Over the years we have been asked many times several general
questions about visiting Centralia. Some are looking for a few pointers as to what to
look for when someone visits what is left of the town. Others are asking questions
like, is it legal to go there, is it dangerous, where do I look to find the smoke coming out of the ground, where is
the fire currently located, where did the underground mine fire originally
start, how do I find the ever expanding crack in Rt. 61, and the commonly asked
question, how do I get to Centralia? We diligently try to answer all of
the questions and help folks find the town as well as locate and understand points
of interest once they arrive. Ultimately we thought it made sense to
document your questions and point out interesting locations within the borough
and pieces of information surrounding the stranger than fiction story of the
town. So this article will attempt to do just that.
Is Centralia Dangerous?
Keep in mind as you read this, that we are in no way encouraging you to go to
Centralia. Centralia is not a tourist destination. Much of the area
has it's dangers with toxic gases and subsidence, meaning the ground can and
does cave in, possibly opening up dangerous underground caverns of burning coal
that can kill you in an instant. Properties are owned by the Commonwealth
of PA and you may indeed be trespassing if you go there. All this doesn't
mean curious people don't go there to get a first hand feel for the demise of a
town that was once home to over a thousand people only a few short decades ago.
Just the fact that you are reading this means you may be thinking about visiting
(or re-visiting) Centralia PA and therefore we want to share what we know about
the town as it stands today. But always be aware of the dangers as you
explore the area. Stay out of low areas where toxic gases can collect.
Stay out of the subsided areas that have collapsed and are smoking. Use
your best judgment and be cautious.
visiting Centralia legal?
Several major routes and minor roads run right through
Centralia PA. Rt 54, Rt 61 and Rt 42 all pass through the town and are
open to traffic. Hundreds if not thousands pass this way daily. So
entering Centralia is legal and it is not closed off to the public.
However most of the properties that had been acquired by the Commonwealth of
PA are owned by the state. Several of the properties that still are home
to residents, though owned by the State as well, are personal property.
Whether you are trespassing depends on where you travel within the borough of
Centralia. Most of the area is not posted with "No Trespassing" signs
although a few have been seen in specific areas.
There are signs expressing Warnings and Dangers to alert the public of the
dangers that can be hidden there. Yet people visit everyday to look at
what is left of the town and see first hand the smoke and steam rising out of
the ground. We have never been aware of anyone being given a hard time
about visiting to look around so long as they are respectful of the residents
who still live there and are respectful of the personal property and area in
general. Recently there has been an increase in vandalism, which
may have changed the attitudes of local people and possibly law enforcement. As a result if you
visit please don't feel the need to apply graffiti, smash bottles or litter.
Respect the residents and their property.
There is a lot of interest in Centralia and many people visit not only to
satisfy curiosity but to pay respect to the town as it was. There are
three cemeteries in the borough of Centralia and family and friends visit
occasionally. So please help to keep the area clean and accessible by
the public. If anything, take a little of the garbage with you when you
can I expect to see in Centralia?
A brief overview of Centralia PA Today
It wasn't too long ago Centralia was still home to hundreds of people.
Within the past 30 years the numbers of residents has dwindled to next to
nothing. Homes and businesses that once lined the streets were one
by one razed over time leaving only a plot of grass in it's place. Today
you'll find a grid-work of streets with no homes. Cut wires overhead that
would have once led to a home or building. Side streets, curbs and
sidewalks are crumbling leaving behind scant evidence of the lives that once
populated neighborhoods. Only a few structures remain at present.
The occasional home here and there, The Centralia Municipal Building and a few
There are hot spots in the borough where smoke and
steam rise out of the ground, evidence of the fire that still burns down below.
A stretch of Rt. 61 is closed permanently due to the fire below that has cause
the roadway to collapse and open a several hundred foot long crack down the
highway. Yet today there are still a few resident who live there. With
this in mind
please be respectful of the residents if you visit. Specific locations of
interest described on this page.
