Sitting at the base of the Panamint Mountains west of Death Valley, lies the ghost town of Ballarat, CA. The town that once supported over 400 people, now sits empty with only the ruins of several adobe/wood buildings, a cemetery and a green-and-white truck once owned by the Manson family.
Off Hwy 178 near Trona and the border of Death Valley lies the ghost town of Ballarat.
Ballarat was established in 1896 as a supply point for the mines in the canyons of the Panamint Mountains. Post Office Springs, located a quarter mile to the south, was a reliable water source used since the 1850s by prospectors and desert wanderers. George Riggins, a young immigrant from Australia, gave Ballarat its name when he proposed it should be named for the city in the heart of Australia’s gold country.
From 1897 to 1905 – Ballarat was booming and had a population between 400 to 500 people. There were 7 saloons, 3 hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office, school, a jail and morgue, but not one church. It was an oasis of fun, frolic, and relaxation – a town to go to and blow off the dust of long trails and hard work.
The town began to decline when the Ratcliff Mine, in Pleasant Canyon east of town, suspended operations. Other mines nearby also began to shutdown, and in 1917 the post office closed and all that remained were a few diehard prospectors and desert rats.
Today Ballarat has one or two full-time residents, and the store is open most afternoons and weekends. Visitors are welcome anytime.
Unfortunately, the store was closed when I was there, so I only got to peek inside through a window.
Looks like a pretty easy jail to bust out of, if you ask me.
We’ll leave the light on for you.
What I really came to see was a grim piece of America’s past: a green-and-white Dodge power wagon used by the Manson family when they were camping out at Barker Ranch.
The headlights had been smashed into blind, sinister eyes and the inside of the cab was speckled with spray-painted silver stars, another signature of the Manson family. Oh the horrors that this truck may have seen. Thank you Ballarat for the spooky ending.