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Custer, Idaho

Custer, Idaho
Custer's last doctor, Dr. Charles Kirtley, converted the saloon into an office and home. He and his wife lived here until 1910. This building was restored in 1998 and is now a gift shop and refreshments are available as well.

They say all that glitters is not gold, which is especially true in the Gem State where garnets, opals, and jasper sparkle just as brightly as nuggets. But back in the late 1870s, it was mostly the gleam of gold that attracted prospectors to the Yankee Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River. And where gold glimmered yesterday, it often means intriguing gold rush ghost towns are found today. Custer is a prime example.

Located in scenic central Idaho, the town of Custer started out in 1879 as the little sister to bigger Bonanza City (also a ghost town), two miles north. With the recent defeat of General Custer still fresh in their minds, the founding miners named the town in his honor. Custer was basically a single street—narrow and a half-mile long— with a Chinatown located at the southern end.

The 1880s brought rapid growth to the region as the Lucky Boy, Sunbeam, General Custer, and other area mines produced abundant ore. With a capacity to process 900 tons of ore a month, the General Custer Mine alone produced an estimated $8,000,000 in gold between 1880 and 1888 and was consider the mother lode of the Yankee Fork. Thanks to the economic support from the mines, Custer’s population doubled by 1896. It even sported a schoolhouse, jail, Miner's Union Hall, and a baseball team.

Custer, Idaho

By 1903, the glory days of gold mining were slipping away as area mines played out one by one. Business slumped. By 1910 Custer had become a ghost town and for decades not much happened. Custer was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and through the efforts of volunteer organizations, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Forest Service, it’s now open to the public from June through September.

Some of Custer’s original buildings have been renovated and more are in process, so modern-day visitors get a good sense of what everyday life was like for the old-time miners and their families. The self-guided walking tour passes many homes and business, and even those that are yet to be fully restored are in very good condition. Informative signage explains the original purpose of the buildings. The outdoor exhibit of old mining equipment is especially interesting and makes you appreciate not having to work that hard for a paycheck! Custer’s old schoolhouse has been converted into a museum, and you’ll find souvenirs and refreshments available at the Empire Saloon.

If you’d like to witness a ghost town come back to life, visit Custer on the second Saturday of July for its annual Custer Days. During the celebration, you’ll see demonstrations on, gold panning, soap-making, broom-making, and ice cream making, too. And since there’s usually a gunfight in town as well, bring the camera!


For more information, visit website Land of the Yankee Fork State Park or phone: (208) 879-5244

While in the area, don't miss seeing the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge.

Custer, Idaho

Kenneth McKenzie, an astute businessman, began construction of this large house in 1880. Billed as one of Custer's finest homes, the original cabin was enlarged until it became a rambling, ranch style home.

Custer, Idaho
Charles A. Pfeiffer managed the Pfeiffer store and purchased this handsome frame structure in 1890 after his marriage to Ellen Olson. He added a bedroom, kitchen and shed as his family grew.
gold prospecting