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During the 1800s, the pioneering spirit was alive and well. Thousands of farmers and their families made the six-month trek along the Oregon Trail, and prospectors ventured out West in hopes of striking it rich.

While pioneers from this time are long gone, remnants of their abandoned frontier settlements linger throughout Wyoming, providing a rare glimpse into this bygone era. Complete with old graveyards, original log structures and worn out wagon trails, ghost towns feed the imagination with actual artifacts from this transformative piece of American history.

These five ghost towns transport you back to the 1800s, when the West was wild and hard work was fueled by aspirations of a better life.

1. South Pass City

Region: Northwest Wyoming

Nestled in a protected canyon, South Pass City boomed with the discovery of gold in the late 1860s and became one of the busiest cities in the region. Approximately 2,000 miners lived in ramshackle housing around the city, hauled their gold to the assay office and spent it in the community’s then-thriving businesses. By 1872, work at the Clarissa Mine dwindled, and most of the miners moved on, leaving behind the town they created. Visit this deserted settlement, which consists of more than 20 authentically restored structures, and partake in original pastimes such as panning for gold in Willow Creek and ordering a sarsaparilla soda at the Smith-Sherlock General Store.

2. Atlantic City

Region: Northwest Wyoming

Near South Pass City, this booming mining town enjoyed short-lived prosperity starting in the late 1860s. Atlantic City had nearly 2,000 miners, many of whom were vacationers or part-time prospectors looking to score gold, so the town had many options for leisure and entertainment. During its heyday, the town reportedly had a brewery, dance hall and opera house. Currently, many original log homes and structures still remain, including a church and general store. Be sure to stop by the Atlantic City Mercantile, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

3. Kirwin

Region: Northwest Wyoming

This ghost town is situated on U.S. Forest Service land along the Wood River, near the town of Meeteetse. During the 1890s, Kirwin had 38 buildings and approximately 200 residents, many of whom migrated to the settlement during its gold and silver boom. The town began to deteriorate in 1907 when a massive snowstorm caused an avalanche, killing three people. In the 1930s, the land became part of the Double Dee Guest Ranch, a place visited by Amelia Earhart and her husband, George Putnam. A cabin was under construction for Earhart when she disappeared during her around-the-world flight in 1937, and it was never completed. View the remnants of her cabin, which are visible about a mile from Kirwin, as well as an old hotel, small log structures and mining machinery at the abandoned settlement.

4. Overland Trail Stage Station

Region: Southwest Wyoming

Although Point of Rocks Stage Station is not technically a ghost town, as the only station fully in tact on the Overland Trail, it certainly is a ghost of the past. The station is located just south of the Interstate 80 at Point of Rocks. Explore the building, and then walk west on the Overland Trail. Less than a quarter mile to the west, find fenced gravesites dating back to the 19th century.

5. Grand Encampment Copper District

Region: Southeast Wyoming

The discovery of copper and development of the Ferris-Haggarty copper mine in the Sierra Madre in 1897 gave rise to several mining towns — most of which are now ghost towns — including Battle, atop the Continental Divide, and Dillon, which was established a mile from the mine. Many of the buildings from the town of Battle have been relocated to nearby Encampment, such as the one that was moved to Grand Encampment Museum where it is operated as the Battle Miner newspaper office.

For the most part, Dillon’s log cabins have fallen to disrepair and the seasons, but at the ghost town site, you will see some of the deteriorating logs and can identify places where others were positioned.  Learn more about these deserted frontier settlements at the Grand Encampment Museum, which has its own re-created town formed with historic structures moved from throughout the valley. Then drive the Battle Pass Scenic Byway to explore these historic places and take in the area’s beautiful landscapes.

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