Shafter Ghost Town: US 67, Marfa to Presidio

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As soon as you leave Marfa, headed down US 67 towards the Mexican border, you realize there isn’t much to see.  The road stretches out ahead of you, and you realize you don’t even need to touch your steering wheel for a while.  Straight and flat eventually gives way to a few hills and curves.  But for the entire 60-mile drive, there’s only one town, Shafter, and it’s mostly a ghost town.

A few miles before arriving in Shafter, a road sign points out Elephant Rock, at the side of the road.  You can’t do much more than just look at it…

… then continue down the road, which at this point has become a little more mountainous and fun to drive.

Shafter appears and disappears quickly — so fast that I missed it at first, then made a u-turn to check it out.  There are still some signs of life in this ghost town, including this Catholic mission church.

But most of Shafter’s landscape is dominated by the Shafter Memorial Historical Site.  At least, I’m guessing that’s the official name for it.  That sign sure does look official.

A fence surrounds most of the old ruins, some of which stretch to the opposite side of US 67.  This looked like the kind of fence that just about everyone ignores, and in some places it was pulled down, making it easily crossable.  Even though I wanted to wander around, I decided to stay on the right side of the law…

… and just took pictures from outside the fenced-off area.

The ruins of Shafter are left over from the town’s silver mining days.  The mines opened in 1880, and closed and opened several times over the next 50 years or so.  World War II helped bolster the population of about 1,500 people, thanks to the nearby fort in Marfa and air field in Presidio.  Once the war ended, the population dropped like a dusty desert rock, to around 20 people, give or take a few, which is where it has stayed.  An article in the San Antonio Express News in 2008 said the silver mine had been purchased, and plans were afoot to start production again.  Another article in 2011 said the mine is being restarted.  In other words, tiny Shafter could be in for another boom.

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