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Visiting the Wyoming Ghost Town Amelia Earhart Hoped to Call Home

June 16, 2014 at 12:42 PM | by | ()

Everyone always talks about taking "the road less traveled." Well, just in time for prime summer road trips, have we got a barely traveled road to suggest: the route to Wyoming's ghost town of Kirwin.

Just outside Cody, known as the gateway to Yellowstone, is the Shoshone National Forest. it's here you'll find the abandoned mining town nestled in an alpine meadow. Originally incorporated in the late 1880s by William Kirwin and Harry Adams, the village saw its heyday in 1902 when the population reached about 200.

Driving from the smaller town of Meeteetse through cattle ranches and river beds, the ascent starts up Phelps Mountain with sharp drops around. The risk is part of the experience and the trip should only be handled in a rugged 4X4. (Pro tip: keep an eye out on the side of the road for mountain raspberries as fresh as can be.)

The end of the road is the reward, with a small parking area before the walk across a bridge and into the heart of Kirwin. The main thoroughfare of Kirwin is long overgrown, but it's not difficult to imagine this place as home to 200.

A few years after the peak, the mine was found to be producing low quality gold. The town's fate was then sealed in 1907 when a snowstorm dumped 100 feet of snow over eight days onto the surrounding mountains, causing an avalanche which killed a large portion of the residents. Survivors headed downstream to safer areas and never returned.

During an attempted resurrection of the town in the early 1930s, Amelia Earhart fell in love with the river valley. She asked her then host to build her a cabin up the hill from Kirwin, and he obliged. Sadly, the construction of Amelia's cabin was halted once the news of her disappearance in the Pacific reached Wyoming.

In all, Kirwin boasted about 40 buildings; these consisted of boarding houses, three general stores, a hotel, a saw mill and a post office. They buck the traditional Wild West image of a ghost town by being free of saloons, brothels, or even a cemetery. Some buildings have even been slightly refurbished by the National Forest Service, in order to allow visitors a peek back in time.

We were lucky enough to be the only visitors this particular day, and keenly felt the solitude. If you're planning to make the trek up the mountain, go during summer to avoid the deadly winter and wet season weather, and remember to leave plenty of time to get back down the mountain as well.

[Photos: Rayme Gorniak/Jaunted, jose1jose2jose3, drcohen]

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