Idaho is a state with a small-town, friendly nature. The population of its largest community, Boise, is just over 205,000 and the next largest, Nampa has a population of more than 81,500 people. Meridian follows with over 75,000 residents and Pocatello’s population stands at 54,000. Idaho communities are rooted in nature, most of them with a history tied to agriculture, ranching, mining or timber. As some of these resource-based communities experienced economic hard times, many turned to tourism. Read on to learn more about our major cities and follow the links directly to each community’s web site.
A few Idaho ghost town highlights include:
Atlanta is a small mining era town on the west side of the Sawtooth Mountains, established in 1864. The community is approximately 80 miles from Boise, most of which is on a gravel road, and now features a population of about 40 people. The area has several natural hot springs close to town and outstanding views of Greylock Mountain and the Middle Fork of the Boise River.
Chesterfield is a Mormon pioneer town founded in 1880 along the Old Oregon Trail in southeastern Idaho. A visit to Chesterfield is a unique trip back in time and a chance to experience the rural agricultural life of a community whose deep faith helped them endure the hardships of life on the frontier. Now unoccupied, 27 structures overlooking the beautiful Portneuf Valley near Bancroft are being restored by descendents of the early settlers and volunteers. The meeting house now is a museum and tours are available. This is a special experience for youth groups, school groups, family reunions, and family groups. Chesterfield is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The two ghost towns of Custer and Bonanza are located in central Idaho above the town of Sunbeam. The U.S. Forest Service purchased the area and with the help of the Friends of Custer Society, the area is being restored into a historic site. Several buildings are renovated with more on the way. The old school house hosts a museum and the starting point of a walking tour that highlights existing buildings and important sites. The saloon and various other structures still stand and the Society is working hard to build replicas of lost buildings.
This quaint small town 45 miles from Boise, with its classic western storefronts, was once the largest mining town in the Pacific Northwest. Idaho City was a rip-roaring gold mining area, rivaling anything the California ’49ers could have created. Many of the original buildings are still in use by the almost 500 residents who make their home here today. The Boise Basin Mercantile, Idaho’s oldest store, saloons and restaurants can be found on Main Street. The state’s oldest newspaper, the Idaho World, is still published here. The original Idaho City Hotel still rents rooms.
Murrayville was founded in 1884 when gold was discovered, but had its name shortened by the Post Office the following year. Today there are a few classic mining era buildings left: the Masonic Lodge and the Sprag Pole Inn, which houses a collection of artifacts from the days when mines filled the town. Murray was the home of Maggie Hall, a local saloon-keeper dubbed Molly B’Damm and an annual event in nearby Wallace is named for her.
Located high in the Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho, Silver City is a well-preserved mining era town that offers visitors a chance to see what the town was like in its prime. At one point Silver City’s population was over 2,500, which supported 75 businesses and 300 homes. Silver City is amazingly intact with many buildings still standing. Highlights include a pharmacy, the Masonic lodge, a barber and bathhouse and the Idaho Hotel. Visitors can still get lunch in the dining room or stay the night in one of the historically accurate rooms.
The Silver Valley is an important historical area in Idaho. Gold was discovered a few miles north of Wallace in 1882, which then led to the discovery of silver, lead and zinc in the region. Since that time, the valley’s Coeur d’Alene mining district has been one the largest silver mining regions in the world. Mining history provides the traveler unique recreational adventures from exploring ghost towns to panning for gold.
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