-11) $5
  • Under 3 free
  • Dogs $1 
  • $30/night – no hookup
  • $35/night – partial hookup
  • $40/night – full hookup
  • Seniors, active military, and disabled veterans get $5 off per night Sunday through Thursday
  • Standard cabins – $65/night
  • Mini-Bunkhouse $160/night  – No minimum night required except on festival weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), which requires a two-night minimum. 
  • Bunkhouse $160/night  – 20 person maximum – No minimum night required except on festival weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), which requires a two-night minimum.
  • Available for school and youth group reservations.
  • Calico Days – Celebrate the history of the silver rush and mining history with reenactments, performances, burro run, Old West encampment, activities for kids, attractions, and shopping
  • California Days – A festival celebrating early California history with a chili cookoff, entertainment, educational displays, crafts and games, and much more
  • Calico Holiday Fest – Calico transforms into a holiday wonderland to celebrate the merry old west and features gunfights, musical performances, Santa Claus , caroling, crafts and activities for kids, tree lighting, shopping, food, and more
  • Calico Ghost Haunt – The annual Halloween event brings the spooky fun with trick or treating, pumpkin carving, costume contests, a carnival, live entertainment, and haunted attractions

Calico Ghost Town is a roadschooling, historical, unique experience into the 1800s western life of a silver miner. Your entire family will enjoy this flash back through history with sweet treats and a train ride to top it off. 

Happy adventures!

See More California Ghost Towns!


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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus

Calico Ghost Town

Old mining town.

Text and Photos by Len Wilcox

When he was a young man, Walter Knott worked the mines in Calico, an experience that stayed with him all his life. Some 40 years later he went back -- and bought the town. Some of the buildings he moved to Buena Park, California, as an attraction to bring people in to his wife's chicken restaurant.


These buildings eventually became the center of one of the most famous tourist theme parks in the world, Knott's Berry Farm. The buildings he left behind in Calico, however, became just as important, to him and to the world. He restored the town and created a place where travelers can step back in time to experience the gold rush days, and learn how people lived during this exciting time. Today Calico is part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system visited by people from around the country and all over the world.

Located on the Mojave desert about 15 miles northeast of Barstow, California, Calico -- which lived a long time for desert boomtowns, from 1881 till around 1929 -- was a rich strike, first of silver then later of borates. Chunks of nearly pure silver came out of the 500 mines that dotted the hills. Eventually, silver ore worth some $86 million was dug out of the colorful hills behind the town. The borate brought in another $45 million.

Calico was a wild place in its heyday with a nice collection of saloons (22 of them), bordellos, restaurants and boarding houses established to service the needs of its more than 1,200 citizens. One citizen was unusual, even in a time and a town full of unusual characters.

Dorsey was a mail carrier. In fact, he was the only 4-legged carrier in the whole US Postal system. He was a black-and-white shepherd dog that had the job of carrying the mail from Calico to the nearby mines. He was a friendly dog, but once the mail packs were strapped on his back, he'd become strictly business. Reportedly, Dorsey's owner once turned down a $500 offer for the dog, saying that he'd sooner sell a grandson.

Calico's decline began when the price of silver fell in the 1890s, but the borate production kept it alive, even through the panic of 1906. While nearby Death Valley mines skinned eastern investors, Calico kept churning out valuable minerals until it gradually exhausted its supply in the 1920s.

Church in Calico

A few hardy souls stayed on, keeping the spirit and memory alive, until 1951 when Knott bought the town and began rebuilding it. Using old photos he restored many of the buildings and created a tourist attraction that still thrives today, with more visitors on any day of the year than ever lived in the town when silver was the big excitement. Knott's Berry Farm donated Calico to San Bernardino County in 1966, and it operates now as a regional park.


Today, numerous shops, an interesting museum, static displays and actors in period costumes bring the past alive for busloads of tourists and visitors. With regular gunfights, train and stagecoach rides, restored mining equipment and displays of old household items, it's an interesting town to visit. Camping is also available with 261 tent and RV sites 46 offering full hookups.

The town is open every day except Christmas. A nominal entrance fee is charged. Regular events are held, including: Cowboy action shooting, 3rd Saturday of each month; Civil War Re-enactment on President's Day weekend; Spring Festival, Mother's Day weekend; Calico Days - October - Burro in the Muck Re-live Calico’s rich mining history! Activities include a burro race, miner’s triathlon, music and more. View pictures from previous events Here .

Columbus Day weekend; Calico Heritage Fest, Thanksgiving; and Christmas in Calico, in early December.

Call or write the park to verify information on these events, to reserve a campsite or to check on fees.

Calico Ghost Town P.O. Box 638 Yermo, CA. 92398 760-254-2122 800-TO-CALICO Fax 1-760-254-2047

Nearby Attractions

City of Barstow Murals in Barstow Peggy Sue’s Diner in Yermo, Ca Rainbow Basin National Natural Landmark Mojave National Preserve Death Valley National Park

Related DesertUSA Pages - click on pictures for more information

Civil War Re-Enactment in Calico

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