The mining industry in the state of Idaho plays a key role in the local economy. There are of course countless mines in the state with many small mining towns. However, the history of mining in Idaho is probably most significant in three main regions.
They include the gold district located in central and southern Idaho, the Owyhee mining district in the southwest, and the Silver Valley, the richest silver mining district in the entire USA.
But the history of mining in the state goes way back and spreads out far beyond these main districts. Lets focus on the historical mining town of Bayhorse and the role it has played in shaping the mining sector in modern-day Idaho.
Background of Bayhorse
Bayhorse is a deserted ghost town in Custer County, a remote rural mountain region. The entire county has a population of just 4,368 people. The town is located about 14 miles Southwest of Challis, the capital of Custer County.
Bayhorse was established in 1877 as a mining town. This was after gold deposits were discovered there.
However, gold mining in the town failed to take off as expected. But later on, silver was discovered in the area, and eventually, it blossomed.
The History of Mining in Bayhorse
Now that we have given you some background of Bayhorse, let’s now delve into its proud mining history. The first mineral deposits were discovered in Bayhorse in 1864, over 150 years ago. However, during this period Idaho was extremely remote. Building any profitable mines under such conditions was therefore impossible.
As a result, despite its rich mineral deposits, mining in Bayhorse did not take off until the mid-1870s. More and more mineral discoveries were made in the state. But the big one came in 1877 when prospectors discovered major silver and lead deposits at the Ramshorn Mine.
A year later, there was a sudden “mineral rush” as prospectors and other investors flocked to the town to take advantage of these newly discovered deposits.
Read More >>
Bayhorse started to flourish although there were still a lot of challenges. For example, there were no smelters in the town or nearby cities. The mined ore had to be transported all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah to be smelted and processed.
Despite this, the mines in the town were still profitable, something that ensured mining activities continued. But because of the mining potential in the town, it was only a matter of time before a smelter came into Bayhorse. True to that, the first one was built in 1880, roughly three years since the mineral rush started.
As the mining town continued to expand, it needed a local source of fuel to keep the smelters working. Within three years, the very first Kilns were built. The kilns were used to produce charcoal, which was later used to fuel the smelters. At their peak, the Kilns produced over 80,000 bushels of charcoal.
The charcoal would power the Bayhorse smelter for another five years before it was phased out in favor of coke, which had just been discovered in the nearby city of Ketchum. By this time, Bayhorse had already established itself as one of the main mining communities in Idaho.
It had a population of over 300 workers and several buildings and amenities were starting to pop up. As we started to enter the later 1880s and early 1890s, mining in the town had massively peaked.Mining History of Silver City, IdahoGold Mining in Elk City, Idaho
Mining Challenges in the Town
Despite experiencing a period of steady growth, the mining industry in Bayhorse was not without challenges. For example, in 1889, a major fire hit the entire town, destroying several buildings and structures.
The price of lead and silver had also declined. There were also issues of water shortage that meant most mines could not operate at full capacity. Because of all these challenges, the first Bayhorse smelter closed down permanently in 1897.
But mining continued. However, the ore was transported to Clayton, a city located 17 miles from the Bayhorse mines, for processing. For the entire duration of their operation, it is estimated that the Bayhorse mines produced nearly $10 million worth of ore.
This included a variety of metals such as gold, lead, copper, silver, and zinc.
A Quick Visit To Bayhorse Now
In 1976, Bayhorse was added to the US National Register of Historic Places, something that essentially made it a historic site worth preserving. Because of its historical significance, the entire Bayhorse town was also acquired by the Idaho state government in 2006.
In 2009, the town was opened to the public as a tourist attraction. It is now part of the Land of the Yankee Fort State Park, a history-themed recreational park in Custer County.
The park was created to preserve and showcase Idaho’s frontier mining history. It includes a museum and a gold panning station for visitors.The Gold Dredge on the Yankee ForkGold Mining in Murray, Idaho