Vacations To Go


Southern Idaho Ghost Towns


Day 1      
  Depart: Spokane  
    (Head south on Hwy 195. Cross the river to find places to eat.)  
2 hrs Arrive: Lewiston  
  Do: Gas and Lunch  
  Depart: Lewiston  
    (Head north back across the river. Turn right on Hwy 95. At New Meadows go left on Hwy 55. Go left on Hwy 17. Take a left on Hwy 615 over the Payette River. After it goes left in a small town, watch for Centerville Rd/NF 307. Go left.)  
5 hrs 22 min Arrive: Idaho City, ID 261
    (Turn right on Main St and again on Hwy 21/Ponderosa Pine Scenic Rte.)  
  Lodge: Inn at the Pines $115
(2 Queens, AC)
2
  Do: The Spring Hot Springs $14 if staying/$18  
    Dinner-Cafe -Sandwiches  

 

Day 2      
    (Go back on Hwy 21/Ponderosa Pine Scenic Rte. In town turn left on Main St. Take the 1st right on Kempner.)  
    Idaho City Visitor's Center-Pick-up a brochure on what to see.  
  See:
Idaho City Ghost Town-Idaho City was founded in December 1862 as the town of “Bannock” (and sometimes “West Bannock”) during the Boise Basin gold rush, the largest gold bonanza since the California gold rush a dozen years earlier. Located near the confluence of Elk and Mores Creeks, the plentiful water supply allowed the town to outgrow the other nearby camps in the basin, including Placerville, Pioneerville, and Centerville. As “Bannock’s” population swelled, the new Idaho Territorial legislature changed the town’s name to “Idaho City,” to avoid confusion with the southwestern Montana town of Bannack.

The area around Idaho City, it is said, gave up more gold than all of Alaska. Estimates are as high as $100 million. In addition, the town provided elegant theaters for its populace as well as rented surreys for Sunday afternoon jaunts around the town. It also sported four breweries and 41 saloons and the first Territorial Jail in Idaho. The first Catholic Church in Idaho still stands. Fires have destroyed many of the original frame buildings but those rebuilt with brick offer an interesting visit to the City's earlier years. Submitted by Henry Chenowith.

 
    Sasaparilla Ice Cream Parlor  
    (Go back left on Centerville Rd. Go left on NF 307AA/Buena Vista Rd. Turn right on NF307AA. Cemeteries on both sides of the road.)  
  See:
Boot Hill Cemetery- right side of road
 
    Idaho City Pioneer Cemetery-left side of road  
    (Turn right on Main St and again on Hwy 21/Ponderosa Pine Scenic Rte.)  
  Lodge: Inn at the Pines $115
(2 Queens, AC)
2
  Do: The Spring Hot Springs $14  

 

Day 3      
  Depart: Idaho City  
    (Go through town and turn left on Hwy 21. At Stanley go left on Hwy 75. At Sunbeam go left on (dirt road) Yankee Fork Rd. Turn left onto West Fork Yankee Fork Rd. Take the 1st left. On the left side.)  
  Arrive: Bonanza, ID 113
  See:
Bonanza Ghost Town
-

These two towns are so closely related its difficult to know if one could have survived without the other that it might well be called the tale of two cities. Bonanza came to life in 1876 following the discovery of what became known as the General Custer Mine. The discovery was made on the 17th of August of that year and was the mother lode of Yankee Fork, a name already given to the general area. Three prospectors, a James Baxter, an E. K. Dodge and a Morton McKeim, the founders of the General Custer Mine, realized to develop what they had found required resources far beyond their means and sold out to the English firm of Hagen and Grayson. Actual construction of the town began in 1878 at a point near where Jordan Creek joined Yankee Fork. Bonanza was south of the General Custer Mine. A huge mill was constructed a short distance north of the mine which made necessary another business and residence center which became Custer. Both towns prospered and by 1890 virtually became one operated by common officials. But by 1903, miners agreed the end was in sight and by 1910 the population was down to a dozen families. The twin cities grew up together and died together.

