Surrounded by the scenic Coeur d’Alene National Forest and Bitterroot Mountains in Idaho’s Panhandle, is a tiny town with a sign that reads: “This is the town founded by a jackass and inhabited by his descendants.” Strangely enough, the humorous advertisement for Kellogg, Idaho (population 2,400) pretty accurately describes the town’s founding. Back in 1885, while a prospector was out looking for his lost burro, he spotted a large outcropping of galena (lead ore) shining in the sunlight. The prospector’s name was Noah Kellogg and it was his discovery that eventually led to the creation of the great Bunker Hill and Sullivan mines, which made the town flourish.
For over 100 years, the Bunker Hill mine and smelter were known world-wide as a leader in lead-zinc-silver mining. In fact, Kellogg is part of Idaho’s Silver Valley, named for the area’s rich silver deposits first found in the early 1880s. Bunker Hill ceased operations about 20 years ago, but visitors can still learn about the Silver Valley’s mining history at the Staff House Museum on McKinley Avenue. Mining equipment of all shapes and sizes is on display, as well as extensive metallurgical and mineral exhibits.
A definite highlight of Kellogg is actually found in low light conditions—at the authentic Crystal Gold Mine. Dress warmly, don a bright yellow hard hat, grab a flashlight, and follow your tour guide into the underground world of gold mining. For over 100 years, no one knew this mine existed. The original prospector simply disappeared, leaving his mine car, track, tools, and high-grade gold ore behind—sure signs he intended to come back, but strangely never did. During the years that the mine was lost and undisturbed, beautiful turquoise-colored smithsonite crystals formed on the walls. You’ll also see gold and wire silver, too. After the tour, pan for gold outdoors under the tutelage of your mine guide. Even if there’s no flash in your pan, you might find a star garnet—Idaho’s state stone. And what a rare souvenir that would be; these garnets naturally occur in only two places on earth—India and Idaho.
Crystal Gold Mine
Open year round
phone: (208) 783-4653
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com