Idaho Gold

Bingham County Idaho Gold

Bingham County Idaho Gold


Along the Snake River around Blackfoot the gravel bars and sand produce fine gold. Around 25,000 ounces have been found in this area.

Lost Treasure

Two 125 pound ingots of gold are said to be buried in the lava fields, or near them, in Bingham County. The two ingots were stolen during a stage coach hold-up. The criminals were caught, but not before they hid the gold somewhere in the area.

Adams County Idaho Gold


Near Cuprum, there are many old copper mines that had a by product of gold. The Peacock mine was an open pit copper mine that was the most productive in the area. This area was mostly copper rich.

Ada County Idaho Gold

Ada County Idaho Gold

In Ada County, east of Boise 10 miles, near the Elmore County line, is the Black Hornet district. It had a total production of around 22,000 ounces of gold from area lode mines.

Black Hornet District

Lode mines in this district probably were developed in 1862, at the time discoveries were being made in the Boise Basin, but the earliest record of production was in 1895-96, when gold ore valued at $24,000 was shipped from the district. Small amounts of gold were produced annually through 1955, but during 1942-59 the output was only 119 ounces. Total recorded production from 1880 through 1959 was 21,431 ounces. The geology of the district, is fairly simple. The country rock consists of granite of the Idaho batholith, which is cut locally by granite porphyry dikes. The ore deposits are gold-bearing quartz veins that contain variable amounts of pyrite, arsenopyrite, sphalerite, and galena. The granite adjacent to the veins has been sericitized.


Diamonds have been found in the past in the Diamond Basin area of Ada County.

Lemhi County Idaho Gold


In 1866, prospectors from the Elk Creek area found gold on Napias Creek in the unexplored north-central part of Lemhi County. The town of Leesburg was soon founded and became a base from which discoveries were made in the northern part of the county at Gibbonsville, Moose Creek, Bohannon Bar, and Yellow Jacket. Gold placers and then lode deposits were discovered at Yellow Jacket in 1868. Nearly all the gold discoveries in Lemhi County were made before 1900, and most of the production, which was largely from placers, occurred in the early days. In recent years byproduct gold from copper-cobalt ores in the Blackbird district caused a significant increase in gold output.

Umpleby estimated that the total gold production of Lemhi County to 1911 was worth $13,702,256 (about 665,060 ounces), of which $6 million represented the output of placers before 1881.

Staley  listed annual gold production data for Lemhi County from 1874 through 1942. Total output for this period was 514,430 ounces. From 1942 through 1958, the county was credited with 56,295 ounces of gold. Total production through 1959 was 570,725 ounces, according to Staley’s data, or 720,000 ounces, according to Umpleby’s estimate.

The oldest rock is Archean granitic gneiss, exposed around Shoup, in the northwestern part of Lemhi County. This is unconformably overlain by argillites, phyllites, and quartzites of the Belt Series of Precambrian age. In the southern part, the Precambrian rocks are overlain by Cambrian quartzite and Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, and Mississippian limestones and dolomites. Farther north in the Leesburg quadrangle, Ordovician quartzite lies unconformably on the Belt Series. Lake beds of Miocene age, occupying an area 8 miles wide and 90 miles long, occur in the valley of the Lemhi River near the east boundary of the county. At several localities in the northern part, granitic rocks probably related to the Idaho batholith cut the pre-Tertiary rocks. Numerous dikes, ranging from granite porphyry to lamprophyre, are associated with the larger intrusives. The dominant igneous rocks of Tertiary age are lava flows and welded tuffs that cover much of the central part of the county. These are known regionally as the Challis Volcanics of Oligocene age.

The gold lodes are fissure veins and replacement deposits along shear zones. There are two recognized periods of mineralization: Late Cretaceous or early Eocene, and late Miocene or early Pliocene.

The Blackbird district, about 35 miles southwest of Salmon, was discovered in 1893. Ores were first worked for gold, with discouraging results, but copper was found in 1896 and cobalt in 1901. Before 1957 the district produced only 1,205 ounces of gold. However, increased activity at the Calera cobalt-copper mine yielded 3,683 ounces of gold in 1957, a total of 9,506 ounces in 1958, arid an undisclosed amount in 1957; all production was a byproduct of cobalt-copper ore.

