PLEASE NOTE: These photographs were taken on private property. While efforts are under way to restore and reopen the property to the general public, the site is currently rather fragile, and it’s littered with various hazards that make exploration unwise. Should you decide to visit, please — for your own safety, and for the protection of a historic landmark — respect the rules, obey the posted signs, and refrain from trespassing on areas that are not yet open to the public. Trust me: There’s a reason some of this stuff is fenced off.

Picture yourself in a familiar location. It’s a location you’ve been visiting on a regular basis for at least a decade. You know its history well. You’ve taken out-of-town friends to see it at every imaginable time of day or night, under all sorts of weather conditions, and at all different times of year. You’ve photographed it in the snow, wandered its grounds in the summer, and helped clean it up after an ice storm.

You think you know it well.

And then, one afternoon, you open your e-mail to find a photograph showing a part of the property you’ve never seen. You can’t believe what you’re seeing, so the next day, you go out, camera in hand, to see it for yourself. As you come around a corner, you look up, and you are met with this sight:

That’s right. Mushrooms. Over a dozen of them, ranging in height from three to five feet, arranged in a sort of fairy ring around a dried-up pond obscured by 10-foot-tall rushes, thorny brambles, and little scrub trees.

It’s not that it really surprises me to find out that there are giant concrete-and-fiberglass mushrooms behind the Ark at the Blue Whale. It’s just that they’re so … well, so perfect.

As Ron correctly points out, mushrooms are often found amid decay — and there’s plenty of decay on the grounds surrounding the Blue Whale.

The rickety, half-collapsed dock.

The weather-ravaged Ark.

The bottomless boat with the strange Cthulhu figurehead.

Given the decay, the dampness, and the vaguely hallucinogenic vibe surrounding the entire property, the mushrooms just seem perfectly matched to their setting.

I was half-disapponted to find the old snakepit empty. Somehow I was expecting to find it occupied by an outsized caterpillar … and if a striped cat had spoken to me from the branches of a nearby tree, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

Ron will have more about the mushrooms — and the efforts to restore the Ark and surrounding area — on his blog later today. I’ll try to find out where you can send donations, too. The Blue Whale is rapidly becoming my favorite Tulsa-area cause.