Our story at Yankee Fork begins over a century ago, in the 1860s, when gold and silver discoveries were made in Bayhorse. Two men would strike gold in 1870 in a remote part of the Idaho Territory called Yankee Fork. Then in 1876, the Yankee Fork “motherload” would be discovered at the General Custer Mine. Within a few years, hundreds of people flocked to the fast-growing towns of Bonanza, Custer, and Bayhorse. But by 1911, these once bustling places had become ghost towns.
The Land of the Yankee Fork State Park celebrates and commemorates this history. It brings stories to life by giving visitors the thrill of discovery. The park is the perfect setting to see the world through eyes of the past by exploring the Land of the Yankee Fork in the beautiful northern Rocky Mountains.
The park is managed cooperatively through agreements with the U.S. Forest Service for the Custer/Bonanza sites and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the bison kill site. The park consists of several unconnected properties: Challis visitor center (30 acres), Custer/Bonanza/Yankee Fork Dredge (36 acres), and Bayhorse (548 acres). In total, the operational area of the park is about 614 acres.
The Yankee Fork Dredge can hardly be missed as it is the second largest structure in the park (the first largest is the Bayhorse concentration mill). The dredge sits right where it stopped production in 1952. It is owned by the Forest Service, but the Volunteers of the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge Association maintain the site and provide in-season tours.
The Custer Townsite is perhaps the most restored of the historic sites. Here you can walk among 12 significant sites and structures. Several of the structures have been restored. The Empire Saloon operates as a visitor center of sorts and the old schoolhouse across the street functions as an on-site museum. Tours are available in season upon request.
The geology of central Idaho is dominated by the Idaho Batholith, a huge granite rock formation that underlays much of the region. One hundred million years ago, the batholith (molten granite) emerged from the depths of the earth’s crust, sometimes breaking through older surface rock as volcanic vents.
Fifty million years later, additional volcanic activity occurred and deposited lava and ash which can be seen today on the colorful cliffs east of Challis.
Discover both beauty and history at Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. Home to bighorn sheep, porcupines, badgers, bobcats, and more, the park is a great place to experience wildlife in a natural setting. Plus, it is the gateway to hundreds of miles of motorized trail access.
Directions: To get to Land of the Yankee Fork State Park from Boise, take Highway 55 North for 39 miles.
Turn right onto Banks Lowman Road. Continue onto Highway 21. Take that road to State Highway 75 in Custer County.