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Last Days in Monowi, Nebraska: Population 1

Last Days in Monowi, Nebraska: Population 1

Monowi, Nebraska is a near-ghost town in Boyd County, Nebraska, about 75 miles northwest of Norfolk.

GhostsofNorthAmerica.com

We first discovered Monowi when I ran across a story from 2011 about Monowi’s status as the smallest incorporated city in the nation with a population of only one.  Reuters photographer Rick Wilking wrote a nice piece on that one resident, Elsie Eiler.

Monowi, Nebraska

We were in Monowi quite early in the morning, so we did not feel comfortable knocking on anybody’s door, but we’re told the bar/cafe is open at 9am every day.

GhostsofNorthAmerica.com

In the course of assembling our book, Churches of the High Plains, we wrote to Monowi’s sole citizen, Elsie Eiler, and she told us the last funeral service held in this church was for her father, Michael Peklapp, on March 7th, 1960.

Monowi, Nebraska

A heavy rainstorm the night before we visited in August of 2014 softened the road to this church considerably and our car left with a couple inches of mud caked in the wheel-wells. Watch the video from our trip to Monowi.

Monowi, Nebraska

monowi8

Someone is storing old tires and beekeeping stuff in the church.

Monowi, Nebraska

If you attempt to send correspondence addressed to Monowi, the computer will spit out an address for nearby Lynch, Nebraska. In a world of barcodes and auto-sorting, Monowi, Nebraska is an anomaly.

Monowi, Nebraska



Monowi, Nebraska

There are quite a number of old structures, former businesses and homes, in Monowi.

Monowi, Nebraska

Terry wondered aloud after shooting a few places whether someone else may have moved in to Monowi recently, as there appeared to be a second occupied property (not shown), but we can’t be sure.

Monowi, Nebraska

Monowi, Nebraska

Above: one of Monowi’s grain elevators. There was another one, but it’s long gone.

Monowi, Nebraska

Monowi, Nebraska

Monowi, Nebraska

Monowi, Nebraska

Barring a miraculous boom of a type we can’t foresee, these are the last days of Monowi, Nebraska.

Monowi, Nebraska

Monowi, Nebraska

Monowi, Nebraska

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Ghost Town: Mondak, Montana

Ghost Town: Mondak, Montana

This is Mondak, Montana, a true ghost town in Roosevelt County straddling the Montana/North Dakota border, two and a half miles west of Buford, North Dakota, and ten miles north of Fairview, Montana. It was a smoky day in July 2014 when we took these pics on a trip that had already taken us to Trotters, North Dakota and Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel the day before. It was our first visit to Mondak, and we found three structures remained standing, including the former Mondak jail. We revisited Mondak in 2017, too, when skies weren’t quite so hazy.

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Zell, South Dakota

Zell, South Dakota

Zell is a tiny town in South Dakota, straddling the county line between Faulk and Hand counties. This former convent and the neighboring church are featured in our book hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

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Okaton Ghost Town

Okaton Ghost Town

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.

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Exploring Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Exploring Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest abandoned ski resort is in northeast Nebraska, Knox County, not far from the recreation areas on Lewis and Clark Lake.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest was part of a large luxury resort planned for this part of Nebraska, and this unlikely ski area actually operated for a few years in the early 70s.  A 25-story hotel was planned and there were supposed to be luxury homes as well, but, according to the Sioux City Journal:

In 1974, the Nebraska Secretary of State dissolved the Devils Nest Development Co. for nonpayment of corporate occupation taxes. Banks foreclosed on the property the following year, and the property was sold at auction to satisfy judgments in 1977.

The current owner of Devils Nest bought it in 2008.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Terry and I had been traveling most of the morning through beautiful country and we were eager to get into Devils Nest to shoot.  When we arrived, we found one of the roads into the site and we were somewhat surprised to see it was un-gated and not posted.

Update: Since we left, the property owner has contacted us and informed us the property is private. We’d like to add it’s private, even though there are some routes into the site that are not marked as such.

We began to drive down into the resort, but the road deteriorated quickly and we parked at the top of the hill, resigned to hike in.  We heard a distant rumble of thunder as we started walking, each of us carrying a backpack with sixty pounds of gear. The hike was about three quarters of a mile, first down the steep, winding road shown above, then a short uphill climb.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

As we approached the bottom we got our first glimpse of the lift machinery… this would have been the bottom of the run.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

The first lift chair I saw when we arrived.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Terry going up to get a better look.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

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Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Development still exists, but today the focus is on luxury home lots overlooking Lewis & Clark Lake. Devils Nest ski resort is just a curiosity.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

