While looking for another excuse to get out of the house I found this ghost town road trip that takes you through central and Northern central Washington. The Okanogan region is not where we would normally choose to venture since it’s so hot and dusty, but it was about to happen anyway, because we needed an escape.
You can go to the website and download the Google Maps directions, which I suggest doing. There is also a feature on Google Maps in the android app that allows you to download sections of maps that way, even without signal you can still use the map. This will NOT allow you to get directions somewhere though. The GPS in your phone should still function and give your location on the downloaded map without any cell signal. Once we had all that squared away, it was time to get all loaded up and hit the road! Make sure to bring lots of water. We made the trip in July and it was plenty hot. For us and our two dogs Cooper and Floyd. We like our 7-gallon water jug from REI.
Once you start getting close to Govan, at least coming from Western WA, the terrain becomes arid and flat. The highway seems to stretch on forever into the horizon. This is exactly why I still have an iPod. When we get out far away from anywhere the radio is either static or nothing interesting. Also, if the radio is out of range so is Pandora.
When we were finally in the Govan area we stopped at an abandoned building near the highway that was unmarked. It appeared to be a church, given the steeple above the doorway, where a bell must’ve been housed. We got out and took some photos. There were no historical markers but it appeared to be part of the original town. Then we went over to the school house. We got out and started to check it out but something was going on with our Nikon. We couldn’t figure out why the photos looked great but the viewfinder was….showing….wait….IT’S CRAWLING!!!
We disassembled the camera only to find tiny bugs were crawling around inside of it! We tried to get them all out with a brush and a can of air duster. Once that was fixed, and Katrin was confident to put the camera near her face again, we resumed walking around the school house. There were once more no historical markers or signs indicating when the school was built but according to Onlyinyourstate.com the town was founded in the 1800’s. Either way, it’s amazing that the building has lasted that long.
We made sure the pups got some water and stretched their legs well away from any rusty nails then got back on the road. This is only the 2nd or 3rd trip in the Ford and it’s already been a great little truck for us.
Arriving at Sherman we found that it was more of the same as Govan. Not much to go on and only a couple of structures remained. We took a couple of photos of the buildings and then decided to wonder around in the historical cemetery. At the entrance of the cemetery there is a monument to the flag raising on top of Mt. Suribachi. Lots of very old headstones. No one came out to speak with us while we were there. After reading some history it was back into the truck and onto the road again.
So far, even though Katrin and I love history, we weren’t really impressed with the two towns. Really it was just a few old buildings out in the hot sun. We repeatedly returned to the information on the website for historical information and perspective. These by no means were towns though.
Following the provided route will bring you right to Coulee Dam. We stopped and took the tour of the dam. Not only was it a fun tour, but it was cold inside the dam. In July this felt amazing. After wondering around the dam, we gassed up and had lunch. The dogs were able to get out and run around Cole Park before we continued down the road. Also, if you must leave your dogs somewhere, you can always ask a manager or the front desk if they can baby sit a couple of the goodest boys. Or bring a 2nd key and leave the AC on with the doors locked.
Bodie was what we were looking for! This was a proper historical site! After cruising down the highway through some beautiful green rolling hills we arrived at the town. Parking is on the side of the highway and locals seem to know to give a wide birth. Some won’t slow down so we kept the dogs close. There are signs giving the historical information and reminding visitors to tread lightly. We loved this town. Of course, we wondered around, read every sign and pondered what things for and the reason why one of the buildings appeared sunken in the earth. These buildings are in somewhat good but expected condition. Be careful of boards laying in the tall grass, some have nails all over them.
That night we tried desperately to find a proper campsite. Initially I tried to get us into the area marked green by Google Maps but I only found peoples driveways. After surrendering to the fact that the green area was not our public land haven, we decided to try somewhere else. We may have been trespassing, but we drove down Fox Road passed the quarry where the road branches into 3 smaller roads. We took each branch and the sun was getting really low in the sky. There were fences and signs indicating that some areas were private lands but we decided that the quarry likely wouldn’t care if we camped down the road from them. We decided to make it clear that we weren’t there to make a mess by cleaning up and leaving early in the morning after a brief walk up the hill for some photos of the view. No one left us a note or came to check on us.
Next on the itinerary, was Chesaw. When we were there some nice locals told us that Molson was going to be the best stop along the route. They were not wrong. Chesaw was similar to the 1st two stops. Not much to go on and honestly if it wasn’t so close to Bodie I would suggest skipping it. You won’t be able to get near the buildings since they are all on private lands. This is an eyes-only stop. There is a tavern there, and the store in town is a classical meeting place. We gathered a few supplies while we had the chance.
Bodie was definitely awesome, but Molson was the place to go. It is pretty far out there, but how could you not go if you considered this trip at all? Molson not only contains a little ghost town full of artifacts, signage, and interactive history but the school house across the street also contained living history. We met with people who grew up in the area and provided us with firsthand knowledge of the towns history.
First of all, park in the city center of the ghost town. Get out and go to every building. The bank is open and you can go inside where there is history posted on every wall. Each building is packed full of information and you can see what life was like for the people who settled the town. There are steam operated devices and farm equipment all over and in some of the covered areas. Put on sun screen and insert a whole new memory card for Molson.
Once you’re done cross the street and inside of the School House Museum you’ll find all kinds of things. If you have yet to be impressed, go to the basement first. This area contains sleds, rifles, shooting badges, uniforms, chainsaws, pelts, and so much more! I really geeked out. Upstairs there is a post office and a room full of fabrics where clothing was made. There’s also a classroom featuring all the original desks and wall art from when the school was active. The building even has a small gift shop. Make sure to sign the visitor log before you leave!
Nighthawk is another eyes-only destination. Once more, the remaining buildings are on private lands. We parked at the historical marker sign off the highway and took in the information. Nighthawk is right on a river but it didn’t look like a good spot for us or the dogs to take a dip. Even though the summer heat was on full blast. We really didn’t spend much time here.
The City of Omak has a nice little park called Eastside Park right on the Okanogan River. We used this as an opportunity to get out of the truck and play in some shade. This long on the road was making the dogs a bit stir crazy.
Getting to Dyer felt like more of the same. You can look at it from the road, but there we didn’t see any signs.
Dyer is the end of the trip. End report.
You have extra time, getting back on I-90 or taking I-90 before the trip even starts you can visit the town of Liberty. At the time that we did the ghost town road trip, neither of us had been to Liberty. We only found it because some friends wanted to meet there before camping for the weekend in the nearby forest and wheeling at Hole in The Rock 4×4 Trail.
Liberty Has a few buildings left standing and plenty of signage. Also, there is a working arrastra with signs explaining how and why it was used. Feel free to turn the water on and watch the mechanism turn while dragging the grind stone. The other large stones right next to it are as smooth as glass because of the years of use. Also, if you’re willing to get into the hills there are old mines, cabins, and various other mining related historical sites. You’ll have to get out and look for it all.
Another option if you are interested, add the city of Winthrop to the trip. It’s a western style town in the way that Leavenworth is a German town.
For us, we left Dyer and went to Leavenworth. Ducks and Drakes is our favorite spot to bring the dogs because of the outdoor seating and low-key location. Plus, it is right up the hill from some walking trails.
Overall, a worthwhile trip to see some history.