Idaho Ghost Towns and Mining Camps

by Michael Hofferber Copyright © 1993. All rights reserved.

A quest for gold and silver inspired ambitious men and fearless women of more than a century ago to build the first towns in the high country of Idaho.

Many of these communities, barely more than encampments, sprouted overnight. Some thrived and died within a season, like the wildflowers that color alpine meadows in mid-summer. Others set the foundations for present-day Ketchum, Mackay, Hailey and Bellevue.
Of those that died, just a few shards of speculative zeal remain among the tumbled-down cabins and mine shafts. These include:


Located in the Pioneer Mountains north of Carey, the Muldoon Mine was discovered in 1881, producing silver and lead for about a half dozen years.

Not much remains of the town itself except for its tiny post office, just eight feet by 10 in size, which is believed to have been the smallest in the U.S.
The remains of beehive charcoal kilns used in smelting ore can be seen on Smelter Butte just north of the townsite.
Located on private land surrounded by Bureau of Land Management holdings, the Muldoon site lies about 20 miles east of Bellevue on the Seaman Creek Road.

Ghost Towns of Idaho
Ghost Towns of Idaho
Sawtooth City
An unincorporated community of summer homes calling itself "Sawtooth City" lies beside Highway 75 just north of Galena Summit on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. But the original Sawtooth City lies about three miles to the west in the Beaver Creek drainage.
Turn west off of Highway 75 on Forest Service Road 204 (Beaver Creek Road).

A handful of old building sites, a cemetery and some scattered debris are the only evidence left of what was a bustling town 110 summers ago. The silver ore that lured more than 250 people to this remote site proved disappointing and within two years the old Sawtooth City was abandoned.

Vienna City
Pronounced "Vy-eee-nah," this was the largest of the Sawtooth mining camps, numbering 200 buildings at its height.

Bannack State Park Ghost Town, Dillon, Montana by Richard CumminsBannack State Park Ghost Town, Dillon, Montana

photo by Richard Cummins

Located just south of Sawtooth City in the neighboring Smiley Creek drainage, the Vienna site once included 14 saloons, six restaurants and three general merchandise stores. But by 1887 the large silver lodes discovered by Levi Smiley had been played out and by 1914 little evidence of the camp remained.

The Vienna site lies about four miles south of present-day Sawtooth City on Forest Service Road 077.

Boulder City
More than $1 million of silver ore was extracted from Boulder Basin in the late 1800s. Situated at 10,000 feet elevation on the northeast face of Boulder Peak, the mining camp of Boulder City survives as a gathering of old rotting cabins, rusting machinery and a mill.

Only a 12-foot-square grouping of rocks remain where a Swedish Bath House was built by miners working the Golden Glow mine.

Forest Service Road 158 leads to Boulder Basin. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

Prospectors Finding Gold in a Stream during the California Gold RushProspectors Finding Gold in a Stream during the California Gold Rush


Named after the ill-fated general in the year of his famous "last stand," this ghost town along the Yankee Fork River northeast of Stanley witnessed a furious gold stampede in the 1870s.

Most gold prospectors had to placer patiently and dig for long hours to make their finds, but at Custer a rich vein of ore lay exposed along the surface of the earth. The gentleman who discovered it simply shoveled the precious metal into sacks and packed it off to be milled. He profited $60,000 (in 1876 currency) in less than a week.

Today, the surviving remnants of the Custer gold rush -- building sites, a gold dredge, photographs and diaries -- are preserved in a 20-acre state park and museum located 10 miles north of Sunbeam off of Highway 75.

by Michael Hofferber
Copyright © 1993. All rights reserved.
USGS Topographic Quadrangle Map - Muldoon, Idaho
USGS Topographic Quadrangle Map - Muldoon, Idaho

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