CentraliaCentralia: Where the ground smolders with history.
Explore Centralia, PA, where a coal mine fire ignited in 1962 endures, prompting visits to its few remaining structures and empty streets.
Centralia, Pennsylvania, is a near-deserted borough with a unique and grim history, where an underground coal mine fire started in 1962 and continues to burn to this day. This event led to the gradual evacuation and eminent domain of the town, resulting in a population decrease from over 1,000 to just a handful of residents. Visitors come to see the empty streets, the smoke that still rises from the ground, and the few remaining structures that offer a glimpse into a community that was. The nearby Graffiti Highway, a stretch of abandoned highway covered in colorful art, provides a stark contrast to the town's somber legacy.
The Graffiti Highway
The Graffiti Highway, the unofficial name for a now-closed section of PA Route 61, has become an unexpected attraction in Centralia. This stretch was rerouted due to the mine fire's damage, leaving the original tarmac to be claimed by artists and visitors who have turned it into a patchwork of graffiti. It's a unique outdoor gallery that reflects the creativity and responses to Centralia's history. However, visitors should be aware that this area is private property and accessing it may be considered trespassing.
Centralia's Current State and Safety
For those looking to explore Centralia, safety is a paramount concern. Although smoke can still be seen emitting from cracks in the ground, the town is generally considered safe to visit. Nonetheless, you should stay on established paths as there could be subsidence due to the fire below. Obey all posted signs and do not attempt to enter any remaining buildings. The visual landscape is striking, with nature reclaiming abandoned spaces, although it's important to remember these are remnants of people's lives.
Community Impact and Residents
Understanding Centralia involves recognizing the significant impact the fire has had on its community. A handful of residents have chosen to stay despite the circumstances, providing a poignant human element to the area's story. These remaining structures, though scarce, are private homes; respect for the inhabitants and their property is crucial if you choose to visit.
Natural Attractions and Outdoor Activities
Despite Centralia's dramatic history, it's surrounded by Pennsylvania's beautiful natural scenery. Outdoor activities are available in the area, such as hiking through nearby state parks like Locust Lake State Park and visiting the scenic lookouts of the Appalachian Mountains. The contrast between Centralia's desolate remnants and the surrounding natural beauty makes for a compelling experience.
Accessibility and Transportation
Reaching Centralia requires a car as public transportation options are limited. The nearest major cities with airports are Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre, from which you can rent a car for the drive to Centralia. Within the town, there are no formal transportation services, so walking is your primary means of moving around. Be cautious when navigating, as some roads may be damaged or unmarked.