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Picher, Oklahoma: Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town

EPA's Most Toxic Place in America -- Superfund cleanup site since 1983, surrounded by enormous piles of lead and zinc mining chat. Property buyouts offered to 3,000 in 2006. Smashed by F4 tornado in 2008. Less than ten residents remain; there's still an operating pharmacy/store.

E 22 Rd, Picher, OK
From US-69 in downtown, turn west onto E 22 Rd (look for the flagpole) and drive one block. You'll see the gorilla on the right.
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Visitor Tips and News About Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town

Reports and tips from visitors and Roadside America mobile tipsters. Some tips may not be verified. Submit your own tip.

School mascot Gorilla.

Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town

Main Street is no longer accessible. There is a quarry where Main Street use to be. You can just see the gorilla and plaques on the side of the road.

[6isenoughforme, 07/06/2021]
Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town

The lonely gorilla is located at a memorial area just off US 69. Also at the memorial are informational podiums that talk about Picher's history, as well as the Quapaw tribe who donated the land for the memorial.

[Hey Guys, it's Emily, 06/29/2021]

Piles of mine tailings.

Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town

The mounds of chat [metal-contaminated mine tailings] surround everything...which seems like strange placement. We were told that Main Street was closed because they were working on the water lines? One of the outskirt roads was lined with white lilies; found that interesting. The gorilla mascot was still located on the high school parking lot. Happened to see a man out jogging in the desolate neighborhood. And the Native America Marshal office was located in a neighborhood that was evacuated. Overall pretty creepy and cool.

[Mary, 08/24/2020]

School mascot Gorilla.

Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town

Amazing how this town, apparently thriving at one point, is pretty much desolate. After most people moved out of Picher, a tornado destroyed what was left. The high school mascot gorilla is located in a parking lot.

[Rose Howe, 11/21/2019]

Deserted building.

Modern Day Ghost Town

We saw this town on the Discovery Channel's "Forgotten Planet" and we're intrigued. It was very easy to get to, it's right off Route 66 and the large hills of chat mark your approach.

The town was deemed poisonous in 1996 after 1/3 of the children were found to have the effects of lead poisoning from the mining (or so the show tells us). Most of the 3,000 inhabitants took the buyout but a number stayed.

The town was then hit by an F4 tornado that wiped out hundreds of homes, as seen by all the empty slabs. The main neighborhood has "KEEP OUT" spray painted on most homes and the doors and windows are all gone.

Curiously a few homes (3-5) are still inhabited, so if you choose to stop here please keep that in mind. The abandoned Main Street makes for some pretty pictures of the decay of the 20th century. Our kids enjoyed this stop a lot; they felt like they really were in a ghost town!

[Rachel Ford, 08/17/2014]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Lonely Gorilla in Modern-Day Ghost TownLonely Gorilla in Modern-Day Ghost Town, Picher, OK - < 1 mi.
Hole in the Wall Conoco StationHole in the Wall Conoco Station, Commerce, OK - 4 mi.
Mickey Mantle's Boyhood HomeMickey Mantle's Boyhood Home, Commerce, OK - 4 mi.
In the region:
National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum, Joplin, MO - 17 mi.

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