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The Ghost Town of Bayhorse

Gold Pan Kit

Driving along the Salmon River Scenic Byway, we entered the Land of the Yankee Fork: a state park which stretches out to the south of Challis, dedicated to the mining history of the area. There are three ghost towns in the park, and we decided to make a stop at Bayhorse.

Bayhorse-History-Idaho

We had taken our time on the Salmon River road, and didn’t arrive at the gates of Bayhorse until 4:45pm, nearly closing time for the park. But the guard waved us in, and said we could take our time. Idaho, we’ve learned, is filled with easy-going people like this; he must have been getting ready to go home, but was happy to inconvenience himself for a little while. And, being selfish jerks, we always make sure to take full advantage of such generosity!

It was fortunate for us, because the ghost town was fascinating. Like so many of the small towns in central and northern Idaho, Bayhorse got its start during the mining boom of the 1860s and 70s. Tucked away in a narrow canyon, it reached a peak population of around 300, before the mining dried up in the 1890s and people started to leave. In 1958, plucky little Bayhorse finally lost its last resident and became a certified ghost town.

If the ruins are anything to judge by, this must have been a neat place during its heyday. The most notable remnant is the old mill: a big three-story structure resting on the side of the canyon. It was designed to make use of gravity: rocks dumped into the top were processed on their way down. In varying states of conservation, we also saw a saloon, a few houses, and a brick Wells Fargo building in the middle of town. You can even still find some old charcoal kilns on the outskirts.

We’d visited other mining towns that were past their prime, such as Idaho City and Warren, but this was the first fully abandoned town we’d seen, and provided a fascinating glimpse into a rather short-lived period of Idaho’s short history.

Location of Bayhorse on our Idaho Map

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November 10, 2012 at 12:38 am Comment (1)

Driving Highway 12, on the Trail of Lewis & Clark

Learn About Lewis & Clark

Starting in Lewiston, Highway 12 traverses the state from west to east, through Indian reservations, along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, and into some of the state’s wildest country, until finally arriving at the Lolo Pass, where Lewis and Clark crossed over from Montana and became the first white men to step foot in Idaho.

The Beauty Of Idaho
The Selway Falls

By starting in Lewiston, we were following Lewis & Clark’s trail in the wrong direction. They had reached Lewiston in 1805, when the Nez Perce were at their cultural height. In honor of the region’s original settlers, a beautiful statue by the name of Tsceminicum sits at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. A Nez Perce woman kneels on the ground, while the legends and symbols of her people appear to flow out of her like a river.

Today, the 202-mile journey from Lewiston to Lolo Pass requires about three hours in a car, but it took Lewis, Clark and their Corps of Discovery well over a month to complete. Highway 12 doesn’t follow the exact trail: the much rougher Lolo Trail, just to the north, is the path the expedition party actually used; it’s still open to traffic, but expect to go about 15 miles per hour.

After passing through the reservation towns of Orofino, Kamsiah and Kooskia, we reached the tiny community of Syringa, where Scott Swearingen and his family welcomed us into their Lewis & Clark Trail Cabin. We arrived just before dusk, tired and ready to relax. As though he’d read our minds, Scott started a campfire, and we sat around chatting with him until it was dark. The next morning, he had a hearty breakfast waiting for us — just what we needed before another long day on the road. The cabin was rustic and comfortable, and well-situated for a trip along Highway 12. To book a night, contact Scott and Pam via Air BnB.

The next day of driving was completely different. Whereas we’d encountered a number of towns on the first day, the road cut through remote territory on the second. Just outside of Kooskia, we saw a sign warning us that there’d be no petrol for 88 miles. And after the road entered the Clearwater National Forest, we didn’t see another town for hours. This was untamed wilderness of river and forest, with little other traffic.

Lewis & Clark’s expedition took place so long ago, and the landscape of America has altered so drastically, that it’s difficult to put ourselves in their shoes; to truly appreciate how dangerous and rough their adventure must have been. But along Highway 12, you can journey through the same wilderness as they did, over 200 years ago. Besides the cement of the road and a few interpretive signs set up along the side, not much has changed.

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November 5, 2012 at 2:48 am Comments (2)

The Pend Oreille Scenic Byway

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The Pond Oreille Scenic Byway follows Highway 200 east from Sandpoint to the Montana border, between the mountains of northern Idaho and its most unforgettable lake.

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During the end of the last ice age, retreating glaciers and the ensuing floods scarred and reformed the landscape of Idaho’s Panhandle. One result of this large-scale terraforming was the pendant-shaped Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pond-ah-ray): the biggest lake in Idaho at 148 square miles, and the fifth-deepest in the entire US. Its shores are almost completely unpopulated, with just a few towns dotting the northern coast. The lake is so deep and so remote that, during WWII, the US Navy used it to conduct submarine testing.

Although we only saw a fraction of the lake during our drive along its northeastern shore, it was enough to impress. Just outside of Hope, we drove onto a peninsula which is home to the David Thompson Wildlife Reserve. A herd of deer were grazing on the lawns, completely undisturbed by our presence. Even when we left the car and approached them, they continued grazing and munching apples. We got within a couple feet, and possibly could have pet them.

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Deer aren’t the only wildlife found around Pend Oreille’s shores; the great majority of the lake is in the Coeur d’Alene Forest, home to grizzlies, wolves, bobcats, bald eagles and owls. The southern tip of the lake is where the Navy set up the Farragut Naval Training Station, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; in its day, it was the second-largest training station in the world. The Navy has left, and today the area is a state park just ten minutes from Silverwood.

After passing Clark Fork, the highway leaves Pend Oreille and skirts along the Clark Fork River, which extends 310 miles into Montana and is that state’s largest river, by volume. We continued until reaching the border, where we’d hoped to see the 1952 Cabinet Gorge Dam, but found it closed for construction. Unfortunate, because it looks pretty cool.

The scenic byway is only 33 miles long but took us about three hours round-trip, accounting for the frequent photo stops. Enjoy our pictures of what might be Idaho’s most gorgeous lake.

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October 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm Comment (1)

The Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway

Don’t Come To Idaho Without Binoculars

33 miles of paved road between Banks and Lowman constitute the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. Although we didn’t see any elk during our trip, they’re a common sight during the winter. Along the road, there’s even a turn-out with binoculars pointed at a large plain called Gallagher Flat, where they especially like to congregate.

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The road hugs the South Fork of the Payette River, passing waterfalls of varying sizes and breathtaking canyon scenery. Sheer walls of rock infused with pitch-black streaks lava tower overhead, while far below the river winds its way through the valley. There are frequent turn-outs at spots of special historic importance, as well as at places with particularly beautiful views. And we took advantage of every one.

Check out the route on Google Maps

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September 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)