Mysterious Underwater Ghost Towns Of The US

By on April 10, 2013

Ghost towns like Calico in San Bernadino County, California are photographed so often that the public recognizes them almost as readily as the skylines of some major U.S. cities. However, there’s another group of ghost towns that we seldom, if ever, see – those buried under water.

Cross of the church in the former town of Potosí, in the state of Táchira, Venezuela

These towns may never quite approach the mystery that surrounds the lost empire of Atlantis; however, unlike Atlantis, we know that many underwater ghost towns do exist throughout the United States.

Underwater ghost town origins

Most of the towns covered by water shared a similar fate. For example, when the land between Virginia’s Backwater and Roanoke rivers was flooded to create Smith Mountain Lake, it buried a small town and numerous manmade structures. Many say the town was called Monroe, but that identity is sometimes challenged. Regardless, a 300-foot-long bridge that once spanned the Roanoke River has been discovered under the waters. It’s now a bridge to nowhere.

The Tennessee Valley Authority and other government agencies in the business of bringing electricity to rural areas and helping to improve flood control covered many towns and structures as they dammed rivers across the United States. When Lake Martin, Alabama was created in 1926, it was the largest manmade lake in the world and covered at least two towns.

Smith Mountain Lake, VA

One of those towns was Irma. Today it’s under some 95 feet of water. Among the buildings on the lake floor is the town’s post office. Some rumors say that it’s a brick post office from a design that was originally created by Frank Lloyd Wright. Checking lists of Wright’s buildings, I’ve never seen it named, but remember, we’re talking about mysteries here!

Whoomp! There it is!

While attempting to create and maintain irrigation canals to divert Colorado River water to California’s Imperial Valley, heavy rainfall and snowmelt in 1905 proved overpowering and caused flooding that created the Salton Sea. Its name is an homage to Salton, California, the town that drowned under the errant waters.

Salton, CA, a lake dryng up.

Remnants of the older development can still be seen, and since it no longer gets the deluge of water that it received back in the day, the lake is slowly drying up. It’s only a matter of time before the Salton Sea becomes just plain old Salton again – if anyone is interested in hosing off and resurrecting the old burg.

A hybrid ghost town

Rarely do we see a ghost town that does double duty, like a wet-dry shop vac. However, Pattonsburg, Missouri, might qualify. The town had a long history of flooding, and after it was horribly flooded twice within a three-week period in 1993, the residents finally threw in the towel, presumably after drying themselves off. Today, it’s a town of around 400 and situated on higher ground. The older, flood-prone Pattonsburg can be seen in the Ang Lee film Ride with the Devil.

Lake Jocassee in South Carolina has some amazing scuba diving adventures with the underwater town there.

Lake Jocassee, SC

We often hear that the ocean depths are “the last frontier” on earth and that a whole new world exists beneath their waters. However, there might actually be an unfamiliar and forgotten settlement beneath you when you water ski or drop a hook hoping to entice a record bass on your lakeside vacation.

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      Paul Moore works closely with Smith Mountain Lake through his real estate company, Smith Mountain Homes.

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