From the National Weather Service: “National High/Low temps for Thursday July 14, 2022: 121 at Death Valley, CA, Stovepipe Wells, CA; 28 at Bodie, CA”. That’s a difference of 93 degrees. What’s interesting is that those two locations are only 156 miles apart (in a straight line).
Bodie State Park is a ghost town. The population of the town is zero. They have more (remote reading) thermometers than people, I guess!
The town was named for Waterman S. Body, who had discovered gold in hills north of Mono Lake in 1859. Bodey died in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to Monoville (near present-day Mono City), never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him. It became Bodie after a painter in the nearby boomtown of Aurora, lettered a sign “Bodie Stables”. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown of thousands. At one point, Bodie had nearly 10,000 residents, about the same population of present day Benton Harbor. Over the years, Bodie’s mines produced about 90 million (in today’s dollars) dollars worth of gold and silver.
At one point, Bodie had a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, a miners’ and mechanics’ union, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. In 1882 residents built the Methodist Church (which still stands) and the Roman Catholic Church (burned about 1930). In 1892, the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant approximately 13 miles (20.9 km) away at Dynamo Pond. The plant developed a maximum of 130 horsepower (97 kW) and 3,530 volts alternating current (AC) to power the company’s 20-stamp mill. This pioneering installation marked the country’s first transmissions of electricity over a long distance.
But alas, fortunes come and go. By 1910, the population was down to 698. The last newspaper was printed in 1912. The town was abandoned so quickly that they left canned goods on the shelves. The town was declared a national landmark in 1961.
Only a small part of the town survives. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists in the summer and howling cold winds in the winter..
The main reason Bodie gets cold at night is that it’s a high elevation desert valley. It’s at an elevation of 8,379 feet above sea level. In the calm, dry air in summer, it’s not unusual to have a 50-degree difference between the daytime high temperature and the nighttime low temperature. In July, the average high temperature is 76° and the average low temperature is 35°. They average roughly 13″ of precipitation per year. Much of that comes as winter snow. With frequent frosts even in mid-summer, it’s hard to grow much outside of hardy grasses.
I won’t give you the whole history of Death Valley CA. It’s 282 feet below sea level. On July 10, 1913, the United States Weather Bureau recorded a high temperature of 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, which after 109 years still stands as the highest air temperature ever recorded on the surface of the Earth. In July, the AVERAGE high temperature here is 117.4° and the average low is 91.0°. Death Valley averages just 2.2″ of rain per year.