May 2016 – It was Memorial Day weekend and although we knew we were running the risk of encountering crowds, we were on a mission to see what all the hype was about. We were enlightened on the small town of Mackay, Idaho, from numerous people and all encouraged us to explore its history.
When Al and I first heard about the Mackay reservoir with a campground and lots of shore boondocking, that alone piqued our interest, but add in some fun back country 4×4 roads with remnants of yesterdays mining days…. well, let’s just say, we were all in for a day of sightseeing.
Located in the south central part of Idaho along Highway 93, the quaint town of Mackay exudes an inviting Western charm and plenty of interesting history. The Mackay Mine Hill Tour is a self-guided tour of mining locations found in the hills southwest of town.
We picked up a route map at a local gas station and verified we wouldn’t have any trouble on the back country roads with our F-250 truck with extended bed…. the ‘big dog’ isn’t exactly agile with its long wheel base.
There are three different color-coded routes; each designated for vehicle accessibility.
The Green Route (the one we took) is accessible to all modes of transportation. It’s about 15 miles of graded dirt roads, and although rough in spots it can easily be navigated with a CRV, Subaru, or even a car, if careful.
There are twelve points of interest along the green route that are clearly marked on the map and along the road way.
The Blue Route adds another five points of interest, but requires a high clearance vehicle. Considering the road is extremely rough, steep, and narrow making it a challenge for our less than agile length, we didn’t venture onto any Blue trails.The Red Route is open only to ATV’s, UTV’s, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, horses, and hikers. This is one time I wish we still owned our ATV. The area is truly an off roaders paradise with plenty of 4×4 back country dirt roads offering interesting sights along the way to keep one entertained.
Al and I had packed a picnic lunch and set off mid-morning the last Saturday in May. Although we occasionally had to share the road with groups of all-terrain-vehicles, we were still able to enjoy plenty of solitude considering the multitude of routes available to choose from …. allowing us all to spread out.Each numbered stop was clearly marked and offered information about the site. What surprised me most is that much of the land is still privately owned. Thus, the land we toured is owned either by private individuals, companies, the US Bureau of Land Management, or the US Forest Service. The tour is sponsored by the South Custer County Historical Society and White Knob Historical Preservation Committee.
Stop number one is of course the closest to town, most accessible, and definitely a must see stop.
This is a former Smelter site and is now home to an extensive hardrock mining exhibit.
Although most of the smelter facility ruins have been removed, many features remain, including an 8-hole company outhouse …..
I guess, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go ! Nothing like being chummy with your co-workers.
Continuing up the road, we came across Aerial Tramway Towers, a Compressor Building, a Sawmill, Tunnels, and several Homesteads.
Interesting tidbit….. Mackay’s Mine Hill: Ore was first discovered in 1879 and was mined into the 1980’s. Geological sampling still occurs to this date, and mining could be renewed at any time to withdraw the millions of dollars of Ore remaining in the ground. Hmm, I wondered – does that mean I was driving over millions of dollars?
All the routes entail a change of elevation from about 6,000 feet in the town of Mackay to about 8,500 feet at the highest point, which (I think) is near site #12. This change in elevation provides some wonderful views but also some changes in temperature. Weather seems to move in quickly. So it’s best to be prepared for just about anything.
Al and I had a great time traveling these back country roads and exploring an important part of Mackay’s history. It was a very fun and entertaining day …. one I would recommend.
At the RV Park a couple of weeks later, I met a single gal traveling solo in her Class C motorhome. This artistic, talented gal and I hit it off, and I was quick to share the Mackay Mine Hill Tour with her.
We only had time to visit the first three mining sites, which was fine by us considering our focus that day was on photography.
Little did she know, I was giddy with delight when she handed me her Fujifilm camera. I always have my eye on new cameras and I was impressed with the color quality and ease of use of this camera Fujifilm X-E2 16.3 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD – Body Only (Black) Hopefully she didn’t notice me drooling 😅
I had a great time trying to tap into my inner Scavullo ….. yeah, I’m a work in progress, but with Rachael’s artistic direction, my photos and her modeling improved as the day went on and we both tapped into a wonderful groove.
We enjoyed ourselves so much that we arranged to spend another day together hiking a Lava Tube at Craters of the Moon before it was time for her to hit the road for new territory. I’m hoping to run into her again sometime this winter so I can play with her camera again…… and oh yes, meet up with her too!
Additional RV information on Mackay, Idaho.
Camping: There’s a very nice campground at the Mackay Reservoir called Fallini Campground. There’s also plenty of free boondocking along the shores (near mile marker 14) Interested in a quick overnight? There’s free overnight parking in the town of Mackay at the visitor center along with a restroom and free dump station. The visitor center is merely information boards in a parking lot. There is also some nice boondocking along the river near mile marker 11 but a lot of dense brush that can easily cause some of natures pin striping (aka vehicle scratches). There are several private RV Parks in the area, but keep in mind, Mackay is a very popular second home location, meaning a lot of folks park their RV’s in a site for the entire season.
👍👍 Two thumbs up for a visit to Mackay, Idaho! We heard there’s some great hiking in the area, which unfortunately, we never got around to tackling.
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