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Idaho > Idaho State Parks and Recreation Areas > Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area
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Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area

Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area
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General Information

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.

Attractions - 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.

Location - Junction of US 93 and State Highway 75

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
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Filed By: Beth Pany
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: We started with the Visitor's Center just south of Challis - great info on mining & hunting, good videos, nice people with lots of knowledge of the area, terrific gift shop, good maps. We did the loop up the highway to Sunbeam - we detoured upstream half a mile at the hot springs into the Salmon River. We grabbed lunch fixings at the Sunbeam store and then meandered up the dug-up landscape to the gold dredge. The tour was done by 3 very informative guys - one of whom used to work on a dredge in Alaska. From there we drove up the gravel road to the ghost town of Custer. There is a small museum, a little store/gift shop (no food), clean restrooms, and knowledgeable staff - this was a huge gold and silver mining area way back when. The old toll road continues on about 35 miles and comes out again at Challis. It's slow, but great scenery. There's fishing in the reservoir off to the north. We did it all in a short day - didn't start till about 11.

Filed By: Dan B. Smith
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Visited the visitor Center Near Challis - very nice, Great Customer service! Went over the Custer Motorway which was very pretty and the road was actually very nice. Stopped in Custer and had a very nice tour met some very informitive staff. It was a full day's trip - we bought sandwiches at the Junction that were really good. Since there aren't any other places to eat I'm glad we did. It was fun, informative, and scenic. A nice loop.

More Information

Contact Information:
Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area , P.O. Box 1086 , Challis, Idaho, 83226, Phone: 208-879-5244 , Fax: 208-879-5243
, lan@idpr.state.id.us

Additional Information:
Central Idaho -
Idaho State Parks and Recreation Areas -

Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation - Official Homepage of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation


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