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Ballarat, California

Coordinates: 36°02′52″N 117°13′24″W / 36.04778°N 117.22333°W / 36.04778; -117.22333
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Ballarat, California
Ballarat, California
Ballarat is located in California
Location in California
Ballarat is located in the United States
Ballarat (the United States)
Coordinates: 36°02′52″N 117°13′24″W / 36.04778°N 117.22333°W / 36.04778; -117.22333
CountryUnited States
CountyInyo County
Elevation1,079 ft (329 m)
ZIP code
Area codes442/760
FIPS code06-03680
GNIS feature ID252847[1]

Ballarat is an unincorporated community in Inyo County, California.[1]

Today, Ballarat is a virtual ghost town. It was founded in 1897 as a supply point for the mines in the canyons of the Panamint Range. A quarter-mile to the south is Post Office Springs, a reliable water source used since the 1850s. George Riggins, an immigrant from Australia, gave Ballarat its name when he proposed it should be named for Ballarat, Victoria.[citation needed]


Early mining days[edit]

The town was founded in 1897.[2] In its heyday—from 1897 to 1905—Ballarat had 400 to 500 residents. It hosted seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office (that opened in 1897),[2] school, a jail and morgue, but no churches. Ballarat was a place for miners and prospectors to resupply and relax.

The town began to decline when the Ratcliff Mine, in Pleasant Canyon east of town, suspended operations. Other mines nearby also began to play out, and in 1917 the post office closed[2] and all that remained were a few diehard prospectors and desert rats.

After the mines, "colorful characters" and a hippie festival[edit]

Highway marker 3.5 miles West of Ballarat

Seldom Seen Slim (Charles Ferge) was the sole resident of Ballarat from approximately 1918 until his 1968 death at the nearby Trona Hospital, where he died of cancer. Slim claimed not to have bathed in twenty years except for sloshing water on his naked body while standing outdoors. After the town's one remaining adobe building degraded beyond liveability, Slim lived in a Volkswagen and house trailer. Slim was the 28th and final person to be interred at Ballarat's boot hill. He used to say, "Just bury me where the digging's easy."[3]

In the 1960s, Charles Manson and the "Manson Family" of killers moved into a ranch south of Ballarat, and left graffiti in the town. It is theorized that the green pickup truck left in Ballarat belonged to him. The 1969 movie Easy Rider has a scene filmed in Ballarat. After arriving in the town, Peter Fonda's character, Wyatt, removes his Rolex watch and throws it away before he and Dennis Hopper's character, Billy, head east on their motorcycles towards New Orleans.

On Easter weekend, 1971, about two thousand people attended a "hippy" celebration at Ballarat,[4] when about two hundred of the attendees contracted hepatitis from contaminated drinking water.[5]

Early 21st century[edit]

Former Ballarat resident George Novak

In the year 2018 Ballarat had three full-time residents, Rocky Novak and his two dogs, Potlicker and Brownie. On afternoons and weekends Rocky would run the general store, which primarily catered to tourists. Novak was featured in the 2018 film vignette "The Mayor of Ballarat" by Mickey Todiwala and Monika Delgado.[6] The five-minute character piece featured a montage of various Ballarat locations with a voiceover narrated by Rocky describing his life in the town, while interjecting his various musings on human nature.[6]


At some point ca. 2020 Novak moved to nearby Trona CA, and Ballarat's general store was then managed by other nearby residents. There are currently approximately two fulltime town residents.[7][8]

Ballarat is used as a meeting point for four-wheel-drive expeditions into the Panamint Range and Death Valley, and in winter up to 300 people camp in the grounds of the town. The town was recently used as a set to tell the story of the Ballarat Bandit.

Ballarat was featured in an episode of Top Gear USA and the movie Obselidia.

The town has a ZIP Code of 93592, and is inside area codes 442 and 760.

Ballarat in fiction[edit]

Ballarat has featured in Western fiction including Hellbound for Ballarat (1970) by Nelson C. Nye and Bounty Hunt at Ballarat (1973) by Clayton Matthews.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Ballarat, California
  2. ^ a b c Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 1145. ISBN 1-884995-14-4.
  3. ^ Smith, Dave (August 18, 1968). "Seldom Seen Slim Laid to Rest in Boot Hill". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  4. ^ "Death Valley Gets Hippie Rock Mob". The Desert Sun. USA Today. April 5, 1971. p. 3. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  5. ^ Wild West: Ballarat P&G Society. By L. Rick. Sep. 22, 2005. Retrieved Aug. 19, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Todiwala, Mickey (June 26, 2018). "The Mayor of Ballarat". Vimeo.
  7. ^ Highlights of Ballarat, California – May 2020 Dave's-Travel-Corner. By Dave Levart. Nov. 24, 2020. Retrieved Aug. 19, 2023.
  8. ^ Ballarat - A Ghost Town DesertUSA. By Len Wilcox. 2023. Retrieved Aug. 19, 2023.

External links[edit]