During the summer of 2016, I flew to Idaho to meet up with a friend of mine. Wanting an adventure, we spent a fair amount of time doing research about any abandoned sites, caves, or other locations of interest within a few hours drive of his house. Eventually, we settled on Burke, Idaho.
Burke, Idaho was founded as a mining town in a valley between two towering hills. Due to the lack of space, the large hotel was actually built above the railroad and the river. It appears that this mine saw use until the late 1980s.
Burke has an interesting history, especially when it comes to wars between mining companies and union workers. Wage cuts prompted strikes, and eventually led to a shootout. The U.S. army had to get involved to end the strike. Later, several miners were fired for joining the union, and once more gunfire rang out across the valley. Whether intentional or not, several crates of dynamite were detonated, destroying a mill and killing a handful of people. For a second time, the army had to put an end to the conflict.
Aside from the usual abandoned house on the side of country roads, this was the first major exploration either of us had gone on. This expedition only made me realize my desire for this kind of adventure. The decrepit architecture, the smells of decay, and the long forgotten artifacts. It's truly an adventure unlike anything else, and it is impossible to feel that reverie without having experienced it first hand.
1. Making our way up the canyon, we passed several storefronts and small houses placed between the road and the valley slopes. However, our destination was far more interesting.
2. Continuing along the road, we passed a blocked off passage. I have no idea what it was used for, though I assume it was some type of ore or cargo chute from the mine to trucks on the road.
3. Looking up at the walls of the hotel. You can see the tunnel through the building that housed the railroad.
4. Peering back down the road, giving a reference to the scale of these structures.
5. The other side of the hotel, with a catwalk leading back into the main compound and a chimney in the distance.
6. We found what appeared to be the original causeway across the river. Unsurprisingly, it was locked and secured.
7. A wider look at the compound. You can see the walkway leading into the foliage.
8. Towards the end of the compound, we found this structure. It appears to be some kind of intake or exhaust. If anyone has any ideas what this did, let me know...
9. After entering the compound, we walked up the road towards the main buildings.
10. Here we found the other side of the causeway over the river.
11. Looking up the main headframe.
12. At the base was one of the few elevators the miners likely used to descend into the workings. We continued farther into this main warehouse style building.
12. A few interesting albeit confusing injury boards.
14. Looking through a window in the side of the building, with the opposite side of the valley in the distance.
15. We began exploring the connected buildings. An office room is seen here, with what is presumed to be lead paint peeling from almost every surface.
16. Probably one of the creepier rooms in the compound. The chains were likely used by workers to attach their belongings and hoist them out of the way. Still pretty eerie feeling, especially given the low levels of light.
17. Another dimly lit room filled with ventilation duct parts.
18. One of my favorite pictures despite the grain, a small room with the ceiling collapsing, giving way to a few sunbeams.
19. Another storage room, however this one had skylights, providing a warmer feeling. Moss covered the concrete walls. This was one of the coolest places, giving an interesting contrast between the industrial site and the nature reclaiming it.
20. Looking up at the skylights.
21. The catwalk to the main hotel building. Unfortunately, it was locked. I'm sure there was another way inside, but we didn't quite have enough time to find out.
22. Here we finally found one of the portals to the mine. Quite a strange thing, however. Cold air blew through the cracks in the door, and what sounded like a large van operated just behind them. We're still not sure if this was just the sound of the air naturally venting, or if it was water, or even a powered fan. Really no way to tell.
23. We continued walking through the compound into a large paved area.
24. Another look up the headframe. As the sun gradually got lower in the sky, the lighting became quite beautiful.
25. Some graffiti found on a concrete barricade.
26. Here you can see the main hotel building, intersected by several catwalks in all directions. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore this building.
This trip was insanely fun. I'm sure most of you know what I mean when I say how captivating exploring sites like these can be. The most interesting parts were mainly the varieties of buildings and equipment. The whole time we both tried to figure exactly how this mine worked when it was still in operation. Another one of my favorite parts of any abandoned building was the smell. It's almost like the smell of your grandparents' basement, but so much richer and so much more enticing. I never thought a smell could have so much history behind it, yet it represents (to me, anyway) the history of the site, and the beauty in its ruin.
I would definitely recommend this site to someone; however, I must warn anyone looking to explore. My friend, on a second expedition, was caught by the owner of the property and actually got a tour of some of the town buildings. However, the owner explained how he would soon be cracking down on security and fines for trespassing, likely due to the usual liability issues. There are also a fair number of occupied houses in the valley, all likely willing to report anyone trespassing. So if you do wish to explore this site, tread lightly...