The Army does this wonderful thing for it’s soldiers and hands us about one 4-day weekend a month with which to do as we please so long as it is within a 250 mile radius of our base. This month’s 4-day weekend actually coincided with some decent Kansas weather, which finally allowed me to pursue one of Kansas’s ghost towns as well as an old missile silo nearby.
Bushong, Kansas is located in Lyon county about 20 minutes away from Council Grove (which was also a neat place to see). Bushong was originally established as a railroad town named after a baseball player, Albert John “Doc” Bushong, which was hit by the great depression and never managed to recover afterwards. Getting to Bushong from the Fort Riley area was actually incredibly simple and only required a few changes in direction, on top of that the roadways themselves were entirely paved until you reached Bushong itself. While it may be difficult to identify Bushong’s main roads which are nothing but dirt this time of year and grass come the spring/summer time you can’t miss the giant blue watertower proclaiming itself Bushong. Once you see it you know you’re in the right place. It should also be noted that about 30 people still live in the Bushong vicinity, so please be respectful.
While the structures I ended up exploring are relatively wide open, I still recommend bringing a face mask to protect yourself from potential exposure to asbestos.
Bushong is the best preserved ghost town I have happened upon in my travels and actually offers plenty for an individual looking to explore abandoned structures. There are a large number of abandoned shells of buildings as well as several intact residences which seem to have been abandoned. the real prize is the Bushong school, which is what I spent the majority of my time wandering.
I ended up parking next to the old Bushong Post Office, which is just up the street from the Bushong Garage and near the shell of the old Bushong Bank. The Post Office and garage are boarded off unfortunately and I wasn’t willing to do any breaking and entering. The Bank however was impressive as, despite it being just a shell, the vault was still intact along with an empty safe. In the trees/shrubbery next to the bank you can also see the remaining wall of either the Bushong Hotel or the building that was next to it. Another impressive aspect of Bushong is the fact that despite the roadways all being dirt roadways there is a sidewalk system which is still usable today.
On the corner of 4th and Main lies the well preserved church which I imagine must still be maintained by someone considering the integrity of other structures in Bushong. In the middle of 4th street lies the Bushong school which overlooks the rusted Bushong park and is also still maintained to an extent. The Bushong school was a fantastic find for urban exploration and is entirely open for anyone to explore with no trespassing restrictions placed on it whatsoever. There are several areas you can enter, I decided to start with the auditorium. The old flooring is entirely removed from the auditorium as well as the old staircase that lead to the second floor, however there is still the doorway that leads down the halls to the rest of the basement. The stage flooring is wrecked and on it rests the shell of an old piano. The only reason I imagine it was still there is because it was built into the wall. Once you leave the auditorium the majority of the school flooring is concrete and I felt comfortable enough going up to the second floor, although I left the third floor unexplored. All of the walls in the place are ripped out and strewn all around but it is still an incredibly interesting place to see. After spending a while exploring the basement and 1st + 2nd floors I decided to head for my second destination of the day, an old missile silo.
I think that this is one of those places you are going to want to visit in several seasons, I know I plan a second trip come spring. I say this because in the current weather with all of the dead vegetation it was easy to spot many of the buildings and structures that would typically be hidden by foliage. On the other hand though, I have seen some fantastic spring/summer time photos, this place is a real beauty in those seasons.
The Atlas E 548-5 Missile Silo:
A Few Facts on the Atlas E 548-5 Missile Silo:
The Atlas missile silo that I visited over this weekend is one of a series of Atlas class missile silos that were developed during the cold war in the 1960’s across the midwest. There are a few within a couple hundred miles of Fort Riley but this one was optimal as a result of the fact that it is literally right down the road from Bushong. Simply hop back onto road 350 (route 56) and head the mile up to Road D, you really can’t miss it. The GPS Coordinates I used were Latitude: 38.686403, Longitude: -96.302414. It should be noted though that the property was owned by someone at some point after the disarming process and as to whether or not that individual still owns it I’m not sure. Last I knew he was doing jail time for shooting a trespasser on the silo property. This page actually gives you a pretty good look at what the Atlas E missile silos used to look like.
Once again, there is still a chance of this being private property which I can neither confirm or deny, so proceed at your own risk. Another thing to note is the fact that there is a large underground portion to the silo which I didn’t venture into as a result of flooding. So watch your step, tripping and falling into a hole around here could result in drowning as I doubt the water will be pumped out anytime soon.
Exploring the Atlas-E 548-5 Missile Silo:
There really isn’t much to the silo now-a-days unfortunately, not with flooding considerations in mind. I didn’t venture too far into the silo as I didn’t want to go tripping in any holes, but had the silo not been flooded there is generally an underground complex to the Atlas-E series of silos where the control mechanisms for the launch would have been as well as tunnels leading in the directions of older structures that used to be on the silo grounds. Overall the silo was underwhelming compared to Bushong and I was antsy about getting out quickly considering the silo’s history. But I did make a quick 5 minute recording of the outside perimeter.
I imagine just about any season would be fine to see what is left of the silo. While I doubt the interior will ever be easily explored without pumping all of the water out, a drier season would be optimal for attempting to see the underground.
