Posted by: columbiahighlands | October 29, 2010

Ghost towns of the Columbia Highlands

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with a peek at some of the ghost towns of the Columbia Highlands?

The discovery of gold in Northeast Washington and the Okanogan in the middle of the 19th Century brought a stream of prospector, and that stream became a flood in 1886 when the northern half of the Colville Indian Reservation was opened for European settlement. Anchoring the booms and busts of this gold rush were scores of towns, with names like Toroda, Leadpoint, Marcus and Sheridan, that sprang up—and disappeared—overnight.

Some of these ghost towns exist as clusters of ramshackle buildings; others are just a spot on the map. All invite the explorer curious about the cultural history of the Columbia Highlands.

The three ghost towns below are a good starting point for exploration. For more information, check out Ghost Towns of the Northwest or Boom Towns & Relic Hunters of Northeast Washington.

Belcher Camp

Little remains of this old iron-mining camp, but in its heyday Belcher boasted a post office, general store, railroad, a handful of cabins and a bunkhouse for single men. Home to 72 hardy individuals at its peak at the turn of the 20th Century, today only memories haunt Belcher.

Belcher Camp is located approximately 10 miles northeast of Republic on Lambert Creek.

Bodie

Easily accessed by a scenic paved country road, Bodie is a must-visit Columbia Highlands ghost town.

An abandoned structure in the western Columbia Highlands. Photo: Aaron Theisen

Established in 1888 by Henry Dewitz, the population and fortunes of Bodie quickly grew, aided by the discovery of a huge lode of gold ore just north of the settlement. The town of Bodie eventually included a general store, hotel, post office, restaurant, bunkhouses and a livery. Most of the settlement’s residents worked for a milling company that processed ores from the nearby mines.

The pocket of gold ore turned fickle, and an even more fickle gold market shuttered the Bodie Mine in 1917, although high gold values prompted the mine to re-open in 1934. The mine finally closed for good in 1944, having produced more than $1.2 million in gold ore.

Today several buildings from old Bodie remain on either side of Toroda Creek road. These buildings stand on private property; if you visit, please be respectful of the property owners and remain on the roadside.

Marcus

Located on the banks of the Columbia, Marcus was a hub for trappers, traders and prospectors on both sides of the river. As millions of dollars of gold and silver passed through Marcus on its way down the Columbia, the town boomed, eventually hosting nearly three-hundred residents.

However, as is the story with many ghost towns of Northeast Washington, diminishing returns on silver and gold mining ushered in the demise of Marcus. The final iniquity occurred in 1940, when the newly constructed Grand Coulee Dam caused the waters of the Columbia to rise up and swallow the townsite of Marcus. Only rarely, when the river is low, do the remains of Marcus peek out from their watery grave.

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