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Mining Good Family Times at the Calico Ghost Town

April 25, 1991|RON EGGERS

Wildflowers and blooming cacti aren't the only reason to head for the desert in spring. One high-desert destination that the whole family might enjoy is Calico Ghost Town. On a hillside off of I-15, about 10 minutes north of Barstow, the once-abandoned mining camp has been rejuvenated as a tourist attraction.

A tram takes visitors up the steep side of the hill to the little town above, where there are remnants of the old mining settlement, as well as newly built shops and restaurants that match the Old West decor. About a third of the structures in town are original buildings.

Calico flourished as a silver mining camp and during the late 1800s more than 2,000 people lived and worked there. It's still possible to take a self-guided walking tour through the quarter-mile of shafts and tunnels of old Maggie's Mine.

If Calico seems vaguely familiar even to newcomers, it may be because it was the model for Knott's Berry Farm's old west section. Walter Knott operated the old town until 1966, when it was donated to San Bernardino County.

Unlike the amusement park's ghost town, which has been updated over the years, the mining camp has retained much of its early rustic charm. It's a great place for a lunch break during a day of desert exploration, as well as a pleasant diversion while heading east to Las Vegas and points beyond.

For information about Calico Ghost Town, call (619) 254-2122.

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