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Just a short hop of the I-15 interstate near Barstow, California lies the home of Tumbleweed Harris and the legendary, 1885 mail dog, Dorsey. The Calico Ghost Town is one of the dustiest and hottest tourist traps in the Western United States.

Founded in March of 1881, Calico would soon burst into a bustling boomtown, growing to a population of 1200 persons, 22 saloons, a china town and a red light district within just a few, short, years. Over 500 mines in and around the town produced $86 million dollars in silver and $45 million dollars in borax.

When the price of silver dropped precipitously, Calico dried up and most of the population ran off for greener (and cooler) pastures. Today, Calico stands as a memorial to the old west and is one of the few original mining towns of the western United States. Although Calico has continued to maintain a small but permanent population, it would have likely dried up in the early twentieth century if it hadn't been for the work of one man, Walter Knott.

According to legend, Knott had worked one of the Calico mines around 1910 and had never gotten the spirit of the old west town out of his bones. Looking to expand the success of his Knott's Berry Farm park, Knott purchased the town in 1951. A few of the building were transported to the Berry farm and dropped next to his wife’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant as an educational and entertaining attraction for those waiting to be seated.

Knott spent the next 15 years restoring the town of Calico. Many of the buildings had been constructed of adobe, as wood was not plentiful in the arid southwest, and had been worn down and destroyed by the sand of southern California and the burden of time. Working from old photos and his own memory, Knott used concrete to rebuild the aged adobe foundations and brought in lumber to finish the decaying structures.

In 1966 he donated the entire 400 plus acres of Calico to San Bernardino County to be operated as a regional park. These days the town offers authenticate food and tours alongside gun fight reenactments. Don't fear though, they also have ATM machines and full service RV hookups.

The park is open year round from 9:00am to 5:00pm, seven days a week, except Christmas day. If you plan on visiting though, I recommend waiting until winter. I toured Calico as spring began, the week after Memorial Day and nearly collapsed in the middle of the street. The place was practically deserted as the temperature soared above 100F. Even the locals pretending to be cowboys couldn't be coaxed from the cooled interior of their renovated and air conditioned saloon. The shops cater mostly to the tourist with the average assortment of barely worthy fares that you would expect to see at an attraction of this caliber. Think Frontierland, but really cheap.

Calico Population:

1881 - 40
1882 - 300
1887 - 1,200
1888 - 500
1889 - 800
1890 - 80
1893 - 300
1951 - 10
1981 - 15
2000 - 11

For info on Group Rates, Annual Passes and Camping:

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