Trona, California 93592
Today, Ballarat is a ghost town known better for its cameo in Easy Rider or visits from the Manson Family than its early mining history. Yet, from 1897 to 1917, Ballarat was the trade hub for the rich gold and silver diggings on the western slope of the Panamint Range.
Ballarat is a hot, dry, and desolate town outside of Death Valley National Park. Like so many remote camps, it took something incredibly valuable to induce settlers to weather this harsh terrain: gold.
Founded in 1897 as a mining camp and trade hub, Ballarat supplies the local gold and silver mining activity on the western slope of the Panamint Range. The town is named by George Riggins after a famous gold producing region in Victoria from his homeland of Australia. The town boasts 400 to 500 residents, seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo Station, and a post office in its heyday, between 1897 to 1905,
During its time as a mining camp, Ballarat produces nearly $1 million in gold. Yet, all things come to an end and ore deposits have a nasty habit of running out. East of town, Ratcliff Mine in Pleasant Canyon is a major producer. So, when operations are suspended in 1905, the town of Ballarat launches into a rapid decline. Other deposits gradually play out. By 1917, the post office closes and Ballarat is left a ghost town,
Today, only a few structures remain in Ballarat. Even fewer of those structures have all four walls. Rusting cars, ore carts, and collapsing stone walls dot the landscape. The remains of one car is rumored to have been abandoned at that spot by Charles Manson. The most recent construction activity nearby is for three plaques off of Trona Wildrose Road, marking the 3.5 mile dirt access road to the ghost town.
The town is a stopoff for tourists traveling from Los Angeles to Death Valley and a common gathering point for recreation clubs before exploring the area. Yet, for the mining historian, it is an opportunity to explore the remains of a town that lived and died for mining.