Touring historic ghost towns certainly is a pastime, especially for fans of the old wild west. The odd thing is, most people only picture ghost towns being located somewhere in a desert wasteland and this is likely due to the Hollywood portrayal of these old abandoned communities on the big screen. The fact of the matter is ghost towns are located just about everywhere out west, including the deep forested mountains of Idaho. It may be difficult for some to believe, but the State Of Idaho actually used to be more famous for gold prospecting than potatoes. Of course, where there once was a thriving mining boom town, a ghost town usually soon followed after the ore deposit played out. The ghost towns in the harshest environments tended to be abandoned the quickest and the winter conditions high in the Idaho mountains made certain that no stragglers were hanging around longer than necessary.
Bayhorse is a fine example of an Idaho ghost town that was subject to harsh winter conditions, as well as some very challenging terrain. It would have taken a very dedicated mountain man to like this place enough to stay after the mining played out, so the tough environmental conditions actually helped to preserve Bayhorse. Ergonomics also contributed to the preservation and Bayhorse actually nearly failed before the town had a chance to sprout up back in the early 1870s. Bayhorse originally was a gold mining operation that was started with the goal of producing riches that equaled the top mines in the region, but the amount of gold produced was slim. Fortunately a thick vein of silver was discovered in the Bayhorse mine, which was productive till the lode finally played out in the 1890s. The price of silver also plummeted during this era, which helped to seal the fate. Small operations continued for a few years and by 1915 Bayhorse was completely abandoned.
In modern times, Bayhorse is one of the best preserved boomtown mill sites in the entire west. This is basically because Bayhorse was nearly totally forgotten and this ghost town was left to rest in peace. Part of the reason Bayhorse was forgotten had to do with the advent of placer dredge mining, which became prevalent downhill in the Yankee Fork region back in the early to mid 1900s. Lode mining in this region became too risky from a financial perspective, so scavenging materials from old mills was not necessary. Time and erosive forces eventually brought the old buildings to ruins, but fortunately most of the solid structures were intact when the modern tourism industry came to be.
Bayhorse is now part of the Land Of The Yankee Fork State Park, which encompasses several other ghost towns and old mining sites in this end of the Idaho Rocky Mountains. The gigantic red painted mill structure on the hillside still stands tall and it truly is an amazing site to see. Remnants of the old foundry and several other stone block buildings still stand, while most of the wooden cabins are well beyond repair. The State Park Service has done a nice job of slowing down the deterioration and smooth pathways were added, so practically anybody can tour the entire town. The visitor center also serves as a museum with an outdoor display of mining industry artifacts that are fascinating to view. The remnants of the old charcoal ovens are just a few hundred yards outside of town and there is a graveyard to experience as well. Bayhorse definitely belongs at the top of the list when doing an old west ghost town tour and there is much more waiting to be discovered in the Land Of Yankee Fork State Park!
Leave no trace!
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