Oklahoma Roads/Non-Roads - US 69 - Picher ghost town
Picher ghost town (US 69)
Just shy of the Kansas border, US 69 goes through some strange territory. I had a plan mapped out, but thanks to street closures, I just started to wander all over the place. I'll just present what I saw in order and let you know anytime I'm sure of where I turned or ended up.
Picher was abandoned because lead and zinc mines tore away all of the ground beneath, making it unsafe for houses but apparently just fine for driving on paved roads. Fun stats: 34% of children had lead poisoning, 86% of buildings were seriously undermined (literally), and a tornado took out over 100 houses in 2008. I think I wasn't aware of why it was abandoned at the time, or I might not have ventured quite so deep into it. Speaking of lead and zinc, that's what you'll find in the giant sand piles seen here on the west side of US 69 - mine tailings with all sorts of interesting substances inside. Bon appetit!
I turned off US 69 NB at the first photo onto some side street - most of the signs are gone, possibly taken as souvenirs or else blown away by the tornado. Some buildings have already been demolished, leaving empty lots, while the water tower stands forlornly over the emptiness.
Back on US 69 again, looking at former buildings and closed roads on the west side. The First Baptist Church is rather less welcoming now than before.
Nothing creeps me out more than rows of identical, empty houses with "KEEP OUT" painted on them. I will obey.
Random closed streets and empty lots, on the west side of US 69 (tailings are in the background). I was there just after (or even during, for a bit) a storm.
I doubt there's any water, but that's okay because there's nothing to catch on fire.
Another view of tailings, and another church I can't imagine gets much attendance - but there are cars parked there, so this might be by one of the 2 or 3 residences that people resolutely refused to abandon (just like Centralia, another ghost town for a similar but different reason).
Aha! Street signs! Now I know where I am, but the school should make that obvious as well. Needless to say, Picher-Cardin is no longer a district. Students go to Quapaw or Commerce instead - and they probably all live there as well.
This building says "Cafe" on the side, and that's all I know. That, and it's right next to the school along Ottawa St. Whatever it is, it has an inviting swing set in the back, inviting if you're excited by nonzero chances of falling into a sinkhole and having no one hear your screams.
The Field of Broken Dreams. You built it, but they won't come. Wonder how long it would take to get towed if I parked in the bus parking?
More random exploration in the land of poison sandpiles, and it really bugs me that I thought they were just sandpiles. I could have gotten out and played in them! Given how close they were to a still-active town, maybe the kids actually did play in them! (Gee, that would explain the 34% lead poisoning rate.) I would think a church in this part of the country can be safely assumed to be Christian, or is it trying to compete with the other dead churches in town? Maybe this is where the Christian zombies congregate.
The tailing piles have gotten so large, they've started to form
sandstone poisonleadstone cliffs. The railroad is somewhere within the mine property, where I'm not going.
Onto US 69
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