The State of Washington is surprisingly diverse in its geography, with rocky beaches and barrier islands, towering volcanic peaks, verdant farm valleys and arid deserts all contained within its 71,000 square miles. In addition to its wildly varied terrain, the Evergreen State boasts an equally eclectic collection of fascinating abandoned sites.
If exploring vacant buildings and long-defunct infrastructure is your thing, be sure to check out our list of the 10 best abandoned places in Washington.
The Best Abandoned Places in Washington
Note: If you’re looking for lists from specific cities in Washington, we urge you to check out the following guide:
Northern State Hospital
Like many mental health facilities at the turn of the 20th century, Washington’s Northern State Hospital relied heavily on occupational therapy as its primary treatment modality, with patients maintaining a 700-acre farm and several associated production facilities.
When it opened in 1911, Northern State was intended to relieve overcrowding at two other nearby state hospitals: Western State in Steilacoom and Eastern State near Spokane. Northern State drew patients almost exclusively from eight counties in northwestern Washington—Clallam, Island, Jefferson, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom—and almost immediately became the largest asylum in the state.
In addition to the therapeutic effects of manual labor, the hospital also administered a variety of less-ethical treatments, such as lobotomies, electroshock therapy and even sterilization, which doctors of the time believed would benefit society at large when and if “cured” patients returned to the community.
At its peak, the hospital held more than 2,000 patients in 33 wards, nearing its maximum capacity. While individuals with true mental illness received treatment at Northern State and similar state-run facilities, in some cases, patients were sentenced to months or years at these hospitals due to traditional physicians’ inability to treat them.
For example, some men dumped their wives in asylums when they didn’t want to deal with their partners’ menopause symptoms; children who would today be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and other easily treatable conditions would likely also have been sent to state hospitals a century ago.
As part of the trend toward deinstitutionalization and outpatient treatment in the 1970s, Northern State Hospital closed in 1973, although parts of the campus are still used as a drug treatment facility and Job Corps training site. Many remnants of the old hospital development are still available for exploration, including parts of the now-defunct farm operation.
Bodie Ghost Town
Located at the mouth of Bodie Creek just 12 miles south of the Canadian border in Okanogan County, Bodie was once a thriving mill town, with at least one member of almost every resident family employed by the Perkins Milling Company. The town was first established as Toroda in 1898, but was renamed Bodie the following year.
Prospector Henry Dewitts was the first to establish claim on five areas of gold ore (Bodie, Bodie No. 2, Crystal Bluff, Little George and West Cliff); he quickly sold the claim to his brother Ben, who in turn sold it to the Wrigley family (of chewing gum and Chicago baseball fame). The Wrigleys built a steam-powered mill on the site that would eventually become the small mining town, and the mine’s estimated net worth in 1903 was $1.5 million—an eye-popping sum at the time.
Bodie was a key component of the Okanogan gold rush, producing consistent yields through at least 1916. At least one member of almost every resident family was employed by the mining company, and the town grew to include a general store, post office, hotel, bunkhouse and cookhouse.
The mining company changed hands (and names) several times through the 1930s, and after shutting down in 1934, it reopened the following year when the Northern Gold Company assumed operations and renovated the mill. Miners worked three shifts per day, producing 50,000 short tons of ore by the time all private mining activity was halted by the U.S. government in 1941 to ensure precious metals were directed to the war effort.
The Geomineral Corporation assumed ownership of the five original claims in 1970, and despite signing multiple lease-option agreements in the late 1970s and early 1980s, no additional mining activity has taken place on the site since World War II. Today, development on the property consists mainly of the dilapidated wood buildings that once housed the mining operation as well as commercial activity in what is now a ghost town.
St Ignatius Hospital
Founded by a Roman Catholic priest in the late 19th century, St. Ignatius Hospital brought much-needed medical care to the residents of the Palouse region for more than 70 years.
After seeing members of his flock suffer due to inadequate healthcare facilities, Reverend Jachern made a trip to Portland to solicit the assistance of the Sisters of Charity in building a hospital in the area. The cities of Colfax, Palouse City and Pullman submitted competing offers to bring the facility to their communities, but Colfax’s extravagant offer of free land, water and a sizable interest-free loan came out on top.
Construction on a permanent hospital building began in spring 1893 as the Sisters of Charity set up a makeshift facility in a wooden building nearby, treating patients for pneumonia and other common ailments and injuries until the six-story St. Ignatius Hospital was completed in 1894. The St. Ignatius School of Nursing was established on-site, producing its first graduating class in 1911 and ultimately training the state’s first male nurses in 1941.
As the demand for hospital services grew, the facility was expanded in 1917 and again in 1928. Because the hospital relied solely on donations and patient payments to fund its operation and did not receive any federal funding, maintenance projects often fell by the wayside. In 1964, the decision was made to close the hospital and replace it with a new facility instead of attempting to modernize the aging building.
The existing structure was converted into an assisted living facility, which operated for another 35 years until its closure in 2000, when the building was abandoned. The vacant former hospital was named to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Properties list in 2015, although the effort to renovate and preserve this noteworthy piece of state history has not yet come to fruition.
