Photos: This Tiny Desert Ghost Town Serves Beer, Banana Splits And History
There's a little ghost town in the Mojave that you can get to if you drive down a desolate road through the desert. And unlike most ghost towns, you can grab a cold beer there.
It seems like there are two types of ghost towns: tourist attractions with Old West-style buildings trying to sell you ice cream and raccoon tail hats; or a couple of dilapidated buildings in the middle of nowhere covered in graffiti and broken beer bottles. Randsburg, which has been described as a 'living ghost town,' is neither. It's got the Old West charm, but it's not devoid of any life.
Situated in Kern County, Randsburg is an old mining town founded in 1895 when three miners discovered gold in them there hills. It's about 17 miles south of Ridgecrest and home to fewer than 100 people, many of them retirees. It's about two square miles.
Stop by on a sweltering summer day, and you might find the town, well, deserted. However, tourism picks up in the winter when the sun is less brutal. It's especially popular with bikers and off-roaders as there are plenty of nearby desert roads to explore, and it's surprisingly busy come Thanksgiving and New Year's.
The 'main drag' has a few fun spots. There's a little bar called The Joint where you can get an ice-cold beer, munch on pretzels and talk to Neil, the owner, about town lore. The Joint's been in his family since 1955—it was a bakery before that—and he'll likely have you sign his guest book. You can also get a drink or a meal at the White Horse Saloon across the street, or catch a show on holidays at the opera house.
There's a soda jerk and general store—appropriately called Hole in the Wall—where you can get a shake or a banana split, and browse quirky merchandise or stock up on sundries. There are numerous antique shops, many boasting prospecting tools, and there's a small art gallery, too. You could stay at the Goat Sky Ranch or the Randsberg Inn, or you could camp in the desert. (I'd get a reservation for those indoor lodging options as they're pretty small.) There's also a little desert museum, though it was not open when we stopped by.
In 2008, a government audit concluded that Randsberg was potentially dangerous, due to "contaminated mine waste in residents' backyards and arsenic-laden trails openly used by thousands of off-road bikers." However, residents say no one, to their knowledge, has ever gotten sick or died from arsenic poisoning.
Most of the businesses are only open on the weekends, so that's definitely the best time to hit up this sleepy desert town. Bring cash.
This Calvin Harris video was partially shot in Randsburg.
And so was this Dwight Yoakam video.