Rocks of the Blackbird district are metamorphosed sedimentary rocks of the Belt Series of Precambrian age, intruded by granitic rocks of the Idaho batholith. At the Calera mine, the only significant producer in the district, quartz-biotite and garnet-chloritoid schists are the favorable host rocks for copper-cobalt deposits. These rocks are contained in a structural unit, the Blackbird block, which is 5 miles long, 2 miles wide, and is elongate northward. Copper-cobalt mineralization is controlled by north-trending shear zones and north-plunging folds; deposits are in veins and lenses formed by replacement. The ore minerals are chalcopyrite, cobaltite, safflorite, and gold; the gold is present in trace amounts to a few hundredths of an ounce per ton.

Carmen Creek, Eldorado, Pratt Creek, and Sandy Creek are contiguous small camps in the northeastern part of Lemhi County along the flanks of the Beaverhead Mountains. The Kirtley Creek camp is also in this area but it will be considered separately.

Mining first began in the 1870’s in the Eldorado area, where Chinese were mining the gravels on Bohannon Bar. From 1895 through 1911, the placers produced $350,000 in gold. Lode mines were also developed but were not very successful.

In the Carmen Creek camp, only small amounts of bullion were produced. The only property of significance was the Oro Cache mine, opened about 1897. At Pratt Creek, gold lodes were found in the early 1890’s at the Goldstone mine. According to Ross, total production from all camps was about $1 million, including $500,000 in gold credited to the Kirtley Creek camp. Considering that about $350,000 came from the Eldorado camp, the Pratt Creek, Carmen Creek, and Sandy Creek camps produced about $150,000 in gold. In the 1930’s and 1940’s this area was active, but only small amounts of gold were mined. Total gold production through 1959 was about 24,500 ounces.

The rocks underlying this district are quartzites, quartzitic slates, and schists of the Precambrian Belt Series which are covered in the valleys by Miocene lake beds. The Precambrian rocks are cut locally by diorite dikes and granitic intrusions. Most of the lode deposits are found in the metasedimentary rocks and are fissure fillings of quartz with variable amounts of pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena, and sphalerite. Gold occurs with the sulfides.

The Gibbonsville district, at the northern apex of Lemhi County, was discovered in 1877. Gold placers were worked extensively and several lode properties, particularly the A. D. and M. mine, were, very productive . From the time of a disastrous fire in 1907 through 1959 mining was sporadic. Total production, according to Ross, was about $2 million in gold, about half of which came from the A. D. and M. mine.

Bedrock in the district consists of thick beds of quartzite, quartzitic slate, and micaceous slate, which strike northwest and dip steeply to the east. Ross assigned these rocks to the Belt Series of Precambrian age. Diorite dikes which cut the Precambrian rocks were believed to be Precambrian in age by Umpleby and Mesozoic by Ross.

The gold lodes occur in the quartzite and slate as narrow east-trending veins that are broken by numerous faults. The primary vein minerals are auriferous pyrite and chalcopyrite in a gangue of quartz and local calcite.

The Kirtley Creek district, in Tps. 21 and 22 N., R. 23 E., about 6 miles east of Salmon, was for a short time the most productive placer area in the State. Gold-bearing gravels were found along Kirtley Creek some time before 1890, and extensive hydraulic operations were conducted in them between 1890 and 1894. Production in the district declined in the late 1890’s but was revived in 1910 when a dredge was brought in which successfully mined the gravels until the deposits were depleted in 1918. From 1932 through 1959 the district was active for short periods on a small scale.

During 1910-18 about $500,000 (about 24,300 ounces) in gold was dredged from the placers. No data were found on the production before 1910. Production from 1932 to 1947 was 2,146 ounces; none was reported from 1947 through 1959.

Some gold-quartz veins at the head of Kirtley Creek were worked. At the White House mine, $40,500 in gold was produced. The veins contain pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena, and free gold in a quartz gangue.

Total minimum production from the district was about 27,500 ounces, mostly from placers.

The Mackinaw (Leesburg) district is about 10 miles west of Salmon.

In 1866 gold placers were discovered at Wards Gulch along Napias Creek, and for the next 14 years these placers were worked on a large scale. The population of the town of Leesburg in the district was 7,000 during this period, but by 1911 it had dwindled to 25 . Lodes were productive in this district, though on a much smaller scale than the placers. The vein deposits were first developed in 1870 but were worked for only a few years; however, the placers were worked intermittently to about 1954. The district was inactive from that date through 1959.

