Status: Ghost Town
Date Settled: 1896
Current Population: 2
Peak Population: ~500
Elevation: 1,079 Feet ( 329 meters)
Primary Mineral: Supply center
Gallery: View 11 Ballarat, California Photos
Ballarat was founded in 1896 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 by prospectors and desert wanderers. George Riggins, a young immigrant from Australia, gave Ballarat its name when he proposed it should be named for Ballarat, Victoria, in the heart of Australia's gold country.
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), school, a jail and morgue, but no churches. Ballarat was a place for miners and prospectors in the area to resupply and relax.
The town began its 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 and all that remained were a few diehard prospectors and desert rats.
In the 1960s, Charles Manson and the "Manson Family" of killers moved into a ranch south of Ballarat, and left graffiti in the town. 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.