Aurora! Goddess of the Dawn!
The story of Aurora begins as three prospectors, bitter by bouts of busts, wandered thirty miles east from Monoville, California to a small basin in the Wassuk Range. The men found a ledge of silver and several veins of gold floating on the surface of the mountains, thirteen miles east of Bodie, California. The men immediately staked several claims and one of the men, of whom happened to be very artistically literate, christened the ground, "Aurora! Goddess of the Dawn!" It took only weeks for word to spread of their find; news of the fabulous diggings spread north to Virginia City and west over the Sierra Nevada to several California mining camps. “The Rush to Esmerelda” (sic.) was on!

By 1861, Aurora surpassed its status as a town, sprouting out of the sage within a few weeks and in the course of a year donned a large stamp mill to harness the ore. There were a total of 17 mills with a greater total of 175 stamps and by 1869, the town had produced $27 million in gold. During this peak, Aurora's population reached an outstanding number of 10,000, and Aurora was quickly made the county seat of then "Esmerelda" County. Residents built a general store along with several saloons, a two-story hotel, and a post office to service the area. The Carson & Colorado Railroad (C&C) built a spur line and major depot at Aurora along its line to Keeler, California. In its time, Aurora had attracted a particular young man by the name of Samuel Clemens who worked briefly as a miner –- that is, until he found his new fortune by picking up a pen. It was here in this unassuming mining town that the name “Mark Twain” was born.

Perhaps more famous than the birth of Mark Twain was the town's bi-state jurisdiction! On March 2, 1861, Congress formed the Nevada Territory and with it, great confusion followed regarding Aurora’s placement within California or Nevada. In 1861, California created Mono County and named Aurora as its seat. Nevada quickly responded by designating Aurora as the seat of Esmeralda County. Until 1863, residents of Aurora could vote in both states; Californians could vote Republican in the saloon, while Nevadans could vote Democrat across the street in the general store, making it possible (and quite often regular) to vote for two county and state officials! A boundary survey put an end to the voting dilemma by officially placing Aurora three miles within Nevada. While the seat for Mono County was cutoff, Aurora was still the head of government for a very remote Esmeralda County.

"The older I get the more I remember that didn't happen." -- Mark Twain, 1863

The mining burg of Aurora staggered on for two more years with its population suffering greatly by 1865. Like any old mining boom, Aurora’s mines began to fade by 1869. By 1870, the town was abandoned and by the turn of the century, Aurora consisted of little more than muted memories. By the 1940’s, over a hundred ruins lied desolate along its faint streets. Since the town's demise, Aurora has been consumed by sagebrush and ghost town vandals who have heartlessly carted away all of Aurora’s picturesque brick buildings over the course of three decades. Practically nothing remains of Aurora today, its main streets barely discernible by a wide strip of dirt cutting through the sagebrush. The only place one can pay homage to Aurora would be its tiny cemetery and its handful of intact headstones, located in the junipers overlooking the small basin. These scraps of yesteryear are all that are left to remind visitors to this shallow basin of Aurora’s reigning glory as Nevada's once finest ghost town.

  • Aurora, Nevada
  • Aurora, circa 1934


Status: Ghost Town/Locale
Population: Sporadic. At present, the Del Monte Mining Company occupies portions of the basin.
Founded: April 1860
Zip Code: N/A

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How to Get Here:
A ghost town site in western Mineral County, 22 miles southwest of Hawthorne, 3 miles east of the California state line.
It's safe to say that had Aurora been preserved much the same way its sister town, Bodie has, it's likely Aurora would've been the best-preserved ghost town in the American West. Even so, a visit to Aurora is an escape in and of itself. The easiest way to Aurora is from the town of Hawthorne, 22 miles to the northeast. From the main intersection in Hawthorne, head south on SR 359 in the direction of "Lee Vining" for 8 miles to the junction with "Lucky Boy Pass" Road. This is a good 30-mile, well-maintained dirt road that skirts over the southern Wassuk Range to intersect with SR 338 at the East Walker River.

Follow the road for 23 miles over Lucky Boy Pass to a faint sign reading "Bodie, 11" on your left. In recent years, the Del Monte Mining Company has erected a sign to guide its mine trucks into the area. It's possible this sign could be removed at any time. Regardless, the junction is easy to spot (look for tree-lined Bodie Creek). Recently, the road to the Aurora townsite has been well-graded to accommodate large mining trucks and now passenger vehicles can easily make the drive. Proceed for 2 miles to a fork. Take the left fork and Aurora lies just over the hill (about 3/4 mile). Please respect all areas of closed or private property.

To Bodie (State Park)
For more adventurous wanderers, follow the right fork over Bodie Creek for 11 miles to Bodie State Park! The drive to Bodie can be a rough one, depending on the season. During the wet season, this road is only recommended with four-wheel-drive. 2WD vehicles can make the drive during the dry months, although the 1-mile portion through Bodie Creek Canyon is extremely rocky. After the canyon, the Bodie Road levels through a series of valleys before delivering you north of Bodie State Park at the parking area. From here, follow the road out to US 395 south of Bridgeport. Bring good tires and plenty of water!