The estimated the value of placer production of the district at not more than $5 million and the lode output at about $250,000. Shockey  listed annual production from 1902 through 1954, which totaled 7,635 ounces from placers and 1,146 ounces from lodes. Total gold production through 1959 from all sources, including the estimate of early production, was about 271,200 ounces.

The oldest rocks in the area are phyllite and quartzite of the upper Belt Series of Precambrian age. These are overlain by the Kinnikinic Quartzite of Ordovician age. Intrusive into these metasedimentary rocks are quartz monzonite apophyses of the Idaho batholith. After a long period of erosion, the rocks were buried by early Tertiary conglomerate and later by the Challis Volcanics. Parts of the Leesburg basin are underlain by Tertiary lake beds, and these sediments are overlain by late Tertiary volcanic ash deposits. Prior to Ordovician sedimentation, the Precambrian rocks were deformed, and afterward the Precambrian and Ordovician rocks were faulted and compressed into a northwest-trending synclinorium some time before the monzonitic intrusion. During Tertiary time minor warping occurred.

The lode deposits are of five types: (1) quartz veins and stockworks in quartz monzonite, containing pyrite, sphalerite, specularite, and a little galena; (2) replacement veins along fault planes in metasedimentary rocks and quartz monzonite, containing quartz and pyrite as the chief constituents; (3) replacement deposits along a shear zone in schist, containing garnet, epidote, and magnetite; (4) mineralized lenses in schist and probably monzonitic rock, possibly the source of much of the placer gold; and (5) quartz veins along biotite monzonite dikes, containing chalcopyrite, sphalerite, and subordinate pyrite and galena. All five types are of equal economic importance as lode-gold producers.

The placers were distributed along Moose Creek, Beaver Creek, and Napias Creek and its tributaries; most of the production was from the Leesburg basin, an area drained by Napias Creek. Umpleby  regarded some of the placers as of Miocene and Pliocene age, but Ross was of the opinion that much of the auriferous gravel was Pleistocene or younger.

The Mineral Hill and Indian Creek district is in Tps. 23 and 24 N., Rs. 17, 18, and 19 E., in northwestern Lemhi County, near the town of Shoup.

Most of the gold mined in the district was from lodes, but small amounts came from placers along Boulder Creek. In the Mineral Hill area most of the lode properties were discovered and developed in the 1880’s. These include the Kentuck and Grunter mines which were discovered in 1882. In the Indian Greek area there was some activity in 1895, but no extensive development occurred until 1901 when the Kittie Burton and Ulysses lode mines became operative. Most of the production of the district was before 1910. The early production which in addition to gold included an undisclosed amount of silver and small amounts of base metals was estimated at $1,350,000 by Umpleby and at $1,400,000 by Ross. From 1932 through 1959 the district produced only 21,937 ounces of gold.

The rocks of this area, as summarized by Ross, consist of schist and quartzite of the Belt Series and intrusive gneissic granite that Umpleby believed to be Precambrian in age but Ross  believed to be related to the Idaho batholith. Much of the southern part of the district is underlain by granitic rocks of the Idaho batholith. Mineral deposits occur as fissure fillings and also as replacement deposits in both the schistose and granitic rocks. Quartz, pyrite, arsenopyrite, galena, sphalerite, and some calcite, magnetite, and muscovite are the predominant vein minerals. Gold occurs with the pyrite.

The Texas district is in parts of Tps. 13 and 14 N., Rs. 26 and 27 E., near Gilmore.

In the early 1880’s prospectors swarmed over the east slope of the Lemhi Range in search of lead-silver deposits similar to those discovered at Nich-olia to the southeast. Some promising deposits were found in the area known as the Texas district, but after about 10 years of occasional activity, the district became dormant for 10 to 12 years. After the discovery of large ore bodies at the Pittsburg-Idaho mine in 1902, the future looked bright for the Texas district; however, transportation difficulties hampered any major activity. In 1910, a railroad was constructed that linked the mines to a smelter; large-scale mining then began and continued through 1929. After a decline for a few years, the district again became active, and infrequent small-scale operations continued through 1956.

Production which was mainly in silver and lead from the Pittsburg-Idaho mine, was small during 1903-10; data before 1903 were not found. Total gold production from 1903 to 1959 was 21,745 ounces.

Most of the district is underlain by eastward-dipping sedimentary rocks of Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian , Devonian , and Mississippian age. With the exception of the Cambrian rocks, which are quartzite, all the Paleozoic strata are limestone or dolomitic limestone. Unconformably overlying the Paleozoic rocks in the eastern part of the district are Miocene lake beds.

The ore deposits occur in the belt of calcareous rocks, an area bounded by the Cambrian quartzite on the west and the lake beds on the east. They are in flat and steeply dipping veins, parallel with the strike of the country rocks; some of the larger and more productive deposits occur at the intersection of the steep and flat veins. Most of the ore is valued for its lead and silver, but one deposit, the Martha vein, was mined for gold alone. Almost all the workings were in oxidized ore containing cerussite, anglesite, smithsonite, calamine, cerargyrite and iron, and manganese oxides.

The Yellow Jacket district is at about lat 44°58′ N. and long 114°31′ W., near the settlement of Yellow Jacket, in west-central Lemhi County.

Lode deposits were discovered in the district in 1868, and they were worked in the early 1870’s, but their greatest production was during 1893-97. Activity throughout the district declined with the closing of the Yellow Jacket mine in 1897, and except for intermittent activity during 1911-14, in the late 1920’s, and in the 1930’s, the district never approached its pre-1900 production.

The estimated production from the Yellow Jacket mine at $450,000 (about 21,840 ounces) in gold. Ross listed a total of $121,761.56 in bullion from the Yellow Jacket mine for 1893-97. From 1902 through 1949 the district produced 3,855 ounces of gold, and from 1949 through 1959, only 8 ounces. Gold has been the chief commodity, but small amounts of silver, copper, and lead have also been recovered. Total gold production, according to Umpleby’s estimate, was about 25,000 ounces.

The Yellow Jacket district is underlain by sedimentary, metasedimentary, and igneous rocks that were folded and faulted into a complex pattern and then mineralized. The oldest sedimentary rocks consist of two subdivisions of the Belt Series of the Yellowjacket Formation, which is composed of argillite and calcareous quartzite, and the Hoodoo Quartzite. In the western part of the district these are overlain by Challis Volcanics of Oligocene age. Intrusive rocks of three ages are in the district: dikelike and stocklike bodies of gabbro of Precambrian age; a large body of hornblende-biotite diorite and smaller bodies of syenite, diabase, diorite, and gabbro, all of Late Cretaceous or early Tertiary age; and dikes of granophyre, granite porphyry, and vitrophyre, all of Miocene age. The older rocks were deformed and fractured by several diastrophic events.

Most of the lodes are either fissure fillings or replacement deposits in breccia zones. The Yellow-jacket Formation, which has been deformed most extensively, contains most of the ore deposits. Primary minerals in the deposits are quartz, calcite, siderite, and barite in the gangue, and the ore minerals are pyrite, specularite, chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite, galena, and gold. The ores are somewhat oxidized near the surface: much of the early production was from these free-milling oxidized ores.

Cassia County Idaho Gold

Cassia County (formed from Lincoln County), on the south side of the Snake River forms much of Idaho’s southern boundary with Utah and Nevada on the west. It contains a diverse assemblage of rocks, including the oldest rocks in Idaho. Most of the people in Cassia County live in irrigated agricultural areas near Burley, Declo and Oakley. This area, on the southern edge of the Snake River Plain, is underlain by Quaternary basalt, including shield volcanoes visible today. Thick cobble gravel derived from the Albion Range in Pleistocene time underlies the Oakley valley.

Snake River

Along the gravel bars of the Snake River of Cassia County roughly 20,000 reported ounces of gold were taken from the gravel bars. Most of the placer gold here is flour gold deposited from flooding, however there is coarser and bigger placer gold to be found here as well when digging in hard packed rocky soil.

There was also a large dredge in operation on the Snake River known as the Sweetser & Burroughs Gold Mining Dredge. (pictured below)

Idaho Gold Dredge

Black Pine

A number of lode gold mines are found in the Black Pine Mountain area in southeastern Cassia County. The largest is the Black Pine Mine, a open-pit gold mine, no longer in production. Both gold and silver were found here.


