Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District - Loon Creek

Gold had been noticed in Loon Creek as early as 1864. In 1869, Nathan Smith and his party from Leesburg came into the area to investigate the reports. They named the creek for a loon they happened to encounter. Their discovery of rich placer ground led to a rush, which saw the population rise to about one thousand by the fall of 1869. The name of Oro Grande was selected for the boomtown that resulted from miners flocking to the diggings. The boom lasted until 1873 when whites abandoned the area and just a few Chinese remained. The remaining Chinese were massacred, allegedly by the Sheepeater Indians, in 1879, an event that led to the Sheepeater War.

Loon Creek experienced a revival in 1902, as a result of Clarence Eddy's discovery of the Lost Packer Mine. A hundred ton smelter was installed near the mine in 1905, and by 1908; the gold and copper bearing Lost Packer had grown to be Custer County's richest mine. The success of the Lost Packer spawned two new communities in the Loon Creek area, Ivers and Casto. A 25-mile road over Loon Creek summit (elevation 8,686 feet) linked these communities to the Yankee Fork. By 1920, the Lost Packer had seen its days of glory. The mine is still operated today by a fourth generation member of the Ivers family.

The road to Loon Creek is not recommended for trailers.





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