This town is under reconstruction! It has been purchased by the U.S. Forestry Service, and 
in conjunction with the Friends of Custer Society, is slowly being made into a historic site. Some original buildings have already been renovated, some are in process, and many others are slated to be restored. Several buildings lost in a 1960's grass fire are due to be replaced with replicas. They have in place, now, a walking tour highlighting the existing buildings, and the sites of destroyed 
buildings. The old school house acts as a museum and starting point of the tour. The saloon (one of the original) across the street also houses historic memorabelia. Even though somewhat "touristy", this was a site well worth visiting. The tour is well structured, and is self conducted. It allows for education and a bit of daydreaming. Even the unrenovated structures are in very good condition, and interesting to view. The treatment of history and attention to detail is pleasing. 

Bonanza had two cemeteries; one that held the townsfolk from both Bonanza and Custer, and one that was a Boot Hill that only holds three marked graves.

 
    (Go left on W Fork Yankee Fork Rd. On the right side.)  
    Boot Hill Cemetery  
    (Dirt Road-Continue north up Yankee Fork Rd.)  
   
Custer Ghost Town
-Free guided and self-guided walking tours are available Memorial Day - Labor Day during business hours. The School house is the museum with gifts and refreshments available at the Empire Saloon during the summer season. Custer was founded in early 1879 by gold speculators. Economically supported by the operations of the Lucky Boy and Black mines, Custer reached its peak population of 600 in 1896. By 1910 Custer had become a ghost town. The Challis National Forest took ownership of the area in 1966, and in 1981, Custer was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Through the efforts of the Friends of Custer Museum, the site was kept open for public enjoyment. In 1990, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation joined the Forest Service in managing Custer. This led to the establishment of the Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area.
2
  Depart: Custer  
    (Turn around and go back south on Yankee Fork Rd. Turn left/east on Hwy 75. After the Old Sawmill Station (serves burgers) start looking to turn left on Squaw Creek Rd. On the left side.)  
53 minutes Arrive: May Family Ranch B&B ($95/2 people $15 each addt'l person)
Each morning we serve a large country breakfast in the Sun Room. Spend time in the lounge area-listening to the waterfall and relaxing. There is a kitchenette for your use with a refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker.
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Day 4      
  Depart: May Family Ranch  
    (Go back to Hwy 75 and turn left/east. Turn left across the Salmon River on Centennial Flat Rd/051. Watch for the sign as it isn't obvious. At the junction go right. Take the 1st left on Bayhorse Creek Rd. On the right side.)  
31 min. Arrive:

Bayhorse Ghost Town-

Prospectors discovered the first mineral deposits near Bayhorse in 1864. At this very early date, central Idaho was extremely remote and developing hard rock mines was impossible for the handful of prospectors in the area. It wouldn't be until the mid-1870s that additional discoveries were made and a rush commenced.

In 1877, a major lead-silver vein was discovered at the Ramshorn Mine. By 1878, a considerable rush to the area had begun.

During the first couple of years ore from the Ramshorn had to be shipped all the way to Salt Lake City for smelting. Even with the difficulty of transportation and ore processing at this time, the rich ore was still able to provide the mine owners with a profit.

In 1880, a smelter was constructed, and within two years charcoal kilns were constructed to provide the smelter with a local fuel source. Forty-eight men were employed to produce 80,000 bushels of charcoal for use at the smelter. The charcoal kilns were abandoned in 1885 when coke became available from Ketchum.

By the early 1880s, Bayhorse had a population of about 300 and a number of permanent buildings. The town had a meat market, a general store, several boarding houses, and a number of saloons.

In 1883, an aerial tramway was constructed at the Ramshorn mine to transport ore down to wagons which served the smelter.

Mining at Bayhorse peaked in 1888, but that would be the last year that the smelter and mines operated at full capacity.

Fire struck Bayhorse in 1889, destroying several prominent structures. Later that year a shortage of water slowed production at the mines. Declining silver and lead prices caused a shutdown of the Bayhorse mines in November.

The smelter was closed in 1889, reopened briefly in 1893 and 1894, but by 1897 was permanently closed and later dismantled

The mines at Bayhorse would return to production but after the closure of the Bayhorse smelter, smelting of Bayhorse ore was shifted to Clayton, roughly 17 miles away. Production continued at the Bayhorse mines until 1925.

Total production for the area has been estimated at more than $10 million, including approximately 200 oz. gold, 6.3 million oz. silver, 6.6 million lb. copper, 37 million lb. lead, and 39,000 lb. zinc.

The privately owned town was added to the Nation Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 2006, the state purchased the site and included it in the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park.