Vance Creek Viaduct
This majestic decommissioned bridge on the Olympic Peninsula looms nearly 350 feet over Vance Creek, where it once served as an essential piece of infrastructure for Washington’s logging industry. The bridge was constructed by the Simpson Logging Company in 1929, allowing rail traffic to transport timber and other supplies through the hilly terrain of Mason County. At the time, it was the second-tallest railway trestle bridge in the country, second only to the 682-foot High Steel Bridge just a few miles away.
As logging activity declined in the 1970s, the bridge was eventually taken out of service due to lack of traffic. Once trains were no longer rolling across its soaring arches, the defunct bridge became a popular destination for hikers, explorers and daredevils who sought to make the journey across the creek on foot.
However, as vandals and the forces of nature began to chip away at the bridge’s structural integrity—with visitors having to navigate large gaps in the ties if they dared venture across—its accessibility was recognized as a serious safety hazard (and major source of potential financial liability).
With the advent of social media, photos of the bridge labeled with the hashtag #THATNWBRIDGE went viral, and the property owners were forced to take action to stem the flow of traffic. They closed off the property to visitors in 2014, and law enforcement officers now frequent the access points to deliver tickets to trespassers.
In subsequent years, the area around the bridge was reopened to the public, but physical deterrents like razor wire and deep trenches around the bridge were put in place to prevent people from attempting to access the bridge itself. Designated trails are available to allow visitors to admire the bridge from a distance, but anyone who gets too close risks a trespassing charge.
When the Central Washington Railway laid tracks through Lincoln County in 1889, the town of Govan established its first roots, and when a massive sandbank was discovered the following year, it blossomed into a thriving industry hub. Named for a construction engineer at the railroad, the town provided tons of sand for continued railroad construction. It grew to include ranch land as well as shops, a post office and a wooden schoolhouse.
It also gained notoriety with the 1902 unsolved murder of Judge J.A. Lewis and his wife Penelope, both of whom were brutally bludgeoned with an axe. The wealthy judge was known to keep large sums of cash at home, and robbery was assumed to be the motive, although the perpetrator was never brought to justice.
As highways began to replace railways as critical infrastructure, the future of Govan suffered a fatal blow when U.S. Route 2 bypassed the town in 1933. Residents began to relocate to better-connected towns and cities, and by 1940, all but one of Govan’s retailers had closed up shop.
The only remaining evidence that Govan ever existed consists of the threadbare skeleton of the old schoolhouse along with a handful of other structures. Its dilapidated silhouette sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the flat, vacant fields around it. It’s easy enough to access through the glassless window frames, but all you’ll find inside are rotting walls and floors littered with splintered lumber and other debris.
Satsop Nuclear Power Plant
Though initially envisioned as a prolific source of power, the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant never quite made it to completion. The project began in the 1970s, when many researchers believed nuclear energy would liberate the nation from its decades-long reliance on petroleum.
The Washington Public Power Supply System embarked on an ambitious plan to construct a massive, earthquake-resistant facility, but ballooning costs caused the utility to default on more than $2 billion in bonds, and work on the campus screeched to a halt roughly halfway through the construction process. As various parties traded lawsuits over the debacle, partially-completed cooling towers and containment domes stood empty and unused, an embarrassing reminder of the failed endeavor.
After several decades of inactivity, community leaders came together to form the Grays Harbor Public Development Authority, with the ultimate goal of redeveloping the site into productive commercial space. The group yielded ownership of the campus to the Port of Grays Harbor in 2013, and today the half-finished power plant is now home to an 1,800-acre business park with around 50 tenants.
The enormous cooling towers have also provided the backdrop for scenes in several blockbuster films, including Transformers 4: Age of Extinction and Transformers 5: The Last Knight. The Seattle Fire Department has also used the property as a training location.
Fisher Flour Mill
After construction of the man-made Harbor Island in Elliott Bay was completed in 1909, a pair of flour-milling magnates were among the first to open up shop on the island. In 1911, O.W. Fisher and O.D. Fisher officially opened the 13-story Fisher Flour Mill, where it processed and packaged the ground grain for sale on its own and as part of products like its famous Fisher Scones, which it debuted to great fanfare at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.
The Fishers expanded their empire to media in 1926 with the establishment of KOMO, a radio station the company used very effectively to promote its goods. Over the eight decades that followed, the company amassed more than 26 radio stations and 12 TV stations, including Seattle’s KOMO-TV.
However, the firm opted to exit the flour-milling business in the early 21st century, finding it significantly less profitable than communications. Oregon-based Pendleton Flour Mills bought the historic Harbor Island facility in 2001 but opted to put it up for sale just a year later. King County purchased the 12-acre property for roughly $8.5 million in 2003 but then did nothing to redevelop or repurpose the site. The crumbling facility draws hundreds of street artists, photographers and vagrants to its empty, graffiti-covered shell each year.
The Seattle Underground
Unlike many large cities’ underground spaces and tunnels, which were typically built beneath the existing street grid, the Seattle Underground existed at ground level in the mid-19th century. After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 gutted the city’s central business district, the city passed legislation requiring all new construction to be built from masonry.
Additionally, to mitigate previous flooding issues, the streets were regraded one to two stories above preexisting levels. To accomplish this feat of engineering, concrete walls were built along the edges of the old streets, forming narrow alleyways between the new walls and the buildings on either side of the street, with the street forming one large alleyway between the smaller ones.
Material from the rolling hills surrounding downtown was used to fill in the alleys, which resulted in the streets being elevated anywhere from 12 to 30 feet from their original height.
Immediately following the endeavor, pedestrians used ladders to travel from the elevated streets to the sidewalks below to access building entrances. Brick archways were built along the roadways over the sunken sidewalks, and pavement lights were installed in the spaces between the raised streets and the buildings.
When businesses and property owners reconstructed their buildings following the fire, the street-raising endeavor was already in the works, so most of them left the original ground-floor levels of their structures unadorned, opting to invest in the appearance of make the “new” ground-level entrances instead.
After the new sidewalks had been poured, most merchants moved their businesses up to the new ground floor, although a few buildings that made it through the fire continued to utilize their now-underground spaces, and the recessed sidewalks continued to be used by pedestrians.
The Seattle Underground was condemned and closed off in 1907 due to concerns about the spread of bubonic plague, and the area was largely left to decay, although the underground spaces did make something of a comeback as speakeasies, gambling halls, flophouses and opium dens during the Prohibition years.
In the latter half of the 20th century, a small segment of the original Seattle Underground was restored and made available for limited public tours. Seattle resident Bill Speidel created “Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour” in 1965, and the business continues to lead curious sightseers through the historic subterranean city streets to this day.
Fort Worden Artillery Battery
Established in 1897 as one of five major coastal fortifications designed to defend the U.S. Navy base at Bremerton and the highly-populated port cities of Seattle and Tacoma, the artillery battery at Fort Worden has since been decommissioned, but much of the original structure remains in place for history buffs to explore.
At the dawn of the 20th century, invading forces still had to rely on warships to attack enemy territory, since war planes did not yet exist. To deter rival nations from approaching the Seattle area through the narrow mouth of Puget Sound, the U.S. Army built artillery bases at Fort Worden, Fort Casey and Fort Flagler, forming what became known as the “Triangle of Fire.” Fort Warden was the largest of the three fortifications, with 41 seacoast guns mounted in 12 batteries. These weapons packed a major punch, ready to unleash shells weighing up to 1,000 pounds each.
When the U.S. became involved in the First World War, about half of the guns at Fort Warden were removed and sent to support the conflict in Europe. By the time the U.S. joined the fight in World War II, the Army’s ability to fight from the air rendered the guns at Fort Warden largely unnecessary, and the last guns were removed from the site in 1946, although the fort remained an active Army installation until 1953. At that point, the state of Washington took ownership of the property, Fort Warden (like Fort Casey and Fort Flagler) was ultimately converted into a state park in 1972.
The 432-acre Fort Worden State Park features more than two miles of saltwater shoreline and dozens of facilities and activities. Visitors can still tour the opulent Victorian-style homes where military officers lived, walk across the former parade lawns and explore the now-defunct coastal defense batteries.
Other on-site destinations include the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum, Commanding Officer’s House, Marine Science Center and 1914 Point Wilson Lighthouse. The Guard House pub serves lunch and dinner daily, and visitors can even stay overnight in the converted barracks, castle or the former home of a commanding officer. A conference center also hosts dozens of workshops, retreats and other events each year.
Nighthawk Washington Ghost Town
Very similar to the deserted town of Bodie, Nighthawk is an abandoned mining town in Okanogan County. Its origins date back to the 1860s, when Washington was still just a U.S. territory; several major gold and silver claims were discovered in the region and more than 3,000 miners and prospectors set up a tent camp.
A proper town was established in 1903 and named for the nearby Nighthawk Mine, one of several in the area that also included the Chopaka, Kaaba Texas and Ruby Silver mines. The thriving community included a saloon, hotel, railroad depot and other merchants.
Unfortunately, Nighthawk suffered the same fate as most other Western boom towns of the era: as metal values dropped, operating costs increased and the available metal ore became more difficult and expensive to locate, residents moved on to greener pastures and new opportunities. The last mine in the region to close was the Kaaba Texas mine, which was shuttered in 1951, and eventually the last resident left Nighthawk behind.
Now considered a “ghost town,” the few remaining buildings in Nighthawk are remarkably well-preserved, including the schoolhouse, an old mill, a mining company administration building and the Nighthawk Hotel. Visitors can also admire the picturesque beauty of the Enloe Dam, which was decommissioned in 1959 and has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Washington
Those who are into urban exploration in the Washington state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Washington, should get comfortable with Washington trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Washington, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry.
For these cases, you should familiarize yourself with x. For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places in Washington, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.