What Happens to Abandoned Towns?


Towns that were formerly inhabited but are now mostly or entirely unoccupied are referred to as abandoned towns or ghost towns. These towns can be found all over the world, and there are several reasons on why they were deserted. 

For instance, it happens when the industry or agriculture that once supported it is no longer there. This can be due to many reasons, such as the resources being used up, natural disasters like floods or droughts, human-made problems like pollution or war, or government actions. Ghost towns can also refer to places that still have people living there but fewer than before, such as those with high unemployment rates and many abandoned buildings. Also, others were abandoned because of political or economic factors like the decline of an industry or relocation of a capital city. 

However, regardless of the reason, abandoned towns are frequently eerie and uncomfortable places that inspire curiosity and a feeling of mystery.

Ghost Towns in the U.S

Numerous ghost towns and abandoned communities can be found in the American Great Plains, particularly in rural areas where the population has decreased by a third since 1920. In the northern plains states of Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, thousands of communities became ghost towns after a proposed rail line failed to develop. Additionally, with the rise of the Interstate highway system as the preferred mode of transportation, hundreds of towns were abandoned, particularly those in mining or mill towns across western, eastern, and southern states. As resources that had once created employment opportunities in these towns were diminished, residents were often forced to move on in search of more productive areas. 

The exterior architecture of these deserted villages frequently contributes significantly to their charm. Many ghost towns and abandoned communities were constructed in unique and creative ways, reflecting the imaginative minds of their people. These towns’ architectural designs and construction materials can reveal a lot about the region’s history and cultural influences. The exterior design of these communities, from the wooden boardwalks and elegant facades of the Wild West to the red brick mills and factories of the Rust Belt, is a testament to the individuals who constructed them and the resources available at the time.

Nonetheless, abandoned towns may develop an overgrowth of plants over time, and structures may deteriorate or collapse. However, some ghost towns are preserved as historical landmarks or tourist attractions, giving visitors a chance to experience heritage firsthand and discover the town’s history and culture. Moreover, some of these towns are occasionally used for other purposes, such as making stunning tourist attractions or becoming movie sets. 

abandoned structure with tall grass

Abandoned Towns In The United States That You Can Visit

These ghost towns used to be busy places where people lived, worked, and did business. Now, they are abandoned, empty, and stuck in time. Even though they may have been left behind for different reasons, many people still find them interesting. Many abandoned towns in the United States have become famous tourist destinations because of their history, architecture, and eerie beauty. The allure of these abandoned towns is not just the mystery of their history, but also the chance to explore a world that has been lost.

  • St. Elmo, Colorado – St. Elmo, which was established in 1880, previously had a strong gold and silver mining industry. Eventually, 2,000 individuals made their way to the town in search of a tiny piece of fortune, but by the turn of the 20th century, the mines had run dry. Because of this, the residents “rode the last train out of town and never came back,” as stated on the town’s website. Visit the neighborhood during the summer to view its nearly flawlessly preserved homes and stores.
  • Custer, Idaho – Custer is one of the oldest ghost towns featured in this list. It was established in 1879 and quickly gained popularity as a hub for gold speculators. The Lucky Boy and Black mines were developed in the town and provided employment opportunities for many of its residents. By 1896, the town had reached its peak, boasting a population of 600. Unfortunately, by 1910, Custer had been abandoned. Fortunately, many of the town’s buildings remained intact over the years. In 1966, the Challis National Forest took ownership of the town and was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Nowadays, visitors are welcome to explore the mining town during the summer months with the help of free guided tours.

abandoned city of godfield

  • Goldfield, Arizona – Goldfield, Arizona, was a popular destination for prospectors in the mid-1800s seeking to work in the Mammoth Gold Mine. The swarm of workers soon turned the area into a bustling town that would eventually serve as inspiration for many Wild West movies. To this day, visitors can explore the remnants of the town, including multiple saloons, a general store, and a boarding house. The Goldfield Gunfighters also provide entertainment in the form of a recreation of an old gunfight. The town is open to visitors daily, allowing them to experience American history.
  • Terlingua, Texas – Terlingua is a former mining town that became one of the most successful in the industry. By the 1930s, the community was the largest producer of quicksilver in the country. Sadly, in the 1940s, the company leading the mining went bankrupt, forcing many residents to leave. Despite this setback, the town has experienced a renaissance in recent years. New residents have moved in, breathing new life into the once-abandoned spot, making it more attractive and inviting to visitors. If you’re looking for a unique destination, Terlingua is worth visiting.
  • Silver City, Bodfish California – Silver City is a town located in California’s Kern River Valley, which was on the verge of being demolished in the 1960s. But thanks to the efforts of Dave and Arvilla Mills, over 20 buildings were preserved and moved to a safe location. Today, visitors can explore these buildings, which were once used in mining camps and settler housing, and even visit an old jail. The town now serves as a museum and is open seven days a week to the public.


These abandoned towns offer a glimpse into America’s past, revealing the stories of the people who once lived there and the struggles they faced. Exploring these ghost towns allows visitors to step back in time, see the remnants of a once-thriving community, and imagine what life may have been like for its residents. The abandoned buildings, old storefronts, and empty streets all serve as a reminder of the town’s past and offer a unique opportunity to learn about America’s history. Additionally, many of these towns are surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, adding to their allure and providing visitors with a scenic backdrop to their historical exploration. While some abandoned towns have been left to decay and crumble, others have been preserved and maintained as historical sites, offering visitors guided tours and educational exhibits.

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