If you are looking for a road trip while you are in the Boise area, don’t miss Silver City Idaho.  This is a “living” ghost town that is a pleasure to explore.

Our plan for the day – Swan Fall Dam

and Bruneau Sand Dunes

We started the day driving south from the Boise area to Swan Falls Dam, with no intention of going on to Silver City!


Well, that’s pretty normal for us, I guess.

The drive to the Swan Falls Dam went through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.  We got there too late in the morning to catch sight of the birds, but the views of the river were amazing.  Be sure to stop at Dedication Point on Swan Falls Dam road, about 2 miles from the dam.  There is a short (1/4 mile?) walk to the edge of the Snake River canyon.  What a view!

Swan Falls Dam

The Swan Falls Dam was built in 1901 to generate electricity for the mines in the Owyhee Mountains.  A new powerhouse was built in 1995, so the old powerhouse is now the visitor center.  The museum is open on Saturdays between April 15 to Labor Day.  There are a lovely picnic area and swimming beach above the dam, as well as boat launches both above and below the dam.

Swan Falls Dam and Powerhouse near Silver City, Idaho
Swan Falls Dam and Powerhouse

So we had a snack from our lunch box in the park above the dam and enjoyed the view of the River.  We were there in October, remember, so we had the place to ourselves.  Sweet!

Change of Plans – Let’s see Silver City

Our plan for the day included driving from the dam to a place called Bruneau Dunes State Park.  Unfortunately, we never made it.  After driving through Murphy on our way to Bruneau Dunes, we found the sign to Silver City.  “Warning,” it said, “if you pass this point you will pay for any search and rescue costs incurred.”   Hmmm.

We decided to take it on.  Now, remember this is a beautiful fall day, about 50 degrees.  I’m driving a 4-wheel drive jeep.  We are considered “high clearance”.  Good to go.  After about 5 miles of paved road, we drop down to a dirt road with some washboard.  The Warning sign is repeated.  Ok – we can do this.  After a few miles of some of the prettiest Idaho scenery you will ever see, we dropped down to a road just wider than my jeep.  Ok, take it slow, no one else is on the road anyway, right?  Soon enough, we realize that in the higher elevations, it had snowed the day before.  Pretty!  and slushy, and slippery.  A couple of times I wanted to turn back.  Unfortunately, there was no going back without turning around on a one lane road.

View from the jeep road to Silver City ID
View from the jeep road to Silver City ID

Ok – enough of my story.  We got to the town with slightly frayed nerves but none the worse.

Silver City is a Living Ghost Town

The town of Silver City is unusual for a ghost town.  The town was founded in 1864 to serve the miners working the War Eagle Mountain mines.  It was the first in Idaho to have a newspaper, telegraph, electric service, and phone service.  None of which are currently available!  At its peak in the 1880’s, the population was roughly 2500 people with 75 businesses.

Closed Mining Shaft in Silver City
Closed Mining Shaft in Silver City

Like most mining towns, the population collapsed when the mines were depleted.  But in 1972, the Idaho Hotel was re-opened and some hearty souls began to restore or rebuild the main street buildings and some of the homes.

More information on the history of Silver City, Idaho

Currently, there are 4 businesses open during the summer and tourists enjoy the drive and a snack when they get there.  The road closes in October, due to snow, but even then a few hearty souls settle in for the long season, without electricity or phone.

Other Mining Towns: Dawson City

Other Mining Towns: Kennecott Mines, Alaska

If you decide to take the drive, a couple of suggestions are in order.  First, this is a high-clearance road even when it is completely dry.  Be sure your vehicle is ready for it.  Second, check your gas tank first.  The town of Murphy has fairly expensive gas prices, but there is no fuel in Silver City itself.  Be warned!

Grocer Story in Silver City, Idaho
Grocery Store
Silver City, Idaho in the fall
Silver City in the fall
Meet me in Silver City, Idaho
Meet me in Silver City!



  1. Looks like a place we need to put on our To Do list. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Silver City is a neat adventure. Even more fun is to come in from Jordan Valley. The road follows the river and is defenitely not for regular passenger vehicles.

    1. Author

      Hi Will – yup the Jordan Valley road was recommended by the locals as a “better” road than the one we took. However, I guess the bridge was out for construction. If you have high clearance though, it was beautiful.

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