We had been searching for blue sky and white clouds most of the day, and we thought we might get lucky since the sun was shining as we approached Devils Nest, but no such luck.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Unpaid taxes notwithstanding, it was really the location that did Devils Nest in. Without any mountains, Nebraska is simply too warm to have a ski resort here. The snow making machines were constantly running and couldn’t keep up most of the time.

devils-nest2

Devils Nest development once had a yacht club and a golf course too.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

The former ski lodge.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Ski in, ski out.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Terry came out of the lodge and commented that he thought Devils Nest would be a perfect setting for an episode of The Walking Dead.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

I was concentrating on photos and not paying any attention to the weather when Terry said, “Did you hear that thunder?”  It sounded like it was getting closer.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

We were right about here, debating whether to make the hike to the top of the run, when a cool breeze blew in. It alarmed me right away because it had been hot and humid all day.  I looked back at Terry and said, “We gotta get out of here.”  It didn’t hit me until right at that moment that our car was a half mile away, up a very steep hill.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

We began walking as quickly as possible, shooting a few photos on the way out.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

We wore ourselves out hiking back up the access road, hoping to make it to the car before the rain came, but we failed by about two minutes. The car was just in sight when it started to pour. We got soaked, but cameras survived. See the video of our exploration of Devils Nest.

Devils Nest Abandoned Ski Resort

Read more about Devils Nest: The Nebraska Resort That Almost Was.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2014 Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This is the Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, just north of Nekoma, North Dakota.  It is a unique place in the history of the US military’s anti-ballistic missile effort. A portion of the Wikipedia entry for this place:

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard complex in Nekoma, North Dakota, with the separate long-range detection radar located further north near the town of Cavalier, North Dakota, was the only operational anti-ballistic missile system ever deployed by the United States. It defended Minuteman ICBM missile silos near the Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.

It had reinforced underground launchers for thirty Spartan and sixteen Sprint nuclear tipped missiles (an additional fifty or so Sprint missiles were deployed at four remote launch sites). The complex was deactivated during 1976 after being operational for less than four months, due to concerns over continuing an anti-missile-missile arms race, cost, effectiveness, and changing political rhetoric.

Today, the former launch complex is abandoned and rusting.

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This complex was recently purchased by a local Hutterite colony, and they are farming the land surrounding this facility.  We’re told the local historical society still holds out hope of preserving these structures, somehow.

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Some of the housing and administration buildings on this base are still in very nice shape.

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

This is a mirror post from GhostsofNorthDakota.com.  See the original here.

Toxic Town: Picher, Oklahoma

Toxic Town: Picher, Oklahoma

This is Picher, Oklahoma, an American exclusion zone.  An acquaintance with an enthusiastic political streak recently told me Picher, Oklahoma is a ghost town because of a tornado.  It’s true, an F4 tornado did strike Picher in 2008 and damaged 150 homes, but it was merely the final straw. From 2000 to 2010, Picher’s population dropped from over 1,600 residents to twenty.

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher is a town destroyed by industrial abuses, specifically, the mining industry.  This former town near the Kansas border dis-incorporated in 2009 and has three real problems.

First, the mining industry disposed of their mine waste, known as “chat,” in huge mounds right on the ground, creating huge artificial hills. The chat is toxic, and the fine grains from the chat piles blow all over town, settle on everything and people breathe them in.

Second, when it rains, runoff from the chat piles gets into the local water supply, as does water from abandoned mineshafts where there are no longer any pumps to keep them from flooding, and the town water becomes hazardous to drink.  The pollution of Picher caused a plethora of health problems for area residents.

Lastly, and most frightening if you ask me, is the undermining of the town.  The lead and zinc mined in this area was gathered from huge caverns excavated underground by the miners.  It was later found the mines had been excavated so close to the surface that tree roots could be seen on the roof of the caverns in  some cases. Portions of Picher collapsed into massive holes which had compromised the ground.  In 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers determined 86% of Picher’s buildings were dangerously undermined and subject to collapse.

Our friend MJ Masilko sent in these incredible photos she shot in Picher in 2010, saying “We were on our way to a wedding and only had about an hour to walk around, not even close to enough time!”  Her comments accompany some of the photos below.

Picher, Oklahoma

“A gas station a mile or so outside of Picher, on the Kansas/Oklahoma border.”

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

“The exclusion zone sign and the line of concrete pillars are also just outside of Picher. The concrete things are everywhere, parts of the old mines. And the taller concrete things, I’ve been led to believe, were smelters for the lead.”

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

“These are all from the town of Picher, I believe all from along the highway that runs through there. For such a deserted town, there’s a LOT of traffic through Picher. The only alternative highway to the turnpike between Joplin and Tulsa runs through the center of town. Also if you’re there taking pictures along the highway, everyone thinks it’s a good idea to roll down their window and yell at you. At least they do if you’re 5 months pregnant and dressed like you’re on your way to a wedding.”

