Okaton, South Dakota is just off Interstate 90, about forty miles southwest of Pierre, and it is a unique breed of town — part near-ghost town, part abandoned roadside attraction.
Not far down the interstate is another tourist attraction called 1880 Ghost Town which is a popular stopping point for travelers.
For years the Westlake family ran a ghost town-type attraction here, too, but today only the abandoned relics of the roadside stop remain, mixed in with a few occupied homes and some abandoned ones too.
There are still billboards on the interstate urging travelers to stop for gas in Okaton, but at the time of our visit there weren’t any businesses in town… just the Westlake’s former gas station.
I sat down on this bench for a bit. It was welcome shade from the hot, South Dakota sun which was beating down on us that day. I could imagine a traveler getting a cold drink and taking a break here.
Okaton is a frequently photographed place, I suspect due to the easy access combined with the incredible shots to be had. Do an internet search and you’ll find plenty.
The top of Okaton’s grain elevator caved in at some point.
The former Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Rail line is now abandoned.
This house is slowly caving in as you can see if you look at some older photos. Author Kathy Weiser has a nice page with some photos here.
There is a formerly abandoned school in Okaton, but it looks like somebody is using it as a residence now, so we didn’t shoot it.
That’s Interstate 90 in the background. It’s rare to find such an abandoned place so close to a major highway.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC