Okaton Ghost Town
Located in Okaton, SD
Photo © 2015 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Okaton Ghost Town History
The town of Okaton, SD (map) was established in 1906 with the arrival of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad for railwaymen and homesteaders. Although most of the railway workers moved on as the line pushed westward, a few families stayed behind, raising cattle and farming. After a few harsh winters and the Great Depression, more families moved away from the small town. The death knell finally came in the mid-1980s when the railroad line was closed, and interstate 90 routed all potential visitors away from the town's center.
Okaton residents Robert and Evelyn Westlake would not be deterred from this, however. Signs were placed along the interstate promoting the "Westlake Ghost Town" as a tourist destination slash roadside attraction. There was a general store, a working gas station, a mineral shop, and even a petting zoo.
The Westlakes have since passed on, leaving their ghost town attraction to become an actual ghost town. Okaton may not be completely classified as such however, as there are a few residents who still live here; the 2010 census states the population was 36, and there are a few occupied homes as well as a post office. Thanks to Kathy Weiser's page for historical context.