While the actual number of Idaho ghost towns is anyone's guess, there's no dispute as to which one is in the most pristine condition: Silver City, nestled deep in the remote Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho. What makes this site so unique is its authenticy; for in the western U.S., most ghost towns are either long abandoned piles of timber and metal or kitschy tourist traps, such as Tombstone and Virginia City.
Getting there is no easy task; once the pavement ends the road rises through outlying sagebrush hills on the way to subalpine 8,000 feet passes. Mining is still occuring in the area, and encountering an ore hauler barrelling around one of the numerous blind curves could be disasterous. Further on, the road narrows to a one-laned jeep trail as it traverses high ridges covered in mountain mahogany and juniper.
Silver and gold were discovered in the area in the 1860's, and soon after the town boomed to 2,500 people. Thanks to the quick prosperity, Silver City is historically notable for several reasons; it was the first town in Idaho to have telegraph service and a daily newspaper, and one of the first in the west to have electicity. While few of the buildings are occupied today, they are in remarkable good condition given the harsh desert environment and unmerciful threat of wildfires.
What's always amazed us about western ghost towns is how the residents abandoned all earthly possesions in the quick exodus after the lode ran dry. Cars and equipment were left behind, as well as fine china, furniture, and every other type of househood goods. It's as if the people presumed all they owned could be replaced as soon they arrived at the next boomtoom. Now, antiques (and junk) left behind from the golden age of mining can be found in abundance for retail in many mining boomtowns such as Globe, AZ, and Deadwood, SD.
Someday, as Silver City continues to age and the effects of time wear hard on the buildings of this once prosperous town, there will be little left but fallen timbers and heaps of scrap metal. But today, as one stands in the center of town, it's easy to imagine the sights and sounds of a whiskey fueled Friday night at the Idaho Hotel one hundred years ago, when dreams of silver and gold were the reality.