Where is the nearest fuel, lodging, cell phone service? Stanley, ID is 13 miles west of Sunbeam on Idaho State Highway 75. Stanley has a gas station, grocery store, Post Office, dining and lodging options, and cell phone service. Challis is about 45 miles northeast of Sunbeam and has fuel, dining, and lodging options, a clinic, Post Office, grocery stores, and the joint offices of the Challis-Yankee Fork and Middle Fork Ranger Districts.
What/who was Custer named after? Custer City, the General Custer Mine and Mill, and Custer County are all named after General George Armstrong Custer, the same cavalry leader who died in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory. His death occurred the same year that the lode was found on Custer Mountain, 1876, which is why his namesake was given to sites in the area. There is no evidence that General Custer ever visited or traveled through these parts of Idaho, though.
Where are the mines? The Charles Dickens mine, the original discovery that sparked hard rock quartz mining in the district, was located near the confluence of Jordan Creek and the Yankee Fork. The General Custer, Lucky Boy, and Black mines were located on Custer Mountain, just behind the ridges you can see to the southeast of Custer today. The Montana mine was located on Estes Mountain which is up Jordan Creek road. Many of these large mines are now under the management of local residents who have patented claims to these sites.
Are the buildings in Custer original? Yes. Most of the buildings left standing in Custer today are in their original locations. However, some buildings, like Brockman Cabin and the Empire Saloon, were originally located in another part of town or in the valley. All buildings are original to Custer, although not all buildings were constructed during Custer’s boom years of 1879-1910. For example, the Assay Office and Transportation Shed/Ice House were built in the 1930s. All of the buildings in Custer have been restored by the U.S. Forest Service, most in the early 1990s, and maintenance is ongoing.
So did the dredge and Custer operate at the same time? No. The Yankee Fork has a rich history of mining that started in the mid-1800s with boom towns like Bonanza and Custer. Many of these mining towns died within the first decade of the twentieth century. It was not until 1940, nearly 30 years after Custer and Bonanza became ghost towns, that the Yankee Fork gold dredge began operating in the valley.
Who manages Custer and the dredge? The U.S. Forest Service manages much of the land in the Yankee Fork valley as part of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. In partnership with the Forest Service, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has curated (documented and organized) many of the artifacts you see in the town and produced interpretive signs throughout the valley. The Land of the Yankee Fork Historical Association, a volunteer nonprofit organization, operates the museum and gift shop in Custer, while volunteers with the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge Association provide tours and also operate a gift shop for visitors of the dredge.
What are the hours of operation to tour Custer and the dredge? From Memorial Day through Labor Day, volunteers, Forest Service, and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation representatives are on hand to provide visitors to Custer and the dredge with guided tours and information. Custer is open 10 am–5 pm and the dredge allows tours from 10 am-4:30 pm.
I want to go fishing - where are the dredge ponds? The dredge ponds are the 4 large ponds that appear on the left and right of the road beginning where the road changes from pavement to gravel. Idaho Department of Fish and Game has historically stocked some of the ponds throughout the summer.
Where can I gather firewood? If you are camping on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, collecting dead wood for a campfire is free and a woodcutting permit is not necessary. However, if you are interested in transporting firewood off forest for personal use, a permit is required. For more information, see the Personal Use Firewood document.