Photo credit: Elizabeth Rodgers

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rodgers

To get a better understanding of how Idaho became a state and Idaho in general, you really have to go up North. That’s where the logging and mining industries developed and brought people and resources to the territory that became the 43rd state.

DestinationReviewYes, you can have an educational vacation in North Idaho – and get in some great skiing to boot.

We’ve been to North Idaho a couple of times now, but we had never been to one of the mines. There are a couple in the Silver Valley and the one we went to was the Crystal Gold Mine, in Kellogg.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rodgers

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rodgers

It was a working mine in the late 1870s, but then it was sealed up and truly forgotten until Interstate 90 was being built in the 1960s. Still, it went unexplored until water was discovered coming out of the mine and the owner thought there might be a fresh water spring. He discovered more of the mine in his exploration, but still, the mine was a relative unknown until the 1990s, when the new owner realized that there was an incredible amount of mining history to be accessed.

Currently owned and operated by mining history enthusiast Ray Cropp, this mine has an incredible secret history that has yet to be solved. No one knows why very expensive pieces of equipment were abandoned in the mine: water pumps, mine cars and other tools. Perhaps the owner meant to come back, but something happened to him and since the mine was a secret, the secret died with him? That’s one theory.

For the tour: First off, everyone gets a hard hat. And a nick name. And then you go in. You can get a good idea of what the tour is like by watching this video:

Even though you’re walking slightly uphill, you’re walking deeper and deeper into the mine. You can see the quartz, silver, fool’s good and even a bit of gold within the mine. You’ll see what it takes to pull these minerals out of the land.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rodgers

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rodgers

Ray is a great guide, articulate and enthusiastic — you feel his passion for the subject.  You’ll get an appreciation of what these miners went through – and are still experiencing present day. It’s a history lesson, geological lesson and exotic experience (truly) that you can’t get anywhere else.

Plus, they’ll teach you how to pan for gold at the end of your tour.

And then, you can go skiing, or to the water park or the Route of the Hiawatha.

Elizabeth Rodgers is an avid traveler, award-winning filmmaker and Los Angeles native who lives in Boise, Idaho. She is also someone who never thought in a million years that she would live in a place like Boise… and she loves it.

Please note: Tour courtesy of Crystal Gold Mines