Cabezon Creek WSA, NM
BLM
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Railroad Valley Oil Well, Battle Mountain NV Antelope in New Mexico Arrow-leaf balsam root in Montana Wind Turbine Fire Management Officer in Eugene, OR
BLM>BLM History>Features>Historic Sites
Print Page

Historic Sites

Photo of the Garnet Ghost Town in Montana.
Garnet Ghost Town in Montana.  (BLM)

Helping to Tell the BLM Story

Ghost towns, mining camps, homesteads -- many places still bear remnants of days gone by and can give visitors a glimpse into what life may have been like for early settlers and pioneers. Here are just a few of the hundreds of historic sites BLM manages on America’s public lands. 

Learn more by clicking on the links below. To find more sites, including archaeological and paleontological sites, visit the BLM State Offices pages linked from the BLM Heritage Resources Home Page.  Check out the BLM’s Homestead Act page, too.

Ghost Towns and and Mining Towns 

Swansea Ghost Town Site, Arizona
Mining in the Swansea Area began around 1862, but major activity had to wait for the coming of the railroad. 
  
Salt Creek Historic Mining District, California
In 1849, Jefferson Hunt led seven Mormon wagons along the Old Spanish Trail (Mormon Road, Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail) and camped at Salt Creek. Hunt's party discovered gold at Salt Creek and soon gold fever hit southern California.


Garnet Ghost Town, Montana
A young nation expanded into the Montana territory in the mid-1860s.  Homesteaders rode steamboats and rail cars in search of untouched land and the freedom to choose their own destiny.  Many scoured the mountains for gold and other precious metals. 

Lake Valley Historic Townsite, New Mexico
The mining town of Lake Valley was founded in 1878 after silver was discovered. Almost overnight, the small frontier town blossomed into a major settlement with a population of 4,000 people.  

Silver City, Idaho
In 1866, this mining town had 3,000 residents, but today it is home to only a handful of people.  Visitors can enjoy the partially restored historical buildings and old mine sites.  Home and building owners have title to the land directly beneath the structures, but the rest of this National Historic District is public land, managed by the BLM.  

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona

The NCA covers 57,000 acres of public land in Cochise County near the international border. The Presidio (fortified settlement) Santa Cruz de Terranate was established by Spanish troops in 1775 or 1776. It was never completed and was abandoned by 1780 due to continuous Apache raids. The Mexican period followed, but ended when the area became a United States territory through the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. Silver was discovered near Tombstone in 1877, and the valley boomed until the mines flooded, around 1887. The ruins of some mining towns, such as Contention City, Fairbank, Emery City, Millville, and Charleston, remain today. 

Cabins, Schoolhouses, a Mill and “Hideouts”  

For 44 years, the schoolhouse served the community of Mt. Trumbull. Homesteaders arrived in this remote valley about 1917 to farm and raise livestock.
 
Possibly built by Chinese farmers in the 1890s, this cabin was named after Old Lady Gay, who came to the area before 1912.  It is one of two dozen known historic farm sites along Bonita Creek within the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area.
 
Whisky Creek Cabin is one of the few remaining relics of the Rogue River Gold Rush era. Others have fallen victim to vandalism and the ravages of time. The cabin and surrounding area remain isolated and inaccessible except by river or trail, much like it was when early pioneers first inhabited the area.
 
Explore where the wild west is still wild and where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid out from the long arms of the law. This region was filled with outlaws, guns, and traders.  Visit the park or read about more hideouts along The Outlaw Trail.

Historic Wolverton Mill, Utah
Shortly after the turn of the century, Edwin Thatcher Wolverton, a mining engineer from Maine, came to Utah to look for gold in the Henry Mountains. He built the mill to process the ore he anticipated mining - and the mill did process ore, but not much. The mill, abandoned in 1929, is a lesson in pioneer ingenuity; it combined the functions of wood cutting and ore crushing. 

Historic Ranches and Forts
 
The historic Empire Ranch Headquarters is magnificently situated in the high Sonoran Desert and rolling grasslands of Arizona, surrounded by the Mustang, Whetstone, Empire, and Santa Rita mountain ranges. It includes a 22-room adobe and wood-frame building which dates to 1870 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
 
In 1899, Alaska was awash with gold miners and settlers lured by the Klondike Gold Rush. The Army's response to reports of lawlessness was the establishment of Fort Egbert on the Yukon River a few miles from Canada.
 
In the mid-1800s the New Mexico territory was crossed by a large number of trails. Located along the travel routes were numerous military forts, designed to protect travelers and settlers. These outposts played a key role in the settlement of the American frontier. Established in 1854, Fort Craig was one of the largest and most important frontier forts in the West.
 
Riddle Brothers Ranch National Historic District tells part of the history of pioneer settlement and the development of the livestock industry in the American West.
 
The small structure at the Fort Pearce Historic Site (1866-1873) is one of only three remaining stone guard posts built during Utah’s Black Hawk War. The Fort Pearce Historic Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the State of Utah Register of Historic Places.
 
Rogue River Ranch, Oregon
The Rogue River Ranch, on the National Register of Historic Places, is nestled in the heart of the Rogue River's wild section (Mile 23) in southwestern Oregon. The main house was built in 1903 by George Washington Billings who operated a trading post, post office and boarding house with his wife, Sarah Ann. Visitors are welcome to visit the ranch and the museum.

Historic Trails and Expeditions 

National Historic Trails

The BLM manages portions of these ten National Historic Trails: The California National Historic Trail, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, Iditarod National Historic Trail, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, Nez Perce National Historic Trail, Old Spanish National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail, and The Pony Express National Historic Trail. Information on each trail is available on the BLM’s National Scenic and Historic Trails webpage.