Burley is where placer deposits were worked along the snake River in Township 9 and 10 South, Range 24 and 25 East. The Lead and silver mines in Township 15 and 16 south and Range 21 east has gold showings on the ore dumps. There were miners in the old days along the banks of the Snake River using pans or rockers to extract the fine gold dust.

Snake River Gold

By…Lawrence L. Dee, Geologist

The Snake River begins at the continental divide in the Teton Range of Western Wyoming. Flowing southward, it follows an arc across southern Idaho until it eventually heads north and forms the western border of the state, and finally joins the Columbia River in south central Washington. Gold has been found throughout most of the 800-mile length of the Snake River from the headwaters near Yellowstone National Park to Lewiston, Idaho.

The source of the Snake River gold was the subject of considerable speculation around the turn of the century. Some researchers felt that the gold was supplied by streams entering the Snake and by lavas lying close to the river. Many theories were advanced to explain how such a large river could have the huge number of fine gold deposits that were being found.

We now recognize that the gold was derived from the deposits in the Rocky Mountains near Yellowstone National Park and that it originated as fine particles. An interesting fact concerning Snake River gold is that the Green River of Utah contains similar fine gold, also derived from the same source.

Snake River Gold
Snake River gold is unlike most of the gold that was mined during the gold rush days in Idaho. It is found in very fine particles called “flour” or “float” gold. There are good reasons for these names. While not as fine as flour, they probably seemed like it to the hard working miner. The particles do float if contaminated with oil or if the recovery water is too turbulent. This was one of the many problems faced by the miner attempting to recover the Snake River gold from the sand and gravel. The main consideration was and still is today, that the gold is so fine and light that the particles have little value.
Thus it took a tremendous amount of work to obtain enough gold from the gravels to return a profit. It is estimated that at least 1000 colors or particles were necessary to equal one cent in value using the old gold value of $20 per ounce. At a gold value of $300 per ounce, 67 colors would be needed to equal one cent.

Millions of dollars in gold remain in the Snake River sands and gravels. Modern prospectors and miners still attempt to recover the bright colors that, unlike most placer gold, are almost pure. So far no one has shown that it can be done at a profit except for a handful of gravel operators with processing plants along the river. They are able to sell the tremendous amounts of gravel that must be mined in order to produce enough gold to realize a profit.

Gold in the Snake River

Mining History
The earliest recorded mining on the river was by soldiers from Fort Boise who mined near where the Boise River joins the Snake. Rich gold discoveries in the Boise Basin in 1863 encouraged two thousand miners to rush to the upper Snake River believing there was gold in abundance. The newspapers later reported their disappointment when they could either not find gold or it was so fine that they could not recover it. Later in the century, the burlap sluice was devised and then it became feasible to mine some of the better deposits along the river.

By the 1870s, most of the miners on the river were Chinese. As was generally the case in western placer camps, the Chinese were relegated to the low grade deposits which the Snake generally contained. The deposits said to provide the best returns on the entire river were located on Bonanza Bar west of American Falls. This site, as well as the area from Raft River to Buhl, was extensively worked during the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Many old mining sites were reopened during the Depression when a man could make two or three dollars a day working the gold bearing gravels and enjoy himself while doing it.
Several sizeable mining camps sprang up along the Snake during the late 1800s. Dry Town, near the present town of Murtaugh, had four stores, a restaurant, and about six residential tents. A local newspaper stated that “Shoshone City, the largest hamlet on the river, consists of four canvas shanties, and a tent, all used as trading posts.” A town called Springtown was built on the north and south sides of the river near the Hansen Bridge, and a camp called Mudbarville existed near Buhl.

Gold Dredges On the Snake
Several large dredges were built and operated on the Snake in attempts to economically recover the fine gold. The first, the Burroughs Dredge, was reportedly built about 1892 and operated from the mouth of the Raft River down to the Starrhs Ferry Ganyon. The dredge consisted of a boiler, engine, and six-inch sand pump. The richest gravel it found was at the mouth of the Raft River which ran 37 cents a cubic yard (gold at $20/ounce). The Burroughs dredge was very modern for its time and was capable of washing about 200 cubic yards of gravel per day. However, it suffered greatly from downtime because of the large boulders that were caught up in its suction pipe.

