Custer, Idaho is a ghost town located in central Idaho. Like most ghost towns in the American West, it was founded around precious metal mining, specifically gold mining. It is next to the ghost town of Bonanza, Idaho, and the two really form one town. Custer was founded slightly after the Battle of Little Big Horn, and was named after George Armstrong Custer. Like many mining towns in the west, scattered placer mining was practiced, but the real mining required a corporate operation.

I have visited several ghost towns, and Custer so far is the most isolated and inhospitable I have been to. Even today, the town is only accessible by taking a gravel road that loops between an isolated highway. The nearest town with a population over one thousand people is (currently) 80 miles away. The city is located over six thousand feet above sea level, which means the winters were extremely bitter and long. And yet, well over one hundred years ago there was a busy, involved city in this location, with shops and services, and a multicultural community (if it could be termed that), with Chinese shops and laundries (although the Chinese were barred from working most of the gold mines). Later on, a gold dredge was moved piece by piece into position and used to dredge the river for loose gold: it is still in position, a gigantic piece of machinery in the middle of nowhere. It is hard to imagine what life must have been like in this community, when a coach ride to the nearest town (Challis, Idaho, which is still a living community) took eight hours to cross the 24 miles of mountain trail.

As far as ghost towns go, the town is preserved about the right amount. It has not been allowed to decay into the scenery, as Coolidge, Montana was, neither has it been renovated and turned into a tourist attraction like Bannack, Montana has been. The buildings are standing in mostly their natural state, with some interpretive materials and minor reconstructions having been done. There are some slight amenities, but nothing that distracts from the odd feeling of being in a place so far from anywhere, that was so full and is now so empty.

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