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Receding Texas Lake Reveals Ghost Towns

By:
11/21/2011 11:56 AM ET

Texas Lake Ghost Towns - Texas is going through a drought period that has depleted lakes and turned communities into ghost towns. Across the state, receding waters have revealed a prehistoric skull, ancient tools, fossils and a small cemetery that appears to contain the graves of freed slaves. Some of the discoveries have attracted interest from local historians, and looters also have scavenged for pieces of history. More than two dozen looters have been arrested at one site.

“In an odd way, this drought has provided an opportunity to view and document, where appropriate, some of these finds and understand what they consist of,” said Pat Mercado-Allinger, the Texas Historical Commission’s archeological division director. “Most people in Texas probably didn’t realize what was under these lakes.”

Texas finished its driest 12 months ever with an average of 8.5 inches of rain through September, nearly 13 inches below normal. Water levels in the region’s lakes, most of which were manmade, have dropped by more than a dozen feet in many cases.

The vanishing water has revealed the long-submerged building foundations of Woodville, Okla., which was flooded in 1944 when the Red River was dammed to form Lake Texoma. A century-old church has emerged at Falcon Lake, which straddles the Texas-Mexico border on the Rio Grande.

Steven Standke and his wife, Carol, drove to the old Bluffton site on a sandy rutted path that GPS devices designate not as a road but the middle of the 22,335-acre lake, normally almost 31 miles long and five miles wide.

“If you don’t see it now, you might never see it again,” said Carol Standke, of Center Point, as she and her husband inspected the ruins a mile from where concrete seawalls ordinarily would keep the lake from waterfront homes.

Old Bluffton has been exposed occasionally during times of drought. The receding waters have revealed concrete foundations of a two-story hotel, scales of an old cotton gin, a rusting tank and concrete slabs from a Texaco station that also served as a general store. The tallest structure is what’s left of the town well, an open-topped concrete cube about 4 feet high. Johnny Parks’ tombstone is among a few burial sites.

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