Description - *Note: All information presented is non-seasonal, as per the wishes of the State of Idaho.
Located 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.
- 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.
Recreation - 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.
Climate - The climate in Idaho varies with the elevation. The bottom of Hell's Canyon, Boise and other locations at low elevations receive hot summer weather. Temperatures at these elevations often reach 90 degrees or more during the summer months. At the same time the mountains will get mild temperatures with cool nights.
Winters are just as extreme with the mountains experiencing extreme conditions and temperatures. An average of 500 inches of snow falls on the Idaho highlands. Temperatures are known to dip below zero degrees F on many winter nights. The lower elevations enjoy a more mild winter season with less precipitation than the mountains. The sun is a constant throughout the year. Be sure to wear sunscreen and layered clothing in Idaho's unpredictable weather.
Junction of US 93 and State Highway 75