"19th Century Gold Ghost Town off Hwy 395" Randsburg by atufft

Randsburg Travel Guide: 31 reviews and 130 photos

My Grandfather Was Manager of the Bank Here...

Randsburg is one of those obscure little ghost towns in California that I normally wouldn't bother to find if it weren't for the fact that my grandfather had once been manager of the now defunct bank. Around 1920, while still a bachelor, he managed to get a job at the sole bank in this gold mining camp when extraction was well past its peak. Today, the bank building is a antique dealers junk shop, but at that time Randsburg was still a bustling little town off Hwy 395, then orienting itself to the extraction of silver and tungsten. The origins of the name Randsburg is somewhat debateable, since one source I read claims the name was given by the discoverers of the yellow aster gold mine, while another source claims the name is a shortened version of the South African mining company that came to own the mine. In any case, Randsburg is one of three gold, silvier, and tungsten mining townships in the high western Mojave Desert near the El Paso Mountains. The other township are nearby Red Mountain and Johannesburg. The latter of these two other towns is right on Hwy 395, and a sign just north of the town shows the way to Randsburg.

Irregular streets on the desert hillside...

Originally, the town was simply a mining camp in the desert, but as time when on, the town developed into the hill-bound irregular series of crooked streets that now remain. Tall piles of mining tailings are just outside town, and rusty old mining equipment litter the landscape. Today, some residents still engage in the pursuit of gold, but probably most are shopkeepers servicing the hobbist miners, history buffs, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts who visit the town. No doubt a few of the residents are children or grandchildren of the miners who once made a decent living here. The scattered houses of adobe, stone, and wood are still occupied, and the town has done it's best to encourage not only tourism but also the movie industry that occasionally uses the hostile landscape in the area as a backdrop for commercials and westerns. I noticed an impressive array of autograped celebrity photos on a wall in the the General Store, images that included Humphrey Bogart and Clint Eastwood.

Gold was first discovered here in 1895...

The Mojave had been frequently crossed by miners in search of a boom town in the past, but it wasn't until this year that prospectors Singleton, Mooers, and Burcham struck pay dirt on Redrock Mountain. By 1899, the town had some 3,500 residents and the employing the mining company had brought in mining cars and steam locomotives to haul the ore out. The boom only lasted for a few years, and by the time my grandfather has arrived, attention has probably already turned to the extraction of silver and tungsten. The best time to visit Randsburg is in winter, when the daytime temperatures can be quite comfortable. In summer, daily temperatures are well above 100F, although a winter night can also drop to as low as 10F. In any case, it's an easy stop along the otherwise monotonous highway 395, which leads through to Death Valley, Bishop, and Mono Lake.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great Stop Off Hwy 395 for History Buffs and Off-Road Vehicle Nuts
  • Cons:Don't Come in Summer, This Place Is HOT!
  • In a nutshell:Historic Randsburg is A Great Ghost Town That Still Lives.
  • Last visit to Randsburg: Feb 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (8)

Comments (8)

  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo
    Jun 16, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    Brilliant page! I was raised in Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa... mining city of note and where the name came from! Wish I could make it here in Aug... will see what I can do!

  • Dulebg's Profile Photo
    Mar 3, 2007 at 7:17 AM

    Fascinating!Place looks lonely but I believe it's people has a lot of stories to tell about.I'd love to meet somebody who would share with me the history of place and way of life.I'd be happy to stay couple days in someone's home there. Very nice Alan.

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Feb 26, 2007 at 4:33 AM

    I've never been there, but so familiar! Would you believe I'm in the process of preparing a page on a very similar town (size and history) not far from here.

  • calcaf38's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2007 at 5:15 AM

    Thanks for sharing. I visited a ghost town named Calico 28 years ago, but Randsburg seems more authentic (since people still live there).

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2007 at 5:51 PM

    Nice page of an old mining town. I must have driven passed it from Bakersfield to Barstow. We just drove from SF to Las Vegas for a weekend.

  • Tourtech's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2007 at 7:49 AM

    Cool pages, reminds me a bit of what we saw in the Joshua Tree National forest and 29 psalms! Safe travels from travelling Canadians!

  • mary2u99's Profile Photo
    Feb 22, 2007 at 8:40 PM

    Wow 3 church in a ghost town:-) Great page Alan.

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Feb 21, 2007 at 9:50 AM

    A place after my own heart. I hope you'll look in on Cue and Otago for my stories of goldrush days and ghost towns. leyle


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