As far as area is concerned, Idaho County is the largest county in the State of Idaho. In 1861, the first white’s who visited Idaho County, besides the occasional trapper or mountain man were gold seekers who followed the Nez Perce trail into the area now known as Elk City found gold in Baboon Gulch. About two thousand people flocked to Elk City that first year and the following year a town was established. At the time the rumor was that a man could clean out his rocker box and pan out a $1,000 a day, even if this seems unlikely.
At the head of Baboon Gulch was a camp called Florence. It was here that in the winter of 1862, that the miners were trapped in what was said to be at least ten feet of snow and survived on very meager rations. The Portland Oregonian read it like this…”all here are now satisfied that these will prove the richest and most extensive mines yet found north of California. All claim that the center of the vast gold field has at last been found.” There are many small districts in the county. Here are the ones worth mentioning:
Elk Creek District
The Elk City District had a total production of around 800,000 ounces. Placer gold can be found in the Clearwater River, especially along the South Fork of the Clearwater River. Gold can also be found in areas along the American River. The largest mine in the area was the Buster Mine with a estimated 500,000 ounces of lode gold being retrieved.
Florence District / French Creek District
By far the richest district in Idaho County. Over a million ounces of gold was recovered. Nearly all the gold was from placer operations, which is quite amazing. The French Creek-Florence district is in T. 25 N., Rs. 3 and 4 E., about 42 miles from Grangeville. French Creek was heavily mined.
Buffalo Hump District
Located in west central part of Idaho County is the Buffalo Hump District. About 27,000 ounces of gold was taken from this remote district. There were about twenty small quartz veins that occupied a five mile area. Production ceased because of its small deposits and remote location.
The district mainly consists of lode gold mines. Gnome Mine produced 11,582 ounces from in a five year span from 1932 to 1937. Orogrande-Frisco mine was also a large producer in this district. The area has been worked off and on for many years. Newsome Creek has some placer deposits. Located 8 miles from the Buffalo Hump district.
Twenty miles south of Elk City lays the Dixie District. Incomplete production records for the district, but estimates are between 40,000 and 80,000 ounces of lode and placer gold were taken. Much like the Buffalo Hump District the area was very remote. Sheep Creek and Crooked Creek were heavily worked for placer gold.