Idaho April 25, 2017
The Stories Behind These 10 Modern Ruins In Idaho Will Chill You To The Bone
For such a relatively young nation (globally-speaking), the United States has seen its share of historic cycles. The same is true for Idaho, despite being one of the youngest states in the country. With boom towns dotting the landscape and the ever-changing face of industry causing a rise and fall of businesses, as well as a surprisingly nuclear past (and present), there are quite a few forgotten and abandoned places hiding throughout the state, if you know where to look. Entire towns, half-finished dams, secret missile bases… it’s not all sunshine and roses in the Gem State as far as these chilling ruins are concerned. Their stories are unnerving, to say the least.
The only thing missing? The people. And that equation can make for some truly eerie, frozen-in-time scenes. So if you’re looking for a creepy road trip, here are some good places to start.
1. Eileen Dam
Nearly a century ago, North Idaho's Boundary County attempted a massive undertaking: a dam on the Moyie River near Skin Creek. The dam was intended to provide electricity for a dozen or so gold mines, including the forgotten Hoosier Boy, Lucky Three, Scout, Last Chance, and Wee Fraction mines. The nearby Union Pacific railroad line, named Eileen, provided the name for the dam.
The 50-foot high arched dam was built to be infallible - an intention held by most man-made undertakings. And to its credit, it was. But one side of the dam was built against unstable shale rock, which was pummeled by the pressure of the season's run-off. That same May, the high water’s pressure was too great and the Moyie River broke through the weak spot, destroying one corner of the dam. However, the majority of this feat of engineering still stands as a reminder of Bonner County's early mining days. It also creates a challenge for rafters navigating through the canyon.
2. Amalgamated Sugar Mill
For many of Idaho's first settlers, homesteads weren't chosen and platted by choice - they were divided and distributed to the heads of families in neatly-sized plots. Franklin, Idaho's first and oldest city (ca. 1860), was no exception. Here, the smallest land parcels were used for growing sugar beets.
A century later, the Amalgamated Sugar Company - a sugar beet-distributor - bought the Franklin County Sugar Company and its Whitney, Idaho factory in 1960. Multiple factors contributed to its closure, including lawsuits against the company. Today, the building stands as a shell of its former self.
To see this abandoned beauty from a whole new perspective, check out this
awesome drone footage
by TJ Burbank!
3. Shoshone Odd Fellows Building
This old building has seen multiple owners over the years, but is most well-associated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Rebekahs. Started in Baltimore, this fraternal order was the first of its kind in the country to allow both men and women to join, and served local social causes. Since fraternal organizations have been in decline for the last century, the building has had an uncertain future, although the present owners hope to restore it in time.
4. Shoshone Train Depot
Speaking of Shoshone, by the turn of the 20th century, this little town was a major railhead for sheepherders, as well as for bootlegging in the 1920s and ’30s. In fact, this Southern Idaho hidden gem has always been a train town - one of three Idaho cities on Union Pacific’s official "Train Town USA" registry. The town built itself around the railroad.
The first train arrived in Shoshone in 1883. From about 1937 until 1965 passengers traveling by train en route to Sun Valley arrived and departed from this uniquely ornamented depot. The trains to Shoshone even carried the first pioneers into the present-day Magic Valley! Today, it looks a little worse for the wear but is a photographer favorite. And while we didn't include this rugged old beauty on our
Train Depot Road Trip
, it's well worth a stop for the unique architecture alone.
: 304 North Rail St. Shoshone, Idaho 83352
5. Pearl Mine
When you hear about Idaho's ghost towns, our most popular and well-preserved mining camps always come to mind first: Custer, Silver City, Chesterfield... but rarely does Pearl come to mind. Truth be told, that's because there isn't much left of Pearl other than its namesake road and a dilapidated barn or two. This true boom town sprung up and disappeared as quickly as it came, nurtured by the Pearl gold mine for just over a decade before the ore ran out.
Interestingly, this forgotten slice of history isn't too far out of the Boise metro area - just a few miles southeast of Emmett. You'll have to hunt for it in the hills, but it'll be easy to recognize by the car jutting out above the mine entrance, which is located high up on a ridge, gated, and locked. Officially, however, anyone willing to pay the price to reinstate mining activities has all the potential in the world of striking it rich!
6. McDougall Airport, Pocatello
I-86 may pass straight through this former airport site, but you wouldn't know it looking out from the pavement. Now, only traces of concrete runways and a few traffic controller remnants dot the outskirts of private farming property as a reminder of what once was.
The McDougall Airport - a small, 3-runway operation - was decommissioned in 1951 when air traffic was diverted to the new commercial airport. The airfield was named after one of Idaho’s respected war heroes: Harry Owens McDougall, the only WWI ace to come from Idaho. After McDougall's death in 1928, the city purchased the land for the airstrip and named it after the local hero. Decades later, this former airport is all but forgotten. But, of those who do remember it in its glory days, few folks know that this tiny airfield was also used in conjunction with the nearby Idaho National Laboratory before an airport was officially established.
7. White Knob Mine and Ghost Town
For those who've visited Mackay, you know that this small town is simply brimming with old West history, mining included. The White Knob Mining District had its own townsite nearby, and a profitable one at that, until operations ended in the 1920s. Today, multiple buildings still stand in various states of disrepair, which you can follow and photograph on one of Mackay's official or self-guided Mine Tours. ATVs recommended - stop by the visitor center for a map! Here, you'll find restored railroad trestles, derelict cabins, the mill and smelter site, aerial tramway towers, and even grave sites.
8. Nicholia Charcoal Kilns
Mining, smelting, burning charcoal... these activities from the 1800s haven't necessarily left a positive mark on Idaho's natural environment. But they did leave some unique ruins. These hut-like charcoal kilns were only used for a short period of time before mining operations ended at the Nicholia Mine, but they make an unexpected historical memorial. The original 16 domes together produced close to 50,000 bushels of charcoal per month, which was necessary for mining operations. Only one of the huts is open to exploration by the public, however.
More info and directions
9. Old American Falls
The American Falls Dam is a 94-foot-high composite concrete and earth structure on the Snake River. When the dam was built in the 1920s, the entire town was faced with the prospect of being entirely underwater; thus, the town picked itself up and moved itself a few dozen miles over. Only the Oneida grain elevator remains in its original location, standing proudly above the water as a silent reminder of the historic marvels that remain hidden beneath the surface: old foundations, crumbling sidewalks... and the remains of one prehistoric-era mammoth.
More info and directions
10. Mountain Home Titan Missile Silo
Few people realize that Ada County has a nuclear history, let alone an entire minefield of once-buried missiles hidden in the desert surrounding Boise. Probably for the best. However, these buried Cold War-era secrets are just as real as you and I, and what remains behind is just as incredible.
While the average roadtripper through Mountain Home would never guess that this rural slice of desert was once a part of the nation's first line of defense against a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, the occasional upturned pile of earth is a reminder of what hides below the surface: 569-C, a Titan I missile complex consisting of multiple silos, an underground command center, and a support center, all connected by half a mile of tunnels. This complex still remains to this day, one of three in Southern Idaho. The Titan missiles were replaced quickly, however - the volatile bombs were a hassle to keep safe and were are highly dangerous outside of their silo confines. They were removed in the 60s, but the complex itself remains a literal hidden gem in rural Ada County.
Idaho’s recent and long-past history can be found in the most unlikely of places! There’s something fascinating about seeing old ruins set against a modern backdrop – what other abandoned places in Idaho have you seen?
Like this? Want more? Check out our this
Abandoned Water Park in North Idaho.