Yankee Fork Gold Dredge
Bonanza, ID - The Yankee Fork Gold Dredge is located in the central mountains of Idaho on the Yankee Fork tributary of the Salmon River. The Yankee Fork is close to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness area. The nearest town, Stanley, is 22 miles from the dredge. The Silas Mason company out of New York was looking for a place to invest some money to help out the economy. After doing some surveying they picked Yankee Fork valley as a place to do some dredging for gold. It was estimated that there was 11 million dollars of gold to be had in the 5 1/2 mile claim. They then contracted with Bucyrus Erie to build the dredge. All the material came from Milwaukee by railway to the town of Mackay then loaded on trucks and made the difficult journey to construction site. The pontoons and superstructure were built in Boise and trucked over Galena summit to this location. The dredge is 988 tons, 112 ft long x 54 ft wide x 64 ft high and has a draft of 8 ft. It has seventy-one (71) 8 cubic foot buckets; each one weighs a little over a ton. The dredge is powered by two (2) Ingersoll-Rand diesel engines each producing 350 HP at that elevation. The dredge ran from 1940 to 1952 stopping once from October 1942 until 1946 for WWII and then again in 1947 when Snake River Mining Co (Silas Mason) decided they were not making enough money and put it up for sale. In 1949 J.R. Simplot and a partner in mining, Fred Baumhoff, bought the dredge for $75,000 and started it up again in April of 1950. In 1952 Simplot ran out of original claim so leased a small section from the Morrisons; when they completed that section they shut the dredge off and walked away. Later in 1953 Morrison ask them to remove the dredge, or pay rent as the dredge still sat on their claim, and so Simplot's men started it up and dug themselves to the current position where it has sat ever since. Yankee Fork Dredge Inside is one of the best preserved and presented dredges in the lower 48 states. It was donated to the U.S. Forest Service by J.R. Simplot in 1966, and in 1980 the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge Association began providing guided tours to the public.
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