It makes perfect sense, with the Oregon Trail and all, that the state of Oregon would have the most ghost towns in America. Although the numbers vary, at last count, we have found that there are 82 Ghost Towns in Oregon today. Whether these towns were centers for mining, lumber, wool or even connect points along the route, they all combine to paint a fascinating tapestry that help tell the story of America’s 33rd state.
What Is A Ghost Town?
The simplest definition of a Ghost Town is a deserted town with few or no remaining inhabitants. Often, a Ghost Town was a once thriving city, but became as such due to the economic activity that once supported it has since failed, or was the result of a natural or human-caused disaster such as floods or uncontrolled lawlessness.
Does anything else sound more wild west than a once thriving town overtaken by uncontrolled lawlessness? Where was John Wayne when we needed him?
Here is a brief look at 5 of the ghost towns that make up Oregon’s unique heritage.
This town, per the 2010 census, of 46 people, made its way back into the spotlight in 1980’s when inhabitants of nearby Rajneeshpuram moved into the city and voted to change the name to Rajneesh. This was short-lived. Located in southeastern Wasco County, within a valley where many antelopes grazed, the town served as the perfect stopping point for stagecoaches to rest for the night. By 1871, the town grew to the point of opening a post office. Antelope was a center for sheepmen and cattlemen. Sadly, in 1898, all but one building on main street was destroyed in a fire. That build still stands today.
Located in Klamath County, Bonanza boasted one of the richest and successful gold mines in the area. The gold mine operated from 1877 to 1910 where total production exceeded several million dollars. The town was named by Native Americans for its water as there are natural springs located in Bonanza. Many of the original buildings remain today. And although it is listed as a Ghost Town, recent population numbers show that 415 people currently are living in Bonanza.
Located in Multnomah County off Highway 84 and the Columbia River, this Ghost Town is easily overlooked by those passing by as they head East to visit the famous Multnomah Falls. Like many Ghost Towns located in Western Oregon, Bridal Veil is known as a lumber ghost. The town was established in the 1880’s with the construction of a paper mill. This paper mill was one of the first in the state of Oregon. Since the time of pioneers, the town was known as Bride’s Veil and was changed to Bridal Veil once the railroad station and post office opened. Visitors to Bridal Veil can visit the town’s post office which remains open to this day.
Located in Baker County, Homestead can be found on the Snake River and just South of Hells Canyon. Homestead was named for the homestead claim of nearby Iron Dyke Mine operator, Frank E. Pearce. Homestead was also platted and incorporated. There was great hope for the future in copper production, yet a decline in the market of 1928 forced the mine to close. The result led to the railroad pulling their lines out. In those days, that meant game over for many towns. The remains of the town still stand to this day. However, Homestead is completely deserted.
What Does Platted Mean?
Side-note: You might ask what platted means. To break this down, a plat is a map of a town or a section of land that has been subdivided into lots showing the location and boundaries of individual parcels with the streets, alleys, easements, and rights of use over the land of another.
Shaniko, Oregon just might be one of Oregon’s most famous ghost towns. Established in 1900 as a railroad terminus, Shaniko quickly became known as the largest inland wool shipping center in the world by 1903. In 1902 alone, Shaniko marketed 4 million pounds of wool. However, by 1911, a subsidiary of Union Pacific Railroad had opened line that connected Portland and Bend. Unfortunately, this new “alternate” route bypassed Shaniko which led to its decline. By the 1930’s, passenger service to Shaniko ended. By 1966, the entire railroad line to Shaniko was shut down.
Shaniko is in Wasco County and is 8 miles north of another Ghost Town, Antelope. Per the 2010 census, Shaniko has 36 people that live there.
Located near Mill City in Marion County, miners first arrived in Jawbone Flats in 1859 and discovered gold. However, it was other minerals that had been found in greater supply. Such minerals were lead, zinc, and copper. In 1931, a mining camp was established where a mining company, Shiney Rock, operated until 1992. Visitors today cane see old machinery, a miner’s store and cabins.
Make Memories By “Roadtripping” Thru Oregon’s Ghost Towns
Of course, these are but just a handful of the over 80 ghost towns located in Oregon. And with all the mapping websites available online today, in no time, you can plan your next road trip thru Oregon’s past by visiting these ghost towns.
So, what are you waiting for? Saddle up those horses and let’s take a ride back in time, and along the way, make memories, that will last forever.
I guess you could call it your very own Oregon Trail.