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma



Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

“All photos were taken in October of 2010. There are some on here of Main Street, which is a block or two over from the highway where everyone drives through. Somewhere on or next to Main Street was where there was a collapse into a mine, which is what really got the ball rolling on buying out the town. I didn’t see where that hole was, but we only did about 4 or 5 blocks of Main Street, and it was off the side, so could have been by us and we didn’t see.”

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

“More of the buildings that remain along Main Street. We spent a lot of our time over there, because it was quiet and beautiful, exactly how a ghost town should be!”

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Today, Picher is known as the Tar Creek Superfund site and is considered uninhabitable, although a few holdouts remain.  It is one of, if not the worst, industrial environmental disaster in the United States, and one of very few industrial exclusion zones on the planet.  Other notable examples are Fukushima and Pripyat/Chernobyl.

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Even apartment buildings stand vacant in Picher.  MJ told us she wasn’t aware of the risk of collapse until after she visited and shot these photos.  Scary.

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

This one got hit by the tornado.

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

If you went to this church, would you stand for the mining industry piling toxic waste on the ground, right across the road?

Picher, Oklahoma

In the forties and fifties when Picher was booming, it was a different time and people did not guard their treasures the way we do today.

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Look closely at the photo below. To the left of the church, through the trees, a huge chat pile.

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma

The chat piles look like the Badlands of the midwest.  Unfortunately, these are now really bad lands and Picher, Oklahoma will revert back to nature in the coming century.

Picher, Oklahoma

See also: Picher’s Toxic Twin, Cardin, Oklahoma.

Photos by MJ MasilkoOriginal content copyright Sonic Tremor Media

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Prairie Outpost: Hillhead, South Dakota

Prairie Outpost: Hillhead, South Dakota

This is Hillhead, in Marshall County, about 18 miles northeast of Britton, South Dakota. I’ve seen references to Hillhead, South Dakota online in which it’s listed as a ghost town, and technically it is since the remaining original buildings have been abandoned, but there are inhabited dwellings in the immediate vicinity of the old town site.

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Brown Earth Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Church and Cemetery was built in 1877 and was the first church in Grant County, South Dakota. This was my primary destination when I went exploring abandoned places one weekend. It’s not far from I29 and I would highly recommed you stop for a visit if you’re ever passing through.

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Abandoned Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Abandoned Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station is an abandoned Air Force radar station located in Divide County, North Dakota, about 6 1/2 miles from Canada and 8 miles from Montana.  Like the Minot Air Force Station, Fortuna AFS was a GCI (Ground Control Intercept) base designed to detect unidentified aircraft and coordinate interception.  Originally opened in 1952, it served its purpose until it was partially deactivated in 1979.  It was closed for good in 1984.

The radar dishes and domes were removed long ago, and the site has since been heavily vandalized and scavenged.  The salvage rights were sold some years back and the team that did the salvage knocked holes in the walls of most of the buildings to remove boilers and scrap metal.

We got word that this base was to be demolished in 2013, so we set out to photograph it before it was too late.  We got permission to explore it and directions for how to access the base.  Upon arrival, we were not able to access the base in the manner the owner suggested, so we played it by ear, starting with the former family housing units on the south side of the base and working our way through a gate and up the hill on foot to the former site of the radar tower.

The photos assembled here are a fraction of what we shot.  See more.

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Terry ventured into the bowels of the building above, and ran into the ominous warning below.

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota


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Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

This is a mirror post from GhostsofNorthDakota.comSee the original here.

The Ruins of San Haven Sanatorium in North Dakota

The Ruins of San Haven Sanatorium in North Dakota

San Haven Sanatorium lived a similar life to many other institutions of its kind across the nation — it began as a hospital for tuberculosis patients and over the course of four decades morphed into a home for the developmentally disabled. Accounts from former patients tell the story clearly… San Haven was not a pleasant place to be. This hospital like the others was an anachronism, allowed to stay open far too long with too little oversight and no clear plan to put the space to good use.

San Haven was closed and allowed to rot in the elements and has endured decades of vandalism. Tragically, a local youth, fooling around with friends in the vacant hospital, fell to his death in an elevator shaft some years ago. The site today is closed to visitors.

We visited San Haven in fall of 2012 and captured these photos, plus many more which you can see here.

San Haven Sanatorium near Dunseith, North Dakota

San Haven Sanatorium near Dunseith, North Dakota

San Haven Sanatorium near Dunseith, North Dakota

San Haven Sanatorium near Dunseith, North Dakota

San Haven Sanatorium near Dunseith, North Dakota


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Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

This is a mirror post from GhostsofNorthDakota.com. — See the original here.