Picher’s water tower still stands. Interesting to note the date of the town’s founding…I wonder if anyone will inscribe the date on which it died?
Picher, Oklahoma is America’s newest ghost town.
The abandoned mining town in the far northeast corner of Oklahoma, close to the Kansas and Missouri borders, is on the verge of complete collapse on account of acidic mining water turning Tar Creek red and eating away at the earth underneath the surface.
Most of the buildings are now destroyed, and the landscape is dominated by drab gray hills known as “chat piles,” or mining waste. Very few people remain.
I last visited Picher in late 2008 on my way back to Springfield from Wichita, and I saw a town in great decline. Several people still lived in the town, not having yet accepted a government buyout of their property. Not five years ago, the town still boasted a bank, small museum and a few other buildings — as well as many homes.
But what mining could not do, a tornado did in early 2008. Eight people in Picher were killed when a twister roared through the community, destroying many homes and buildings. The fine folks of Picher had seen enough. (Not all of them though, apparently: A Wired article from 2010 has some insight about those who absolutely refused to leave.)
Today, my friend Spencer and I visited the town and saw a landscape different than what I had seen four years ago. Only a few buildings remain, with concrete pads now visible where homes that sheltered families once stood. The houses that do remain are either scrawled with a rather eerie “KEEP OUT” command or are simply on the verge of collapse.
I had the chance to snap some photos and document a few moments in time of this still-decaying town. Time and neglect has taken its toll on Picher, and it won’t be long before everything in that corner of the world is just a memory.
Picher, Oklahoma is full of abandoned homes like this. Several are on the verge of collapse.
An eerie neighborhood watch sign gives off a chilly vibe in Picher. In the distance, an HUD housing complex office can be seen.
This road leads to a neighborhood with houses still largely intact, in the loose sense of the word. Many of the homes have been looted and beaten.
The words “Keep Out” are probably seen more per square mile in Picher than any other place in the U.S.
A door leads to a home that has been laid bare by looters and time.
Another view of the HUD housing complex.
Self-portrait as I am walking down the road back to my car.
The Gorilla is the mascot of the Picher High School sports program. Their football team won the Oklahoma 1A state title in 1984.
An entrance to the football field at Picher-Cardin High School is loosely barricaded.
A sign that shows when the football field was built is crumbling to pieces. The field itself looks like it was never upgraded, and is frozen in time.
Picher-Cardin Junior-Senior High School has been boarded up since 2010, never to be reopened.
Even the street signs around Picher are showing what time and neglect can do.
The school district’s basketball gymnasium tells a tale of both history and neglect.
Frozen in time, the concession stand at the high school football field looks as if it is just waiting to reopen when football season rolls around.
The front entrance to Picher’s school. No one will ever walk through those doors (legally) again.
A church sits on the verge of collapse just blocks from the high school.
This road, in better days, took people to and from their homes lining it for years.