The second dredge was built by the Sweetser-Burroughs Mining Company and operated in the river in the area from where the Raft River joins the Snake to near Burley. This suction-type dredge operated for about ten years and, because of its low operating costs, did return profits. The mining company also built large water wheels in the river just below the present site of Minidoka Dam, and raised water for sluicing the sand on 216 acres of mining claims. This did not prove very successful and the wheels were later used for irrigation.

Gold Deposits
Early mining and geological reports on Snake River gold mining indicate that some deposits produced thousands of ounces of gold but were generally exhausted within a year or two. In 1890, one writer stated that a mining claim could be opened for about $5000 and return from $10-$50 per day (gold at $20/ounce); it was stated that $5000-$10,000 in gold could be recovered from an acre of ground by special blanket sluices designed to save the fine gold. The writer did not say how many men would be needed for the returns, but he stated it must have been a large crew.

As in most placer mining districts, the deposits that were easiest to work and most productive were quickly claimed and worked out. In later years, as well as today, what remained were bar and bedded gravel deposits containing very fine gold in quantities which today probably do not exceed $5 per cubic yard at the very most. The values reported by credible miners and prospectors today range from a few cents to a high average of $3 per cubic yard.

In the early days of Snake River mining, the gold was recovered by use of a device called a “burlap table.” Recovery was reported to be 90 percent or more if properly operated. It would be difficult to utilize this labor intensive device today unless gold prices were to rise considerably. The era of Snake River gold mining remains an exciting part of Idaho’s history. The Snake River deposits are certainly one of the most interesting and unique gold deposits in North America.

Distribution of the Gold
Snake River gold is generally distributed throughout the length of the river and can be panned just about anywhere. The gold deposits occur wherever sediments are present in the river itself, adjacent to the river, and above the river. The early miners apparently found large deposits of the fine gold in the river, called river bar deposits. They also discovered gold above the river in deposits known as “skim bars” and “bench gravels.”

The large bar deposits in the river were worked by the early dredges – some quite successfully. The small to medium sized mining operations on land worked the skim bar and bench deposits. The skim bar was an ancient river bar in which the gold was concentrated in the top few inches or feet of sand and gravel. These were usually worked by one or two men using rockers. Bench gravels were elevated bars in which the gold was concentrated in “paystreaks” at the surface or somewhere in between the surface and bedrock. These paystreaks varied in thickness from a few inches to several feet and could occur almost anywhere within the deposit. An unusual mining situation existed at Drytown, near the present town of Murtaugh, where the gold was mined by digging the sand and gravel from between huge boulders deposited by the Bonneville Flood.

Unlike most coarse gold placers where the weight of the gold particles allows them to settle on or near bedrock, the Snake River flour gold is not concentrated on or close to bedrock. The reason for its erratic distribution is that the gold particles are so light that the action of the water moves them along rather than allowing them to concentrate at every point where the current slows as it would in a coarse gold deposit. The concentration of Snake River gold was largely based on the speed of the river current at the time the gold was deposited. Thus the term “flood gold” refers to fine gold deposited during spring floods.

Often the deposit was covered with barren sand and gravel which could be tens of feet thick. This was removed by hydraulicing or ground sluicing until the paystreak was reached. The paystreak was then mined by washing the gravel through the special burlap sluices used to recover the gold.

Idaho County Gold

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.

Idaho County

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.

Florence Idaho

Sign at Florence

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.

OroGrande District

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.

Dixie 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.

Rescue Mine

Rescue Mine near Warren Idaho

Custer County Idaho Gold

Custer County was so named for the gold mine that resides in the county. Custer County is named after the General Custer Mine that was discovered as early as 1876. The County is the third largest in the state of Idaho. Over 350,000 ounces of gold have came from the area.

Custer County Gold

Loon Creek District

One of the most popular and most well known districts in the county is the Loon Creek District. Scattered throughout the district are both lode and placer gold deposits. Try gold panning in and near Loon Creek. There is a gold mining ghost town known as Casto in the area just west of Challis, Idaho off of Highway 93. Near the townsite of Casto is a good place to find placer gold. The biggest and most productive mine the area was the Lost Packer Mine.

