Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Abandonment: Tungsten Mining - Atolia, California

It Was A Lonely Life - Atolia, California
Atolia is a lost speck on the map, located along U.S. Highway 395 in California's Mojave Desert. It's in the middle of nowhere, located near the almost-ghost-towns of Randsburg and Johannesburg. If you weren't paying close attention, you'd likely pass the place by without even realizing it.

The town of Atolia was founded in 1907 after the discovery of tungsten. At the time tungsten was worth almost as much as gold and silver and it didn't take long for several mines to pop up. At first Atolia was a tent town, with the mining and milling structures the only permanent ones.

In 1916 the original town burned to the ground. But, due to demand from the first World War, the price of tungsten rose sharply and the town quickly rebuilt. This time they had a dairy, movie theater, saloon, general store, schoolhouse, post office, hotel, newspaper, butcher shop, restaurant, and even an ice cream parlor. At its height there were about 4,000 residents in Atolia.
The Corrugated Building - Atolia, California
As quickly as the town boomed it also busted. In 1919 the tungsten market collapsed and the mines closed. Sporadically some mining continued in Atolia, including as recently as 2007. But, really, 1919 was the end of the town.

In the 1920's and 1930's many of the town structures were relocated to the neighboring communities of Randsburg and Red Mountain. A few of those buildings are still in use today. Very little remains of Atolia within what once was Atolia. Only a dozen (or so) structures spread out across the dry desert still stand, all in a state of dilapidation. There is one house that someone might perhaps live in (on the west side of the highway), but I did not get close enough to say for sure. Otherwise, the site is completely abandoned.

Due to the fading evening light, I didn't spend nearly as much time exploring Atolia as I would have liked. 31 minutes elapsed from the first exposure to the last. I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR to capture these images.
Mattress Chute - Atolia, California
Couch On The Porch - Atolia, California
Make Yourself At Home - Atolia, California
An Atolia Home - Atolia, California
Paint It White - Atolia, California
Unwatched Television - Atolia, California
A Desert Dream Abandoned - Atolia, California
Corrugated Glass - Atolia, California
Have Yourself A Kooper Little Christmas - Atolia, California
Circular Abstract - Atolia, California
The Chute - Atolia, California
Power Outage - Atolia, California
Two Scoops - Atolia, California
And It Was Called Yellow - Atolia, California
Monochrome Bolt - Atolia, California
Open Window - Atolia, California
Tungsten Mining Structures - Atolia, California


  1. Hi Ritchie
    I was just wondering if anybody live in the house you can see from the 395 in Atolia?
    I am just curious I'm in a wheelchair and cannot check for myself.

    1. There isn't anyone living the east side of the highway. On the west side, it looked like the house was vacant from a distance, but I didn't get close enough to say for sure one way or the other.