All in all despite the missile silo not being as fantastic as I had hope it was a very exciting and fulfilling weekend. Full sets of my photos are available on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Traversingtravy
Very interesting! Great photos, and info!
Just to be clear: the silo is private property. So is the bank. And the school.
That being said, most Kansans are pretty laid back about just looking, as long as you are respectful and polite to them, they generally will be polite to you. Tell them why you were there, and apologize for intruding (because, well, you are…) As long as you aren’t damaging anything or intentionally causing problems, most folks won’t care too much. Lots of folk buy those old places just because they don’t want them totally destroyed, even though they aren’t well taken care of.
Having lived in another old ghost town of Kansas (Blackwolf, in Ellsworth county) I remember exploring the old bank and lumber yard there as a kid… good times, indeed.
Also, having been to another silo site, and being able to go down into the underground portion, it is very interesting to see how they were put together and how well they’ve taken abandonment. The one I went into (with permission from the land owner) was a vertical silo with a 2 level below ground control center. The control center sat on the largest springs I’ve ever seen, and it was built like a donut around a central pillar that was supposed to guide the control center back down after it got, ummm, “jostled”… if you get my drift… pretty darned amazing.
FWIW, the site you were at has been for sale for some time…
We actually ventured into a flooded silo when it was frozen outside. We walked into each flooded room while looking through three feet of frozen ice. It was a cold glass bottom boat to an abandoned cold war in gardener kansas.
Very eloquently put
The man who owned it did not go to jail for killing a trespasser. He went to jail for murder. He killed someone who wasn’t even on his property, my brother was in a car that was driving away as the man shot multiple times into the car. They were never even on his property.
Brings back memories. I climbed all over this site over 40 years ago. Never saw any no trespassing signs. The big doors at the bottom of the ramp were closed and the roof was still over the missile room. The control room was flooded from about 1/2 down the ramp in the tunnel. I grew up in Emporia and made several trips there in my teens. A friend of my Dad’s owned a farm nearby, One fine day in October of ’62 he was driving by to check on the farm and saw the missile was erect from the silo with vapor coming out of vents in the side! The “Cuban Missile Crisis” had not been announced to the public yet. We came awful close to NO Tomorrow!
This missile did not launch from underground. It had to be erected from a horizontal storage positing after the roof was rolled back. After standing up it probably had to be fueled before it could be launched.
When I was checking it out the motor for accomplishing this had been removed leaving something like a two foot diameter solid steel shaft that did the lifting.
My grandparents used to live in Bushong, and I spent several summers there. My aunt was the Postmistress. While the post office was open, the old safe there couldn’t be moved. The floor under it had been reinforced to hold the weight, but the surrounding areas weren’t stable enough. I don’t know if it ever did get moved out. I would imagine it has been since renovation into the community center.
As for the school, it had been owned at one point by a private individual and used as a residence. I don’t know who owns it now.
The bank had been converted into a small convenience store complete with gas pump outside, which means Bushong had two grocery stores at one point in the late 70s.
Just some of the memories I have of the town. 🙂
I do know the new owners of the missile silo, they live near by and are working on cleaning up the property and getting it ready to rebuild. The Army Corps of Engineers found contamination and are planning on cleaning it before they start their building plans. I would like to express that no one wants trespassers on their property, I hope others give these people the same respect too. I do know that they know this will be a big undertaking, so if you have a skill such as welding, fencing or have a tractor and would like to help them with the rebuild process, I can pass on your information.
I love going to quaint towns and abandoned places to take pictures. I like to try and contact individuals first if possible. I don’t like the thought of trespassing and sometimes you just don’t see folks or know whom to try and contact when you find some of these places. That being said, do you know the property owners very well? I’d love to try and see if they would allow me to take pictures of this location? I wouldn’t mind paying them a small fee toward their renovation if they would allow me to take a few pictures some afternoon.
I am a electrician by trade, I would be interested in helping rebuild site to make bunker ,i live about 2 hrs away give me a call when convenient we can chat
I sure wish I knew whether or not this silo is occupied. I was tempted to climb the fence despite the signs, but I thought better of it.
[…] Then, today, someone I knew way back when in Kansas posted a link to this blog someone wrote about visiting Bushong and the missile base. […]
Have been reading about grandfather. He grew up there in the teens 1915-1919 …. interesting reading.
I went into the silo as a teenager – my boyfriend had been in it several times, even taking in blowup rafts to float through the flooded areas. This would have been in the late 80s. The gate was open and it was a regular party spot at that time. A few years later it showed signs of occupancy, with new signs and a locked gate.
I have visited Bushong several times and visited with some of the residents. All of the buildings are owned by somebody, so to go in any without the permission of the owner is trespassing. Some, including the old school, are in such bad shape that no one in their right mind would want to attempt to go inside anymore.
There are people in the town that are trying to fix up some of the buildings. The old railroad track bed is now a bike trail. Several really interesting old buildings, as has been mentioned, to observe and photograph from the public streets.
Hello, I am the current owner of site 548-5. It is owner occupied now and is a residence. Please do not break into my home as I would not break into yours. NO TRESPASSING MEANS NO TRESPASSING. Brandon Marshall