The old Sunbeam dam and mill on
the upper Salmon River were short-lived, but left a stamp on the
landscape that lasts to this day. The U.S. Forest Service is proposing
to issue a permit at one of the nearby historic buildings for operations
of a resort to resume after a two-year hiatus.
Photo courtesy the Ketchum Community
may live again
Upper Salmon River site
is part of long, storied history
To get involved:
"Before the permit is issued,
we want to offer the public an opportunity to provide us with any
concerns or suggestions they may have regarding this operation," said
SNRA Resort Administrator.
Comments will be most helpful
if received by May 14.
For more information, contact
Fluetsch at (208) 727-5000. Comments should be addressed to: Sawtooth
National Recreation Area, HC 64 Box 8291, Ketchum, ID 83340, Attn: Dave
Fluetsch. Comments may also be submitted via e-mail to:
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Sunbeam Village, a historic cabin
and trading post near the banks of the upper Salmon River, has a long
and colorful history. This summer, for the first time in two years, the
eclectic store and nearby cabins may open for business.
"The place has, at times, been
very busy with a lot of visitor traffic," said Sawtooth National
Recreation Area Resort Administrator Dave Fluetsch. "Back in the
mid-90s, there was a restaurant, the (White Otter Adventures) raft
business, RV camping, a gasoline station. It was a pretty busy place.
It’s been a successful business in the past."
Its setting is pastoral. Nestled
above Highway 75 near the confluence of the Yankee Fork and Salmon
rivers, the old store and cabins are surrounded by lodgepole pine trees
and sweeping sagebrush ridges.
The resort is also part of a
historic site made famous by mining and the construction and subsequent
demolition of the Salmon River’s only dam. It is near the center of a
historic mining belt that includes the ghost towns of Custer and
Bonanza, which are several miles up the Yankee Fork.
Last week, the U.S. Forest Service
announced it is proposing to reissue a permit that will enable new
owners to operate the Sunbeam Resort, which is located on publicly owned
Sunbeam Resort’s current owner is
no longer providing services to the public, as is required under the
terms of the current permit, said Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Resort Administrator Dave Fluetsch.
Under the SNRA’s proposal, a new
owner would be authorized to provide cabin rentals, a restaurant, store
and recreation vehicle and tent sites. Several of the facility’s
amenities would also need to be upgraded.
"The proposed authorization would
allow a new owner to resume normal operations at Sunbeam, renovate the
main lodge building and renovate or replace several existing cabins in
future years," Fluetsch said.
The White Otter Adventures rafting
company also bases its operations from the historic property. Fluetsch
said the prospective buyers of the resort propose to maintain a working
relationship with the rafting company and plan to continue a
"However, the business
relationship is between the raft guide and the owner of the business,"
The precise history of the resort
property is difficult to ascertain, but an old cabin was built at the
site in 1881 by a miner named Ebnezer E. Cunningham. Cunningham, who
called the Sunbeam area Junction Bar, was renowned for attempting to
placer mine gold by circling an adjacent mountain with a ditch,
according to a history titled "Land of the Yankee Fork."
The first store opened in
Cunningham’s old home around 1920, and the Forest Service has authorized
Sunbeam Resort’s operations since at least 1941.
The present store was built in
1959, Fluetsch said.
According to a Challis National
Forest history of the Yankee Fork region, miners from Montana discovered
the area in 1866 or 1867. They arrived at a large tributary of the upper
Salmon River, where they camped and prospected for a few weeks, but they
left without finding any promising placers.
Before returning to Montana, the
party dubbed the nearby creek the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River,
because everyone in the party was a Yank.
Following discovery of promising
placers in the area in 1870, the Yankee Fork Mining District was formed,
and the region began to grow. In the late-1870s, the boomtowns of Custer
and Bonanza took root along the shores of the Yankee Fork.
In 1910, the Sunbeam Consolidated
Gold Mines Co. completed a dam and power plant on the main Salmon River,
just upriver from the confluence with the Yankee Fork. The company used
300 tons of cement to build the dam, which measured 95 feet at its crest
and was 35 feet high. The turbines drove a generator that produced
enough electricity to run the nearby mill and to supply lighting for the
The Sunbeam mill and mine operated
almost a year on electricity, but the low cost of electric power could
not compensate for the low value of the ore excavated there. In April
1911, the Sunbeam property was sold at a sheriff’s auction, and the mine
and mill were closed.
Caretakers lived near the dam for
a number of years, but after the death of Lou Cruthers, the last
caretaker, the dam’s fish ladders fell into disrepair. The dam was
partially blown up in 1933 or 1934 to allow salmon to continue to their
historic spawning beds farther up the Salmon River.
With such a long history, and as a
popular stop-off for anglers and boaters, Sunbeam is held in high regard
in Salmon River country.
"I talked with a number of people
who have fond memories of Sunbeam," he said.