The Yankee Fork gold dredge is one of the mining attractions along Idaho’s Yankee Fork River, between Bonanza City and Custer. When we first visited the area in the 1970s, it was a closed relic. Today, it has been restored to the point that tours are available for those who are interested.
Beginning in 1872, the valley floor of the Yankee Fork River was hand placered in the search for gold. Years later, tests showed that gold still remained in the deep gravels of the stream bed. In 1939, a gold dredge was purchased by the Snake River Mining Company and hauled to the Yankee Fork for assembly. Before it was shutdown in 1952, the dredge recovered more than $1,200,000 in gold from about 6,000,000 cubic yards of gravel.
Today, the dredge still sits where it stopped operation after all of the claims owned by the company had been dredged. The path taken by the dredge up the stream bed left large piles of gravel on which little grows. In a satellite image showing the dredge, the piles form rows where the dredge’s stacker belt deposited the gravel after processing.
The dredge has a chain of 71 buckets, each wighing just over a ton. Each pin holding the chain together weighs 195 lbs. The bucket mechanism can be raised and lowered and moved left and right. It can dig 37 feet deep.