“ 1881 marked the beginning of one of the largest silver strikes in California history and the birth of Calico. This authentic silver mining town lives on as one of the few original mining camps of the Old West. „
Calico Town was founded in about 1881 in the midst of the Silver mining frenzy in California. It was situated on a rich seam and the population rapidly increased. In total it produced over $86 million of silver and once Borax was also found the prosperous town seemed set for great things. Unfortunately the price of silver suddenly started to drop and like many towns in the area the population started to decline and it soon became a ghost town.
In the 1950s Walter Knott (of Knotts Berry Farm) bought Calico and restored the five original buildings that were on the site. Many of the buildings had been destroyed by fire during the boom years and after. In 1966 Calico was donated to San Bernardino County and it is now recognised as a State Historic Landmark
Calico is easy to find and is only a few miles from Barstow on the I-15 so it is a nice place to stop for an hour or two on the way to the bright lights of Las Vegas. There was ample parking and we paid entry as we approached the car park. It was $7 for adults and $4 for children but I believe under 5s get in free of charge. The park does give information that it is not readily accessible to people with mobility problems due to the historic nature of the site.
We were immediately struck by how inhospitable a place Calico must have been to the early miners. We visited at the end of July and the heat was intense with absolutely no natural shade on the barren hillside, the original miners were certainly brave and hardy men. It seems that originally Calico did not have its own water supply and it used to have to be transported to the site and many people, particularly children lost their lives due to infections in the stagnant, transported water.
The main street of the town has been recreated; some buildings are original whilst some have been reproduced in style. The main roadway has a tarmac covering. I can understand that this is necessary to help with access and to prevent slips but I feel it really detracted from the appearance and ambience of the street. The majority of the buildings along the street now actually house shops selling all sorts of merchandise from candles to china. I must admit I did expect more of the buildings to house recreations of the stores and saloons that would have been along the street rather than just being selling opportunities.
A couple of the properties contained a few historical items as the park office and Lane House but I would also have loved to have seen a recreation of a typical miner's property and seen how families would have lived at the time. There is a wonderful replica of the School House which reminded me of Little House on the Prairie but unfortunately that wasn't open, you could only view the outside.
Calico promotes itself as having lots of activities but these all cost extra and for a family it can certainly bump up the cost of the trip. There was gold-panning which we didn't do as we have done that at other places. There was the Mystery Shack which said it walked you through an amazing adventure and showed natural mysteries, my children turned their nose up at that so we didn't opt for that either.
Maggie's Mine is one of the original mines and my husband and daughter chose to go down there, I can't remember how much it was. They enjoyed doing this although it didn't take them very long as I was sat outside and it didn't take them long to re-appear. It was only after they had paid that we discovered that there is a combined activity ticket which would be better value if your family wanted to do everything.
We all wanted to go on the Calico/Odessa railroad. I can't remember exactly how much it was but I think it was about $6 each. We sat in a little steam train and journeyed around the far side of Calico where most of the mines used to be and also where most of the miners lived with their families. There is not much left to see but there was an excellent commentary which told us lots about the town and it was very impressive to see how far the area stretched. The train ride probably lasts about ten minutes.
The town has several places to buy food and general refreshments as well as many gift shops. There were also several Restrooms and these were all nice and clean.
Calico also has a campground and staying there gives you entry to the town.
Overall I enjoyed my visit to Calico and it provided some wonderful photo opportunities. However I was disappointed in the lack of historical displays, I expected to see far more things that would help me imagine life in the late 1880s rather than just tourist shops. Considering that entry covered nothing more than walking up a street of shops and that everything else would soon add up I didn't feel it was particularly good value for money either as we were probably only there about an hour and a half.
Situated just off the I-15, approximately half-way, between Las Vegas and Los Angeles Calico is a great place to break up a long car journey and stop off for an hour or so. Calico is an authentic, restored "Ghost Town" and is one of the"real" old west mining towns in the USA. To get to the town you need to exit I-15 at "Ghost Town Rd", which is about 10 miles north of a town called Barstow. Admission to the town is $6 per adult and $3 for children, parking is free. It's open from 9.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. More than a century ago, the town of Calico started as a small silver mining town. Founded in March 1881, it grew to a population of 1,200 with 22 saloons and more than 500 mines. It was bustling with prospectors. It was one of the most prosperous silver towns ever in the old west, producing $86 million in silver, $45 million in borax and, of course, gold. After 1907, when silver prices dropped and borax mining moved to Death Valley, Calico became a ghost town. In 1950 the town was restored to it's original condition by Walter Knott (founder of Knott's Berry Farm) and then donated Calico Ghost Town to the County of San Bernardino in 1966, and it is now a 480-acre County Park. Home page www.calicotown.com
1881 marked the beginning of one of the largest silver strikes in California history and the birth of Calico. This authentic silver mining town lives on as one of the few original mining camps of the Old West.