E-mail the Park
Junction of US 93 and SH 75.
at the Interpretive Center
about the earthquake site and
Mt. Borah, just south of Challis.
Visit Challis Hot
for a relaxing soak.
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in scenic central Idaho, the Land of the Yankee Fork
Historic Area provides visitors with a chance to experience Idaho’s frontier
mining history. Managed jointly by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation,
the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the site combines
fascinating history with many recreational opportunities.
Beginning in 1870, the area attracted gold seekers searching its streams and mountains. Within six years, the mining communities of Custer and Bonanza sprang to life.
The 1880s brought rapid growth to the region as the Lucky Boy, General Custer and Montana mines produced abundant ore and the town of Custer reached a population of 600. But the gold eventually played out leaving Custer and Bonanza ghost towns by 1911. Today, the bones of old buildings, the tales of the miners and secluded cemeteries are all that remain.
The Interpretive Loop
Begin your tour at the Interpretive Center near Challis, where displays tell the Yankee Fork mining story in a building styled after the old mining mills. Then, travel the old toll road where fees were once collected from freighters and stages on their way to Custer and Bonanza. Now called the Custer Motorway, this backcountry road features historic sites, panoramic views and interpretive signs. Next, discover the ghost towns themselves, and visit the Bonanza Cemetery and the Custer Museum, where artifacts and photographs bring the old days to life.
Nearby is the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, a 988-ton monster barge that searched the gravel of the Yankee Fork for gold as recently as 1953. Guided tours are available during the summer. At Sunbeam, interpretive signs describe the beautiful Salmon River and the remnants of the Sunbeam Dam, the only dam ever constructed on the Salmon. Note: travel on the gravel Custer Motorway portion of the loop is not recommended for trailers or low-clearance vehicles.
In addition to fishing, hunting and cross-country skiing, try whitewater rafting on the world-famous Salmon River or backpacking in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.
Location: Between Sunbeam and Challis off US
93 and SH 75
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1086, Challis, ID 83226
- Why is the town and mine called Custer?
Although Gen. Custer never visited this area, he was well liked and
considered a national hero. Thus, the townsite, mine and County are
named after him.
- Are they still mining for gold in the area?
Yes, there are many private individuals that have mining claims in the
area. Check with the local Forest Service Office for information
concerning claim locations. There are no large corporations mining for
gold in this area at this time.
- Where can one pan for gold?
Gold may be panned in the townsite of Custer and many other areas that
are not claimed by private individuals. Check with the local Forest
Service office for claim information.