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.