Are you ready for our road trip on the Salmon River Scenic Byway? We’re going to cover a lot of pavement (and dirt roads!) between Salmon and Stanley. Sit back and take in 161.7 miles of scenic views, history, natural wonders, ghost towns, hot springs and points of interest.
If you’re passionate about fishing and rafting, Salmon is the place to be. The Main Salmon and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River among other major tributaries entice visitors from all over the globe. Whether you are a beginner or expert in these activities, the local outfitters will make it an educational experience.
If it’s history or culture you crave, Salmon has that too.
- The Lemhi County Historical Society & Museum exhibits a large collection of Lemhi Shoshoni artifacts and mining memorabilia.
- Did you know Sacajawea was born in this valley and the Lewis & Clark Expedition navigated through this land? Grab a map from the museum and follow their route.
- The Salmon Arts Council was established to ‘foster growth, awareness and education of the arts and humanities in Lemhi County”. Events are scheduled throughout the year.
Main Street is the heart of this town. Local favorite eateries include Odd Fellows’ Bakery, Wally’s Café and Bertrum’s Brewery.
Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Educational Center
Sacajawea may have more parks and statues in the United States named after her than any other person. She earned that honor! The Sacajawea Interpretive Center is dedicated to commemorating her life through detailed exhibits, artifacts and narratives of her history. Here is a glimpse of Sacajawea’s remarkable story:
- Grew up as an Agaidika Shoshone (the Salmon eaters) in Agai-Pah (Salmon and Lemhi River valleys).
- Captured by the Hidatsa warriors.
- Sold to a French Canadian fur trapper then married him.
- Played a significant role in the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Explore the beauty of Sacajawea’s homeland on scenic nature trails. Along the walk, learn some words in Sacajawea’s native language, discover the importance of a sweat lodge and find out why a tipi faces east.
Live like it’s 1805! The Outdoor Program’s 10 day primitive experience in August recreates the skills necessary to endure life like Lewis and Clark did back in the day. Activities include basket weaving, making stone and bone tools and sleeping in a brush lodge. Are we tough enough to survive this experience? Absolutely!
For more info on the interpretive centers hours, outdoor programs and other summer events, please visit the Sacajawea Interpretive Centers website.
Salmon River Scenic Byway
Every bend in the road brings us an awe-inspiring view of the diverse landscape.
We are halfway between the equator and the North Pole.
Challis is an underestimated town. During the mining days, it was the hub supplying necessary provisions to area mines. Today, it is a hub for recreational activities and exploring:
- Self-guided walking tour of the historic buildings on Main Street
- Fly fishing, hiking, rafting and hiking
- Bird watching and rock hunting
- Golf on a challenging 9-hole course
- Custer Motorway Adventure Road was completed in 1879. This 35 mile toll road was used to take supplies from Challis to Bonanza. A one-way trip took two days. Today, high-clearance vehicles can drive this narrow, dirt road and see remnants of the Eleven Mile Barn, Fannie’s Upper Hole and the Toll Gate.
- Challis Hot Springs: the original boarding house used to be a getaway for the local miners to socialize and bathe in the hot springs. It now operates as a bed and breakfast with RV and tent camping sites. The hot springs pools are open to the public (adults only).
Yankee Fork Interpretive Center
Challis and the surrounding area are bursting with history. The Yankee Fork Interpretive Center breaks it all down for us through timelines, town histories, commerce, influential people, transportation systems and Idaho’s mining heritage.
Off Highway Travel (OHT): the 14 mile Lombard Trail begins at the Yankee Fork Interpretive Center and drops into Bayhorse. From there, connect to other ATV trails that lead to Stanley.
Challis Bison Kill Site: Were the bison forced to jump off the 30’ cliff by prehistoric people or were they ambushed at the base of the cliff? Let’s put our super sleuth skills to work and solve this 750 year old case.
Bayhorse Ghost Town
In 1872, a lead-silver vein was discovered near Bayhorse Creek. A shout out in the newspapers was all it took to get people to Bayhorse. Saloons, general stores, meat markets and boarding houses were built to support the growing population. During the most productive years of the Bayhorse Mining District (1882 – the 1890s), ten million dollars worth of metals were extracted from the region. Like other mining towns, this one didn’t survive either. The self-guided walking tour lets us view the buildings that are still standing.
Millions of years ago, volcanic ash from Twin Peaks caldera, located outside of Challis, covered giant sequoia trees creating a forest of petrified wood.
If we’re lucky, we can catch a glimpse of wild horses roaming in the area. The East Fork offers us a wide range of activities including hiking, horseback riding, camping and fishing.
Railroad Ridge: this four-wheel drive on a primitive jeep trail (not for the faint of heart!) leads you smack dab into an awe-inspiring view of the White Cloud mountains. The elevation at Railroad Ridge is 10,425 feet with views of Crater Lake and the Chinese Wall.
With a population of 7, this town refuses to turn into a ghost town. Clayton Silver Mine produced lead, silver, copper and zinc until the 1980’s. Let’s stop in at the Clayton Museum to learn why this mighty town fights to keep its mining roots alive.
Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area
This area is a history buff’s dream! Custer, Bonanza and Chinatown were once major players in this areas mining industry, each for their own reasons. Custer was home to the General Custer Mill where gold ore was processed beginning in 1879. Bonanza was founded on the basis of the economic and social center for the Custer mine. When the Chinese were forbidden to live in Bonanza, they created Chinatown. The Chinese made their living from the miners which included laundry services, providing hot baths and selling chickens, pigs and garden vegetables. By 1911, they were all ghost towns.
Take a self-guided walking tour through Custer, Bonanza and Chinatown. There are buildings you can enter in Custer including the old school house which has been converted to a museum. Don’t miss the side trip to Boothill Cemetery to read about the fate of Lizzie King.
Yankee Fork Gold Dredge was built in 1940 and ran until 1952. The goal of this 988 ton contraption was to dig up rock and wash out the gold. Visitors can take a self-guided tour.
The Sunbeam Dam started in 1909 and was completed in 1910 by the Sunbeam Consolidated Gold Mines Co. The 36 foot high dam was created using 300 tons of cement. Poles and power lines were strung to the mill located 15 miles away and supplied 2500 HP. A year later, the mill shut down due to financial problems and the dam became obsolete.
In 1934, dynamite was used to destroy part of the dam to allow the salmon to migrate home again.
Sunbeam Hot Springs
This stone building was built in 1937 as a bathhouse for the Sunbeam Hot Springs. Makeshift rock-wall pools that vary in temperature were created along the river bank. Submerge our bodies for a therapeutic soak or dip our feet in.
A local hot spot! Soak on the banks of the Salmon River. The dark skies make this an ideal place for star gazing.
This view of the Sawtooth Mountains and Salmon River sure makes a statement!
The Stanley Historical Museum is located on the last bend of the Salmon River Scenic Byway. Stanley’s history is portrayed through artifacts and photographs and housed in the Valley Creek Ranger Station built in 1933. Lavish stories from eclectic miners, ranchers, explorers, Native Americans and fur trappers who have traveled through or homesteaded in Stanley are held within its walls.
We are now where the Salmon River, Sawtooth and Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byways intersect.
We’ll take a right onto Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway (Highway 21) and head into downtown Stanley. Are you craving the Sawtooth Special pizza from Papa Brunees or the Alaskan Salmon Fillet from Stanley Sluice? There’s also music playing tonight at both the Kasino Club and the Mountain Village Saloon. Yay!
Ok, it’s settled…..let’s stay and play in Stanley!
Words and photos by Erica Cole