In the mid-1860s, prospectors from Montana, led by Joel Richardson, began exploring this area for gold. They came to a large tributary of the upper Salmon River where they camped and prospected for a few weeks, but left without finding any promising placers (deposits of precious metals in streambeds). Before going back to Montana, Richardson's party dubbed the stream the "Yankee Fork" of the Salmon River after themselves, since everyone in the party was a Yankee. After the discovery of promising placers on Jordan Creek in 1870, the Yankee Fork Mining District was organized, and mining boomed with the establishment of towns like Bonanza, Ivers, and Custer.
Located between Stanley and Challis, the Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area provides a variety of recreational opportunities for visitors to the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Visitors come to fish and hunt, ride horses or ATVs, hike trails, learn about the rich mining history of the area, and camp in the many developed and dispersed camping sites in the valley. The Yankee Fork drainage also provides a gateway to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness by way of Loon Creek Summit. Hiking trails, Loon Creek Guard Station, and private landholdings within the Wilderness can be accessed from the Jordan Creek/Loon Creek Road (FS #172) that turns northwest past the dredge.
Major points of interest here in the Yankee Fork area include remnants of the Sunbeam hydroelectric dam, located just above the confluence of the Yankee Fork and Salmon Rivers; the historic Civilian Conservation Corps campground at Bonanza; Bonanza town and cemeteries; the Yankee Fork gold dredge and its tailings piles; Custer townsite; and the Custer Motorway.