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Missing In Action–Chinese Camp, a California Ghost Town

This is what’s left of Main Street in the town of Chinese Camp, in Tuolumne County, CA. It is a ghost town. However, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our day there, photographing the decrepit buildings, exploring a couple of old graveyards, and enjoying a solitary picnic by the Don Pedro Reservoir.

Main Street, Chinese Camp

Chinese homes and stores were on the western half of Main Street and over the years were either abandoned or destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, the only buildings left standing are on the old business-district side of Main Street and are not Chinese. Chinese Camp was also settled by English and Irish immigrants.

Hwy-120 Entrance to Chinese Camp

Old Post Office and Stage Coach Stop, Built in 1854.
The Old Dance Hall.

Chinese Camp was originally settled by Chinese miners who had been employed by an English company and brought over from China to Stockton. In 1849, they were brought to a camp called Campo Salvado but experienced so much harassment that they fled to a nearby camp. That camp, originally called Camp Washington, became known as Chinese Camp when many additional Chinese men came to stay.

A Saloon Owned by a Man Named Gross.

The Robert Orford Store – notice the Stone Wall.
This Wall was likely Built by the Chinese.

Rumor has it, these historical buildings are owned by an old lady who is unwilling to sell. It is a shame to see them slowly decay over time.

Our Next Fixer-Upper?


Before you begin your day of exploring (assuming you follow my tracks), you should stop at the Chinese Camp Store and Tavern off of CA-120 at the entrance to Chinese Camp. The husband and wife proprietors know their history and will answer any questions you might have about the area. Besides stocking general camping/convenience items, they also sell hand-made blankets, old coins, small fossils, and indigenous rocks. (I had trouble accessing their website, but don’t worry, they are open for business!)

They also have a lovely little garden with picnic tables and restrooms, open to the public.

Chinese Camp Store and Tavern, 13750 CA-120, Chinese Camp, CA 95409. Photo from Google Maps
Richard – One Half of the Proprietors, Knowledgeable Amateur Historian, and Geologist.

Richard pointed out a track road across from his store that goes through a private ranch. However, because the road also leads to a public graveyard, we are allowed to open (and close!) the gate and drive through. I’m so glad he told us. We visited the graveyard and enjoyed a beautiful view!

I always take time to read some tombstones. I figure I owe it to the deceased and families to remember them in some way.

A Family Plot
“Our dear lovely little girl . . . “

Next we visited the Old Catholic Church, built in 1855, restored in 1949, and presently left to decay.


This one made me pretty sad:

Mary Ann, Daughter of John & Maria Kempston, Died Feb. 18, 1877, Aged 18 Years & 8 Months, Also Her Three Brothers James, Willey & The Baby

Okay – on to something more uplifting!

We drove 3.5 miles on HWY-120 (toward Yosemite) and pulled over at a viewpoint over the San Pedro Reservoir. Facing the large man-made lake, walk to the far right, step over the rail, and you will see  a trail that leads down to the water. Ignore the super-steep “paths” that some people made, there is actually a real path that winds down where you won’t break your neck.

The Old Gold-Country Town of Jacksonville used to lie where the waters are now.

We enjoyed a picnic with no one else around! Granted, it was a weekday.

Now it’s your turn! Head on up to Gold Country and enjoy the natural beauty and well-worn history! For more ideas, go to my Gold Country Category. I’ll be adding blogs there as we visit more towns along Route 49.

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