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Ghost Towns

Picture yourself wandering down a deserted main street, where wagons and buggies used to rumble. Today, nothing moves but sagebrush. You turn a corner, drawn to an abandoned ruin – was it a general store? The town saloon? Someone’s home or stable? You can almost see the gunfights, standoffs, and cattle raids that took place here. This collection of dusty buildings is a ghost town.

Picture yourself wandering down a deserted main street, where wagons and buggies used to rumble. Today, nothing moves but sagebrush. You turn a corner, drawn to an abandoned ruin – was it a general store? The town saloon? Someone’s home or stable? You can almost see the gunfights, standoffs, and cattle raids that took place here. This collection of dusty buildings is a ghost town.

Arizona and New Mexico boats the greatest numbers of Old West ghost towns. These former silver and gold mining towns enjoyed great riches during the late 1800s, but when the lodes disappeared, the town residents moved on to greener pastures. Many ghost towns are marked by some kind of plaque or marker, but others are nothing more than dots on a map, waiting to be discovered by an intrepid traveler.

You’ll find railroad ghost towns like Steins, New Mexico (on the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway), hidden ghost towns like Garnet, Montana, and boom-and-bust towns like Central City, Colorado. Some towns have unusual pasts like the maple syruping town of Funks Grove, Illinois or Tybo, Nevada which was home to Chinese immigrants who worked the railroad. Many ghost towns occurred as the result of the U.S. highway system. When the roads went in, and the railroad lost its prominence, these old towns didn’t have the same commerce they were used to. Glenrio, Texas and Endee, New Mexico are just two examples of Route 66 casualties.

If you stumble upon a ghost town, please be a good ghost-hunting citizen and preserve the site for future visitors. Ethical ghost town explorers take care to not disturb or deface any building and not break into any buildings that are locked or may be occupied. Never remove anything (other that obvious litter) from a ghost town. Do be sure to pack out your own trash and litter, and do your best to leave the ghost town as you found it. If the ghost town is still occupied in a limited way, be courteous and respectful of the residents.

Follow these simple rules, and you’ll be well on your way to some fun exploration. You never know what you might find—old school houses, ruins, or maybe just the foundations and chimneys of buildings that are long since gone. It takes some creativity to imagine a ghost town into life, but that’s the fun of exploring these abandoned sites. They can become whatever you can dream!
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