Lost Packer Mine

The Lost Packer Mine and Mill

Yankee Fork District

Like many districts the Yankee Fork district was worked right up until World War II. Named after the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River, the Yankee Fork District was home to the Custer Mine, which produced over $8 million dollars of lode gold before 1900.  The mill and mine closed in 1905 because apparently the deposit was only rich at a shallow depth. Total gold production for the Yankee Fork District, through 1959 was about 266,600 ounces. Gold was first discovered in Jordan Creek. Jordan Creek was a very rich creek in it’s day giving up an estimated 50,000 ounces of placer gold. Other mines in the area worth mention are the Bonanza Mine and Lucky Boy Mine (Two generic names for mines, used in the day.)

Stanley Basin

Exceptional gold has been found in the Stanley Basin, including along the Salmon River. Every creek or stream in the area produces some amount of gold, especially near the headwaters of Clayton. The Clayton area is surrounded by many gold mines including the so-named Clayton Mine and the area may be the best chance for a weekend prospector to find color. The Stanley Basin is found in Townships 10 and 11 North and Range 12 and 13 East.  Other areas known for gold in the area are Stanley Creek, the area between Robinson Bar and Clayton.

More Areas:

The Nicholia district was mined in the early days. Many lead and silver mines produced a by product of gold.

In the Mackay Area the Copper mines produced a by product of gold in pyrite.

In Township 12 and 13 North and Range 18 East near Bayhorse the area copper and zinc mines produced a by product of gold.

Other Mines in Custer County were/are the Aztec Mine, Black Rock Mine, Buckskin Mine, Cal-Ida Mine, Champion Mine, Copper Basin Mine, Crater Mine, Darlington Shaft, Greenback Mine, Hermit Mine, Keystone Mine, Livingston Mine, Little Livingston Mine, Mountain King Mine, Mule Shoe Mine, Pacific Mine, Wildhorse Mines, Twin Apex Mine, Turtle Mine, Tango Mine, Sunbeam Mine, Star Hope Mine, Skylark Mine, Silverbell Mine, Silver Rute Mine, Seafoam Mine, Riverview Mine and many, many more.

Blaine County Idaho Gold

Soon after gold was discovered in the Boise Basin, prospectors found gold in Blaine County as well, around 1862-1864. By 1880 the Blaine County mining boom was in full motion, and transformed a mainly farming county into one of Idaho’s major mining counties. The first mining camps soon grew into large towns. Towns like Bellevue and Hailey led the way.

Wood River District

In 1880, the finds near Bellevue and Hailey led to a population boom. The news of the recent strikes reached Boise and the men poured in to the Wood River District to find their piece of the golden pie. Not only was gold being found, but a fair amount of silver and copper as well.

Near Bellevue in township 1S and range 17 and 18 are some old placer gold diggings, as well as many other places that have sign of being worked around the area.

Camas District

Hailey was a town that eventually became part of the Camas District. Approximate production for this area is 102,000 ounces of gold being recovered.

Warm Springs District

In the Warm Springs District is where you can find the town of Ketchum. Ketchum was the location of smelter and the area produced approximately 90,000 ounces of gold. The district is located approximately township 4N, Range 17,18,19.

Once mining died down sheep herding and tourism took over the county. The area around Ketchum is now known for skiing.

Gem County Idaho Gold

Today Emmett Idaho is surrounded by farms of produce and orchards of fruit tree’s. Today’s fruit packing industry got it’s start by supplying goods to miners in Gem County. Historic numbers show that roughly 20,000 ounces of gold came from Gem County mainly from the Westview District.

Gold was discovered in Gem County in the 1860’s shortly after gold was discovered in the Boise basin and during the mining era, the valley was known as the “garden” to the miners. A well established stagecoach route that cut through the valley led to the quick discovery of Idaho gold soon after.

During the gold rush to the Thunder Mountain Mines, Sweet served as an important freighter’s supply station. At the turn of the century, Sweet boasted of three hotels, three saloons, a bank, a newspaper, two lodge halls, and other business. It was named for the first postmaster Ezekiel Sweet. After the gold rush subsided and a series of fires in the business district, the town began to deteriorate, and was not rebuilt.


Going northeast from Pearl is a bunch of old gold mines.  The largest and most productive gold mine in Gem county was the Red Warrior Mine. The Pearl mines closed in 1906.

Check Mate Mine, near Pearl circa 1903

I have been told rumors that there is some flour gold in the Payette River. That does make sense, since it is the dominating river of the county. My father grew up in Emmett, and I have many relatives who still live there.

Edwin Waters,