Ballarat, California

Ballarat is an unincorporated ghost town in Inyo County, California that was born in 1896 as a supply point for the mines in the canyons of the Panamints. A quarter-mile to the south is Post Office Springs, a reliable water source used since the 1850s by prospectors and desert wanderers. George Riggins, a young immigrant from Australia, gave Ballarat its name when he proposed it should be named for the city in the heart of Australia's gold country, Ballarat, Victoria.

In its heyday—from 1897 to 1905—Ballarat was home and headquarters for 400 to 500 people. It hosted seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office, school, a jail and morgue, but not one church. Ballarat was an oasis of fun, frolic, and relaxation—a town to go to and blow off the dust of long trails and hard work. The town began its decline when the Ratcliff Mine, in Pleasant Canyon east of town, suspended operations. Other mines nearby also began to play out, and in 1917 the post office closed and all that remained were a few diehard prospectors and desert rats.

In the 1960s, another famous (or infamous) visitor came regularly to Ballarat. Charles Manson with his family of killers stayed at the Barker ranch south of town, and left their graffiti in Ballarat. An old Dodge Power Wagon parked near the general store still bears the stars the family used as their signature, on its headliner.

The movie Easy Rider had a scene filmed in Ballarat where Peter Fonda's character removes his Rolex watch and throws it away before he and Dennis Hopper's character head out again on their choppers enroute to New Orleans.

Today Ballarat has one or two full-time residents. As of June 2004, Rock Novak and his dog, Potlicker live in the town. The store is open most afternoons and weekends and Rock will sell you soft drinks and other snacks. Visitors are welcome. Rock Novak is currently busy repairing the pipelines that supply water for the ghost town. It's a walk out of Ballarat and every day Potlicker joins him. Rock gets paid for his services by the government. Every summer a certain June and her now (July 2007) 10-year old son visits Ballarat for some time. She and her son reside in the former jailhouse/morgue. The young boy is educated by his mother. Many 4-wheelers use the trailer park as a campground headquarters for expeditions into the Panamints and Death Valley. In wintertime some 200 to 300 travelers use the grounds of Ballarat as their campground. The scenery is still spectacular, virtually unmarred by signs of human occupation. If visiting, be mindful of the many wild donkeys (they are true descendants of the miners' donkeys) and stay on the roads; the solid sand valley floor is usually a crust of two or three inches (76 mm), underlying with soft moist earth or mud.

The town is located approximately at .

The ZIP Code is 93562. Ballarat is inside area code 760.


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