Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable–Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
Just off exit 76 along Oregon’s Interstate Five, stands a small ghost town. The mining community of Golden was founded during the gold rush. In its heyday, the town served about 500 area minors (mostly Chinese immigrants) and produced up to 1.5 million dollars of wealth.
Getting to the ghost town is quite easy from the main highway. Take the Wolf Creek exit (as mentioned above, number 76). For people traveling southbound, you will have to drive through the town of Wolf Creek and pass under the Interstate Five overpass before proceeding east for about three miles on Coyote Creek Road. Northbound travelers only have to take the Wolf Creek exit and turn right to be on the path towards Golden.
Once at the town’s site, there is parking along the shoulder. After viewing the ruins, visitors can cross the main road that passes through Golden and take a trail that leads to the Golden Coyote Wetlands. The site is where minors worked more than a 150 years ago. It’s a beautiful area that’s recovering from the devastating affects of hydraulic mining.
A Campbellite minister, Reverend William Ruble, formally established the town of Golden in 1890. Its religious foundation took front and center during its existence. The small mining community had two churches and no saloons, a rarity for mining towns. According to the Josephine County Historical Society it made “this town unique in Western annuls.”
Golden has an interesting history with pop culture too. Its cemetery was featured on an episode of “Gunsmoke.” However, the town never had a graveyard until after Hollywood came knocking. In fact, all of the faded and illegible wood markers are leftover props. There are some contemporaneous headstones peppered throughout the cemetery, but they were placed there after the episode’s airing as memorials to former residence of Golden. No one is actually buried there.
Ultimately, the pursuit of riches is what fueled the town’s growth, and when the gold dried up, the city’s population dwindled. “In 1906, thirty-six children still went to school in Golden. Now not a soul lives here,” reported former KEZI News anchor Rick Dancer in a 2014 report.
Today only fragments remain of this 19-Century community, but like in the city’s prime, the fabric of the town’s DNA is apparent. The Campbellite church proudly stands tall welcoming visitors to Golden, and the old school building, which doubled as another church, prominently stands too. Both buildings are open and accessible to visitors.
The remnants of several other buildings still stand. They are obviously not safe to enter and aren’t open to travelers. Despite their dilapidated state, they are still picturesque to a skilled photographer.
Enjoy taking a step back in time by visiting the ghosts of Golden.