The most striking feature at the Bayhorse town site is the stamp mill, which was constructed in 1882. The mill, named after the Ramshorn Mine's owners Gilmer and Salisbury, had a long operating history. In the 1920's the mill was remodeled to transition to a more modern flotation process. No machinery remains at the mill today.

A short hike up the canyon takes visitors to the remains of the charcoal kilns. These kilns are not the most impressive, nor the best preserved in the West, but they still relate the interesting history of this remote mining camp.

Overall, Bayhorse is a worthwhile stop for travelers interested in mining or the Old West. Even if the towns state of preservation is not ideal, we can still be thankful that the town was preserved in the Idaho State Park system and can still be enjoyed by history enthusiasts.


Bayhorse is NOT a safe area to explore. Specifically - DO NOT GO THROUGH OR OVER THE FENCES IN THE TOWN. FURTHERMORE - DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ENTER ANY BUILDINGS THERE. Bayhorse is in fact a beautiful area to visit - HOWEVER - IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT GO INTO AN AREA THAT IS FENCED OFF. THE MINING THAT WAS DONE HERE WAS SILVER MINING. DUE TO THIS FACT - THERE ARE HIGH CONCENTRATIONS OF TOXIC POISONS, ETC. INSIDE THESE BUILDINGS, ETC. 2. Also - when exploring the area around Bayhorse, WATCH OUT FOR RATTLESNAKES!!! - ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU WANT TO EXPLORE THE OLD CHARCOAL OVENS. I DO NOT ADVISE GOING INTO THE AREA WHERE THE CHARCOAL OVENS ARE LOCATED. IF YOU DO - BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL AND VIGILANT. THIS SAME RULE GOES FOR THE ENTRE TOWNSITE OF Bayhorse. 
21
  Depart: Bayhorse  
    (Go back down SR 51. Turn left on Hwy 75. Turn left on Hwy 93.)  
23 min. Arrive: Challis 14
  Lodge: http://www.challischamber.com/lodging.html  

 

Option 1: Shorter    
Day 5      
  Depart: Challis  
    (Continue north on Hwy 93.)  
4 hrs. Arrive: Missoula, Mt 200
  Do: Gas
 
  Depart: Missoula  
    (Go west on I-90.)  
3 hrs 10 min Arrive: Spokane 198

 

Option 2: Longer    
Day 5      
  Depart: Challis  
    (Continue south on Hwy 93. At Arco continue straight ahead onto Hwy 26/20. At the junction continue south on Hwy 26. At Blackfoot turn right on I-15. Take exit 47 left/east on Hwy 30. Turn left/north on Lund Rd. In Bancroft turn left on 1st and an immediate right on Chesterfield Rd (may be dirt). It will eventually go left and then right into Chesterfield.)  
4 hours Arrive: Chesterfield  
  See:


Historic Chesterfield
(Memorial-Labor Day 10-6) Come to the Holbrook Mercantile General Merchandise Museum for tours and reservation details. 

The idea for settlement first came to Chester Call as he was traveling through the valley in 1880, in search of grazing land. The next spring, he brought his family up to settle a small ranch because the Salt Lake Valley was getting overcrowded with all of the Pioneers traveling in. He got some friends and family, and before too long, a town arose in the foothills of the valley. 
Today, the historic townsite is run by the Chesterfield Foundation and has been since 1980 when the first building, the Meeting House, was reconstructed. Currently, most of the historic homes are restored to there original state, including most of the main town buildings. 

 
  Depart: Chesterfield  
    (Go back south on Chesterfield Rd. Turn left on 1st/Hwy 30. Take an immediate right on Lund Rd. Turn right on Hwy 30.)  
40 min. Arrive: Lava Hot Springs 24
  Do: Lava Hot Springs (8 a.m.-11 p.m.) $6/$5.50 60 +
  • Pure all natural mineral water
  • No chemicals, no sulfur, no odor
  • Natural water temperature–1020 to 1120
  • Five outdoor pools with gravel or rock bottoms
  • Dressing rooms, showers, restrooms & coin-operated lockers
  • Souvenir gift shop 
 
  Lodge: Lava Hot Springs, ID  

 

Option 2:      
Day 6      
  Depart: Lava Hot Springs  
    (Continue west on Hwy 30. Enter I-15 right/north.)  
1 hr 25 min Arrive: Idaho Falls 84
    (Continue north on I-15. Enter I-90 going left/west.)  
4 hrs 30 min Arrive: Missoula 313
3 hr 11 min Arrive: Spokane 198