Visiting Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
My favorite adventures are always ones that take you off the beaten path. There’s nothing better than bypassing the major roads and seeing what’s out there. Recently, I spent a weekend in Fresno (more on that later) and on my way home couldn’t resist a road sign for Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park and turned off the highway to check it out.
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is located halfway between Fresno and Bakersfield off Highway 99. After you get off the highway you take country roads until you come across the historic spot located pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
In 1908 the town of Allensworth was founded by its namesake Colonel Allen Allensworth, a former slave and Civil War veteran. The town was founded as a haven for African Americans to live free from discrimination and immediately thrived. Soon there was a church, a school, a hotel, shops and more.
Unfortunately, the success of the town was to be short lived. Colonel Allensworth died tragically in 1914 and an economic slump combined with a dwindling water supply caused many residents to move away. In the 1960’s arsenic was found in the water supply and the town was officially removed from the map.
Like other ghost towns Allensworth could have faded into oblivion but almost immediately efforts began to preserve its legacy. In 1976 it was designated a state historic park and preservation and restoration efforts have continued ever since.
Today, several structures have been beautifully restored and visors can tour the the town. There are several paved roads giving one the option to drive, bike or walk around the park.
Since it was a beautiful day my mom and I decided to walk around the town site. It was so quiet and peaceful and as we walked around there were butterflies flitting through the air and jackrabbits and squirrels rushing through the brush. A friendly ranger stopped to advise us to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes but we never came across any.
During regular hours you can view the exteriors of the buildings only but several times throughout the year the Friends of Allensworth put on special events that allow access inside the buildings. In fact, the Old Time Jubilee is coming up on May 18 and there’s gong to be live music, food, arts and crafts and more.
Although Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is a bit off the beaten path it’s definitely worth visiting. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place that highlights a unique and significant part of California history and I’m so glad I left the highway to pay it a visit.