Have you ever noticed the old Bodie race track when you’re driving into town? Probably not… there’s almost no sign of it left, except the compacted ground leftover from the late 1870s. Just before you get to town on Bodie Rd., there it is to your right. If you really want to walk the track, you’ll probably want to print out the satellite view map to get your bearings.
One of the earliest attempts to arouse the gaming instincts of the camp was brought about through the efforts of M. Stewart, Silas Smith, Ben Butler, J. Pollack, and William Witherow. In the spring of 1878 they donated money to start a race track on the flat south of town.
By the following year, horse racing had become a fad, and as much as $1,000-$5,000 was put up by owners of fast horses. This sport stayed with the camp until the turn of the century.
Horseracing, walking matches, shooting matches, and anything that could be wagered on attracted attention during the Bodie boom. A swimming match at the islands of Mono Lake was one of the more imaginative products. Spectators were taken by railway to the shore of Mono Lake. Another grueling match was a Fourth of July footrace from Main street to a flag pole at the top of High Peak. The winner made the run up and back to Main street in a little over nine minutes. He overcame a 1,200 foot rise in elevation.
Wedertz, Frank “Gamblers.” Bodie 1859-1900. Chalfant Press, 1969. Column 107. Print.