In 1908, former slave Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other African Americans founded the town of Allensworth in the San Joaquin Valley of California. According to wikipedia, it is "the only California town to be founded, financed and governed by African Americans." At its height, the town included 200 people and a library, post office, barbershop, store, hotel, schoolhouse, church, and numerous other homes and farming buildings.
Water for the town, however, began to try up as other farms "upstream" increased demand and by the time of the Great Depression, public services such as the post office began to shut down and many residents had to move away to find work. Despite hard times, the "town that refused to die" still had a population of 90 in 1972, though within a few years that had dropped to almost zero.
Due to the town's historical significance and a public campaign to save the town, in 1976 Allensworth became a state historic park. Nowadays, many of the buildings have been restored and are available for public tours along with the addition of a visitor center and 15 campsites.
The campground is set off at the back of the historic town and was completely deserted when we arrived on a warm summer day in June, including empty spots where camp hosts would have been. Self registration is easy though (just $20) and the town itself had rangers and volunteers in the visitor center for any questions. Bathrooms with flush toilets, free showers, water fountains and an area to wash dishes were ridiculously clean. The camp sites had concrete pads for RVs, picnic tables with covers, and a couple of water faucets, though no electricity or water hookups except for in the camp host spots. The area is hot and dry in the summer with few trees, so the shade covers over the picnic tables are helpful. There’s also an RV dump for an additional $10.
The Weird and The Awesome
I absolutely loved this campground and learning about the town history. It’s quirky, interesting, and such an odd thing to find in the middle of nowhere-California between Fresno and Bakersfield. It also felt completely deserted, like a ghost town, despite rangers and the occasional tour bus coming through. The big open spaces, dust, and sparse amount of trees adds to its otherworldly-ness. If you find yourself anywhere near here, definitely worth a stop. Or if not, their website includes much more information about the history including a virtual tour and is worth a look: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=583