Gold rushes, mining sites, pop-up railroad towns and weird freak accidents have left some cities in the U.S. completely abandoned and obsolete for decades. Some towns built from minerals and goods survived (San Francisco, for example) while others like Garnet, Montana and Lake Valley, New Mexico quickly met their demise once their heydays were up. Most of these sites have been turned into tourist attractions, and The Bureau of Land Management has made it a point to document all of these incredible places on a rather addicting photo blog you’ll find yourself scrolling through endlessly.
Here are eight American ghost towns that have somehow survived with time and have amazing photos to prove it.
All that sits in Garnet, Montana is an abandoned hotel, saloon, a bar and a store. Named after the semi-precious stone found in the nearby mountains, Garnet was filled with fortune seekers from all over the country. By 1905, most of the mines were shut down, and the population dipped to the low hundreds. It came back to life in 1934, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt doubled gold prices. But it became an official ghost town in 1948, and now it remains the best-preserved ghost town in Montana. Ironic, right?
Back in 1862, Mormons took over Harrisburg and constructed a small settlement there. But after floods, grasshopper plagues (holy shit those exist?) and lack of water the settlement was very much doomed. So by the late 1880s, most of Harrisburg was abandoned. What’s left in the abandoned town includes crumbling foundations, some stone walls, the restored home of a notable Mormon family and a dirt road.
Lake Valley, New Mexico
Silver was what plagued Lake Valley, New Mexico. By 1882, the town was producing more than 2.5 million ounces of silver. At one point valued extremely high, things soured after the price of silver plummeted from 83 cents to 63 cents per ounce in 1893. Families and workers soon left Lake Valley, but it didn’t fully become abandoned until 1994 when its last resident left. Now you’ll find a schoolhouse, chapel, some water tours and a couple of old cars.
If there’s one place that gives me the total creeps on this list, it’s the (almost) abandoned town of Centralia. Like most of the towns on this list, Centralia started out as a mining town. It soon fell to despair after a mining fire occurred, and a fire has literally been burning beneath the town since 1962. But residents didn’t immediately leave. What followed was a series of tragedies, including a 12-year-old falling into a sinkhole four feet wide and 150 feet deep that opened beneath his feet in a backyard. Carbon monoxide levels were off the charts in most homes, leaving the state to condemn the entire town and eventually even its zip code. All you’ll find now are cracked streets with steam emerging from them and a few residents who refuse to leave.
Apparently Utah has a thing for abandoned towns. In 1859, Mormon leader Brigham Young settled Grafton as a cotton farming community. You might even recognize this town from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, considering it was the backdrop for the famous film. But intense flooding eventually led to the demise of the community. After Mormon settlers evacuated following The Black Hawk War of 1866, the land wasn’t exactly anything great to return to. Now a cemetery and a few other buildings are all that’s left.
Animas Forks Ghost Town, Colorado
In 1873 the town’s first log cabin was built, and by the late 1880s the town became a busy mining community. Apparently the small population of people that lived in the town would migrate every fall to the warmer town of Silverton. But in 1884, a 23-day blizzard (hell does exist) pummeled the town with 25 feet of snow. Residents literally had to dig tunnels to get from place to place. Mining profits began to decline after, and the investment into the town couldn’t be justified anymore. By the 1920s, the town became vacant. Now, it serves as a tourist attraction.
Swan Island, Maine
This nearly abandoned island in Maine is hauntingly beautiful. The abandoned settlement of Perkins Township on the island contains buildings that date back to the 1700s. You’ll find abandoned homes and even a lighthouse dotting its shores. During the 19th century, the township was a community of a little over 100 residents who worked in shipbuilding, farming and ice harvesting. But if you really like creepy towns, you can actually camp on the island and take guided tours throughout the abandoned settlement.
Thurmond, West Virginia
Only five people still call Thurmond, West Virginia home according to the 2010 Census. Once a prosperous coal-mining town, the town was built in 1884 and had a railroad track running through it. It served as an important stop for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad before the locomotive era became obsolete. And by 1910, Thurmond was producing $4.8 million in revenue for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. A fire, the Great Depression and the decline of steam engines soon led to the demise of the town. The town now sits pretty much still in time. Creepy, I know.
Nicole Theodore is an editorial assistant at Playboy. Follow her on Twitter..