Ballarat, Death Valley
GPS: 36.047974°, -117.224086°
Ballarat ghost town is an unincorporated community in Inyo County, California. It lies at an elevation of 1079 feet in the Panamint Valley. It was founded in 1897 as a supply point for the mines in the canyons of the Panamint Range. A quarter-mile to the south is Post Office Springs, 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 Ballarat, Victoria, in the heart of Australia's gold country.
The town was founded in 1897. In its heyday—from 1897 to 1905—Ballarat had 400 to 500 residents. It hosted seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office, school, a jail and morgue, but no churches. Ballarat was a place for miners and prospectors in the area to resupply and relax.
The town began its decline when the Ratcliff Mine, in Pleasant Canyon east of town, suspended operations. Other mines nearby also began to play out, and in 1917 the post office closed and all that remained were a few diehard prospectors and desert rats.
Two legendary Death Valley old-timers that stuck around were Seldom Seen Slim (born Charles Ferge), who lived most of his life in Ballarat prospecting, and Shorty Harris, who called himself a “single blanket-jackass prospector" and lived off and on in the dying town until his death in 1934.
Seldom Seen, who claimed he hadn't taken a bath in 20 years because water was so scarce, lived in Ballarat until his death in 1968. He is buried in the cemetery.
In the 1960s, Charles Manson and the "Manson Family" of killers moved into the Barker Ranch south of Ballarat, and left graffiti in the town jail. A 1942 green Dodge power wagon left in town, belonged to Charlie Manson family member and convicted murderer Tex Watson, who used it to escape from police in the Barker Ranch raid.
Today, Ballarat has one full-time resident. As of June 2013 Rocky Novak and his dogs, Potlicker and Brownie, live in the town. Rocky runs the general store on afternoons and weekends to supply tourists.
Ballarat is used as a meeting point for four-wheel-drive expeditions into the Panamint Range and Death Valley, and in winter up to 300 people camp in the grounds of the town.
This text taken in part from Ballarat, California by Waitejr and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License