Interpretive Centers and Trails

The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center offers living history demonstrations, interpretive programs, exhibits, multi-media presentations, special events, and more than four miles of interpretive trails.
 
The Center tells the story of America’s westward expansion and the significant role the area’s historic trails played. Nearly 500,000 people traveled the Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express Trails between 1840 and 1870. The Center is a partnership between BLM, the National Historic Trails Center Foundation and the City of Casper.
 
BLM lands in Wyoming are one of the few remaining locations where national historic trails can be experienced in a setting relatively unchanged from the 1800s. In Wyoming, 60% (over 340 miles) of the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express Trails are under BLM stewardship. 
 
The South Pass of the Continental Divide made possible the westward migration which began in 1843. South Pass is the gently sloping hump of the emigrant trails, rising to an elevation of only 7,526 feet. This feature provided the 19th century emigrants with a relatively "easy" crossing of the Continental Divide. Four National Historic Trails pass through the South Pass area--the Oregon, Mormon Pioneer, California, and Pony Express.
 
Lansford W. Hastings identified a portion of a shortcut route on the California emigrant trail across the northern portion of the Cedar Mountains, lending his name to Hastings Pass. This was a crucial part of the route of the ill-fated Donner–Reed party and it is an important section of the California National Historic Trail.
 
This campground is situated at a station site along the Pony Express National Historic Trail's route across Utah. In 1860 and 1861, riders risked their lives delivering the mail. Today, you can stop at stations and interpretive sites along the Backcountry Byway where riders rested before they raced on to their 1,800-mile mail run. Simpson Springs was also the site of a significant Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp during the late 30s and early 40s.
 
In 1849, the most used route to the California goldfields crossed the Nevada desert from Fort Hall in present day Idaho, into Surprise Valley, and over Fandango Pass. 
 
The fabled "Journey of the Dead Man" (so named because of the harshness of the waterless section of the trail) served as a short cut along the route between El Paso del Norte and the colonial settlements of northern New Mexico.  Today, the public can hike on the original road and learn the history and significance of this section of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, the major north-south road connecting Mexico and New Mexico.
 
The Hole-in-the-Rock Trail extends from the town of Escalante across the gorge of the Colorado River and through very rugged canyon country to the town of Bluff. The Hole-in-the-Rock Trail was blazed by Mormon pioneers as they traversed the canyon country between Escalante and Bluff during the winter of 1879-1880.
 
Iditarod National Historic Trail, Alaska
The Iditarod National Historic Trail commemorates a 2,300-mile system of winter trails that first connected ancient Native Alaskan villages, opened up Alaska for the last great American gold rush, and now plays a vital role for travel and recreation in modern day Alaska.

Expeditions

"Get Your Kicks on Route 66" has echoed for decades across America, and Arizona showcases 42 miles of the "Mother Road" from Kingman to Topock, at the California border and the Colorado River. Check out also, the Historic Route 66, in California.
 
The earliest known Euroamerican site in Colorado’s White River Resource Area is an inscription in the Canyon Pintado area recording the year of the Escalante-Dominguez Expedition: 1776. 
 
The Magdalena Trail got started in January of 1885 - when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe built the rail spur to Magdalena, and ranchers from all over western New Mexico and eastern Arizona started trailing their herds of cattle and sheep there for shipping.
  
One of the most famous sandstone buttes in America, Pompeys Pillar bears the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On the face of the 150-foot butte, Captain William Clark carved his name on July 25, 1806, during his return to the United States through the beautiful Yellowstone Valley.
 
The Center offers education programs that interpret the history of Sacajawea and the significance of her role with the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery. It is operated by the City of Salmon, Idaho, in partnership with the BLM, the Idaho Governor's Lewis & Clark Trail Committee and many others.

Transcontinental Railroad Grade, Utah
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 90-mile Backcountry Byway, known as the Promontory Branch, begins west of Golden Spike National Historic Site (managed by the National Park Service) and winds through remnants of railroad camps, towns, and trestles.

Lighthouses and Lookouts 

The first archeological evidence of an English settlement is recorded in 1763.  In 1854, President Franklin Pierce ordered the Ft. Jupiter Lighthouse Reservation and Lt. George Meade, later Union General at the Battle of Gettysburg, was selected to design the structure.
 
The Punta Gorda lighthouse began operating on January 15, 1912. The Lighthouse is located on a remote section of the BLM-managed King Range National Conservation Area  in Humboldt County, California. It was known as the "Alcatraz of lighthouses" because of its inaccessibility.
 
Piedras Blancas is located on California's central coast, just north of San Simeon. The point is named for a white rock out cropping. In the 1866, this location was chosen to fill the gap between the lighthouses at Point Conception and Point Sur.
  
The historic Yaquina Head Lighthouse is Oregon's tallest and second oldest continuously operating lighthouse. The "1872" above the front door signifies that it was Oregon's fifth lighthouse built to guide mariners along the coast and into safe havens.
  
Pechuck Fire Lookout, Oregon
This Fire Protection Facility was staffed from 1918/1919 until 1964. A growing concern for fire protection in forested areas in the early 20th century resulted in the construction of lookouts and the placement of fire location devices on high sites with wide views throughout the northwest. 

Civilian Conservation Corps 

This Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was occupied from 1935 to 1936 by Company 2867.  Approximately 200 men were stationed at the camp, primarily from Texas and Arizona.
 
Beginning in 1909, Rand became home to one of the first Forest Service rangers for the Siskiyou National Forest. From 1933 to 1941, approximately 200 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers called Rand home.