Oklahoma’s Eerie Ghost Town
For whatever reason, there really aren't that many "old" towns in Oklahoma. Being a somewhat young state, our old towns are usually just the really small towns. For instance, Hollis, OK (about 90 miles West) was once a bustling metropolis of people. It was both a city and rural community mashed into one rich in restaurants, entertainment, and morals... Now it's just a small dying town past it's prime on the edge of Oklahoma. It's a common tale throughout much of the state, but there is one legitimate ghost town you're welcome to explore. It's not an old West type ghost town like you'd find out West, but it is a town where people just up and left one day due to a disaster.
Welcome to Picher, OK. One of the few mining towns the Sooner State has ever known, rich in mining metals like zinc and lead. In fact, the area was so rich in these minerals that between opening in 1917 and the end of WWII, the mine had produced almost $20billion and supplied the US military with half of it's total lead used in WWII. While the mine closed permanently in 1967, the town, although shrinking, remained. It's claim to fame is holding the title of "Most Toxic Town In America."
When mining ceased in 1967, there was no use in pumping out the groundwater that settled in the mines. With a major contamination problem from some 14,000 now abandoned mine shafts, 70million tons of tailings, and 36million tons of sand and sludge all walked away from, Picher was in desperate need of a huge environmental cleanup.
The federal government did what they always do... Let the responsible party go and decide to make it a taxpayer problem. They added Picher to the Tar Creek Superfund act and decided to clean it up in 1980. While they allowed government contractors twenty-five years of tax monies in cleaning up the sites, it was determined in 2006 that it was just too contaminated to ever be designated clean again, so they relocated the residents and just closed the town. Being stubborn, some residents remained... but as the mines caved in and the town began to sink, the last residents left by 2009 when they all voted to dissolve the school district. Most of the buildings there have been condemned, in imminent danger of caving, but you can still take a drive and see it for yourself. It's quite the journey though, located in the Northeast corner of the state, and odds are, policing officials will most likely chase you off as much as possible.