base information

Unearthing Idaho - Silver City

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Deep in the Owyhee Mountains, past treacherous roads and hundred-foot drops, lies a town nearly devoid of life. It was once a bustling mining town packed with grizzled miners looking to escape the rough days of work. But, in the 20th century, the mountains' veins dried up and left little work for the fortune seekers.

Today Silver City is a ghost town. With only a handful of people residing in its weathered buildings, the eerie settlement is just what you'd expect when you imagine an old west ghost town. Despite the empty city, there is still plenty to do in the area.

A weathered and beaten hotel lies in the forgotten town of Silver City, Idaho. Once a bustling mining settlement, it's veins have run dry and abandon mine shafts litter the Mountainside. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth) Exploring the city, hiking and hunting are a few of the more popular activities, but I decided to hop on a horse and check out the area.

The horses from the ranch I chose were all well behaved and even as a new rider I had no problems getting on the saddle or steering. As I trotted along the many paths throughout the forested area, I noticed how much history was hiding in plain sight.

It seemed like every direction I looked, I could see a mineshaft on the cliffs above me. I guess Silver City is an appropriate name. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take my horse to some of these historic work sites, so I took Sweetheart (my horse) back to the ranch and set out on foot to see what the mountains had to offer.

Only a few minutes into my hike, I started to find some strange things. Blue glass and old broken pottery were scattered among some of the bushes. I didn't think much of it at first, but it didn't seem to be left behind by some careless campers. I asked around with people from Outdoor Recreation and what I found was a lot more significant than I first believed.

This broken rubbish turned out to be artifacts dating as far back as the late 1860s, when the city was originally founded. It's quite common to find a little piece of the past around the area. Anyone could stumble upon an undiscovered piece of history just like I did. But make sure not to disturb it, what seems like trash can actually tell the story of an entirely different era, not to mention, it's the law.

I continued my hike in search of the areas unique history. As I walked along, I happened to be looking down and was fortunate enough to see this gigantic hole at my feet. After the rattlesnake incident, I find myself looking at the ground a lot more often. This hole was massive. It could easily swallow a few people at a single time.

Mining expeditions in the late 19th century left many things behind on the mountainsides around Silver City, Idaho. This quartz crystal is among the different treasures that can be found among these sites. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth) The hole was surrounded by large quartz crystals and what seemed to be fragments of rocks from many explosions. I had found an abandoned mineshaft. I wondered how far down it reached. I threw a rock in to test its depth. Not even a sound. Several rocks later I realized this hole was so deep that I wouldn't hear a sound no matter how many rocks I tossed in. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to excavate such a thing. Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for the prospectors who worked so hard in Idaho.

Unfortunately storm clouds forced me to cut my adventure short and end my trip there.

Silver City and the Owyhees offer rare experiences that are unique to Idaho. Anyone who loves the outdoors and is interested in history will find this ghost town worth their time.

Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of a weekly blog highlighting attractions and activities around Idaho. Stay tuned to learn more!

Download the top photo at this link.