Exploring Picher, OK

The former town of Picher, OK, has been described as the most toxic Superfund site in the United States.  For almost half a century, this town of about 1,600 people was home to the world’s largest lead mine.  The mining company hollowed out the land under the town, piled the tailings on apparently any empty lot — sometimes just feet from housing — and finally abandoned the whole works, letting the mine galleries flood and causing lead to seep into the groundwater.

Here are some pictures of it.


House & Tailings

The mine waste is in mountainous piles all around the town.  I would recommend visiting on a rainy day.

Saggy House & Tailings

US Property NO

No what?  Sorry, sign’s too faded to read.


The feds started the process of leveling all of the houses in town, but of course left all of the concrete pads, which gives the whole place a bizarre and frightening Hiroshima look.  The rattling chains and slamming screen doors don’t help.

No Porch

I say started the process, because they apparently got to where they were halfway done with this house and then ran out of money. I would say that about 1/3 of the original buildings are still up, with no apparent effort to tear them down.

Crazy TrailersCrazy Trailers

As is always the case with these sorts of places, there are a few crazies — their initially precarious grip on reality not helped by the lead poisoning — who think that the whole thing is a “gummit plot” to get them off their land, and so refuse to leave. I didn’t approach too closely, because they’re almost certainly cooking meth and had aggressive-looking dogs chained up. You can see how close the mine waste is to the housing, however.

Cable Box

When they knocked down the houses, they left the cable boxes as they’re property of the cable company, which means that the woods that have grown into the abandoned lots are studded with them.

Hydrant and Antenna

Fire hydrants are also, apparently, too much work to remove. It will look even more bizarre in 50 years when the woods are fully grown in.


They knocked down the house that was here, but left the pole with the TV antenna and satellite dish.

Hydrant and Chimney


They knocked down the house, but not the chimney.

Album Cover

This looks like it should be an Ataris album cover, except I accidentally got my car in the picture.

Floppy House

It’s interesting to see how wooden buildings decay with water damage. The wood warps instead of just coming apart into sticks, which gives you all kinds of crazy shapes.

No Roof

This one seems to have burned, which must have done wonders for the lead dust problem.

Phone & Water Tower 1 Phone & Water Tower 2

 The cable boxes stayed, but AT&T was coming for their payphone.
Neighborhood Watch
Of course they had a neighborhood watch.
Pitcher OK Mining Museum
The extremely ironic Picher Mining Museum. Abandoned.
The Thomas residence. I didn’t go into any of the buildings, out of respect and out of desire not to die of tetanus.
There’s linoleum on some of the concrete pads, still.
Water Tower Baptist Sign
Explore places like this at your own risk.  I wash my hands of any responsibility if you get swallowed up in a sinkhole, shot by hillbillies, or die of mesothelioma in 60 years.  Show some respect by leaving things as you found them, taking only pictures and not breaking any laws that are likely to be enforced.

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