Ghost Towns: North Bloomfield, California (aka Humbug)

While staying up in Nevada City, Andy and I decided to take a spur of the moment run up to North Bloomfield — one of the most well-preserved and active ghost towns I’ve ever seen.


Settled in (roughly) 1852, the area attracted the miners who were already traveling into the area with the promises of gold. Named “Humbug” because of the lack of big strikes early on, the town was later renamed by the residents hoping for a more dignified moniker. Like many of the boom and bust towns, many of the miners who crowded into the town in the 1850s were gone by 1860.

Hydraulic mining came into favor, supported in significant numbers by Chinese workers who then inhabited settlements around the town. Business was once again booming until the early 1880s when operations were largely halted due to significant environmental concerns and litigation.

Officially part of the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, the town still stands as a reminder of its mining past. From Nevada City, the park is approximately 16 miles northeast. Much of the road is paved, although there are roughly 8 miles of unpaved roads beginning at the point where you cross a very narrow river bridge. We did the trip in a Scion, but I would recommend using a higher profile vehicle, if possible.

The museum and the other buildings are open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am until 5pm during the Spring and Summer (through the end of September).  We went in mid-October, so we were only able to look in the windows and walk the town. Despite that, it was still worth the trip to get a glimpse of life that once was. And you might catch a break and encounter the handful of residents who still live in the outskirts of this once bustling town.

Two things of note:
While the town is officially dead, the cemetery is still growing. It’s a beautifully maintained spot and apparently you can still request to be buried there.

In 1860, the church on the grounds was actually a guard hall used to train soldiers for the Civil War.