Where are the interesting places to go while I'm and Centralia?
Points of Interest within and around Centralia PA
The direction from which you enter the town will vary depending on where you're
coming from. But for the sake of starting somewhere, we're going
to enter Centralia from the south, traveling north on State Route 61/54.
As you are leaving Ashland, following Rt 61 you make a right at the top of the
long hill. Follow that about a mile until you see the road as it used to
be abruptly end and continue off to the right. This is the beginning of
where Rt. 61 was closed down due to the subsidence ahead on 61.
the alternate road to the right. This alternate route for the closed
section of Rt 61 takes you around the damaged section on what is known as Byrnesville
You will pass an old abandoned washhouse on the left. Township Road 311
is off to the right as you round the bend. This small roadway used to
be the community of Byrnesville and is now totally gone. Continue up
the hill. You will emerge back onto Rt 61. Here, stop and walk
back down the closed section of Rt 61 to scene of the damaged roadway.
Back at car a few hundred feet turn right onto a gravel
driveway where you will find the old protestant cemetery named "Odd Fellows
Cemetery". Just beyond
the cemetery turn left down a gravel driveway and look for some old pipes
sticking out of the ground. These pipes used to vent underground
gasses years ago while the fire was in this area. Within this vicinity
was the old strip mine that was to be used as a town dump back in 1962.
This is where the fire presumably started.
at road make a left onto Rt. 61 once referred to by locals as Locust
Street and continue north a few hundred feet where you can turn left
down a narrow blacktop / gravel road (South Street) and up a short
hill to an expanse of severe surface damage. Warning, stay on
the well traveled gravel road and out of low areas. Also stay
up wind of smoke and steam. This is the most impressive view
of the damage can be found.
those key points of interest, there are many side streets and
remnants of homes in the area. Drive around and explore the
streets. Take notice of what you see. The section
is a Photo Documentary of Centralia as it
stands today taking note of the subtleties of what is left behind.
Below is a map that you can print that may help
guide you through the streets.
Also you may want to print out the following page at
this link and visit
these locations to see what it used to look like.
How do I get to Centralia PA?
Many people ask the question, "How do I get to Centralia?
Although Centralia's zip code has been revoked, the town is still on maps.
We suggest using Google Maps to map your route to Centralia.
View Larger Map
What else is in the region that I can do while I visit Centralia?
While you are in the area, you may want to visit the
Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train in Ashland, eastern Pennsylvania
- In May 1963, Pioneer Tunnel, which ceased operation
in 1931, was retimbered and reopened as a place where visitors could experience
a real anthracite coal mine. The Tunnel affords visitors an opportunity to learn
how anthracite coal is mined. The Pioneer Tunnel is located about 2 miles
south of Centralia PA in Ashland just off of Rt 61.
Museum of Anthracite
Mining in Ashland PA - Located on the same grounds as the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland PA, this
museum focuses on the history of anthracite coal mining industries and
technology. It features a diverse collection of tools, machinery and photographs
that depicts the mining of hard coal. Information on Centralia's history
is available at the museum. Located about 2 miles south of
Centralia PA in Ashland.
Pioneer Coal Mine & Anthracite
19th and Oak Streets, Ashland
Tours April through November
Nestled in the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania is one of
the states best kept secrets, Knoebels Amusement Park. Plan your visit to
Centralia around one the country's top rated family amusement parks located
only 15 miles up the road from Centralia.
Knoebels is located near
Elysburg PA in a large wooded valley. It is rich in amusement history with
a very diverse collection of old favorites intermingled with the newer rides and
attractions of today.
Prior to visiting Centralia, we recommend you do a little reading about the town
as it was and how it became a ghost town. There are several good books
that talk about the story of Centralia but none as detailed and insightful as
David DeKok's book
Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia
Mine Fire. We suggest you read this book before
visiting if for no other reason but to understand what this community went
through a few decades ago. Also see: Other books about