Mackay Idaho Mine Hill Tour, Museums and ATV Trails
Mackay ID is an ATV, UTV and dirt bike friendly town located in the south central part of
the state along Hwy 93. The town has created a very
interesting tour that will take you via a great trail system to many of best mining locations.
The thing that makes this so special is that each place as a detailed
explanation of what type of mining took place at the stop. Many of
the structures have been restored and some have been turned into
museums, this is something that is very rare to see along ATV trails. I have copied some of the info the towns provides on a
guide map. You can pickup the guide and map in town or get it from
MacKays Offical Site. (Map and guide links are available on the 2nd
to last line on the page)
SMELTER SITE RUINS & BUILDINGS
The SMELTER SITE was the location of a smelter complex designed for 600
tons of ore per day to produce “blister” copper using two huge blast
furnaces and a 120 ft. stack. It was built in 1901-02 and had trouble
from the start due to lack of metallurgical knowledge and the need to
augment processing with ore shipped from afar. By 1908 it was shut down,
although it served as a concentrator until the 1940’s. The Shay engine
house, machine shop, an 8-hole outhouse and early masonry remain.
AERIAL TRAMWAY TOWERS
The TRAMWAY consisted of a 1-1/4" dia. fixed cable in a loop more than 6
miles long, affixed to each side of the towers. The ore buckets dangled
on their rollers from this cable, pulled or restrained by a 3/4"
traveling cable. The TRAMWAY operated on gravity power; the loaded ore
buckets going down pulled the empty, or often loaded, ore buckets back
up. Most of the 36 TRAMWAY towers have been dismantled or fallen down
leaving only remnants of what was erected in 1917. The significance of
the anchor and tension tower is explained at the site.
COSSACK TUNNEL AND COMPRESSOR BUILDING
The COMPRESSOR BUILDING is located at the COSSACK or 1600 foot level,
along with smaller metal clad buildings and remnants of a wooden cabin.
This air compressor station was constructed in 1917-1918. Two 227 HP
tubular boilers were in the COMPRESSOR BUILDING to supply the steam for
the air compressors. The air was sent throughout the mine by pipes and
hoses to miners’ drills and jack hammers. In the 1940s, the COMPRESSOR
BUILDING was converted to an electricity plant, but major mining ended
The buildings pictured are at the Horseshoe Mine (the collapsed building
in the background left are the remains of the Taylor Home, the partially
restored building was the Horseshoe Mine Blacksmith Shop, the middle
building was an office/assay office, and the nearest building was a
The ANDERSON home site in Horseshoe or Morrow’s Gulch dates to 1916 when
the Anderson family was working in the mines. Charly Anderson arrived in
the area in 1903, and his family worked the mines for at least 80 years.
The oldest cabin was built by Arthur C. and Carl Alex “Sander” Anderson
for their parents Charly E. and Anna Marie (Sjoblam) Anderson. A second
cabin was built in 1921 by Arthur C. Anderson for his wife Hettie Lucile
(Thacker) Anderson. The cabin standing today was built in 1948 with
timbers from the original structures. The original cabins and some other
structures are gone, but the original locations are still visible. Some
of Charly Anderson’s descendants still live in Mackay.
AERIAL TRAMWAY HEADHOUSE
This structure, located at the 700 ft. level, was the upper terminal and
loading station for the gravity powered aerial tramway system that
connected the mines with the smelter below. Placed in operation in 1918,
the system replaced the Shay mining railroad, in operation since 1905.
This aerial tramway consisted of ore buckets traveling on a sixmile-
long loop of 1 1/4" steel cable supported on 36 wooden towers. Ore was
delivered to the top of the HEADHOUSE structure from a nearby tunnel.
Today what remains of the HEADHOUSE loading station is still a
formidable sight. Look closely to see examples of expert timber joinery
and craftsmanship done almost a century ago.
ALBERTA LEVEL AND TUNNEL SITE
At the 700 ft level, the Alberta tunnel was the center of the Empire
Copper Co.’s mining activity. The tunnel, started about 1900, goes in
over 4000 ft. and ties to miles of cross-cut tunnels, shafts, and
raises. This site was also the unloading point of a long surface tramway
providing ore transport from tunnels far above. This site was the top
dumping spot for the huge trackside ore bins on the Shay roadbed
hundreds of feet below. This site had a blacksmith shop, warehouse,
dwellings and bunkhouses, and a large plant with two boilers that
generated steam to drive generators and air compressors. Today, only the
shells of the blacksmith and warehouse structures remain along with the
concrete foundation remnants of the steam and compressor plant. CAUTION:
THE TUNNEL IS DANGEROUS AND PRONE TO ROCK FALLS. STAY CLEAR. THIS IS
PRIVATE PROPERTY; PLEASE RESPECT IT. Just above this site is a large
tanker marked “ACID”. The acid from this tank was piped directly into
the rock in an attempt to leach copper without mining, with planned
recovery of the solution at a lower level. The effort failed.
OPEN PIT MINE SITE AND DARLINGTON SHAFT
This was the site of some of the earliest mining by the White Knob
Copper Co. The electric mining railroad in 1901 terminated here. Surface
ore was loaded directly into ore cars with a steam shovel. The sealed
entrance to the Darlington shaft is still visible above here. The area
became known as the “Glory Hole”. With the advent of the Shay Railroad,
ore was moved down to the Alberta level by the surface tramway. About
1963, surface mining was undertaken here using a leach type process. Ore
was piled in the concrete leach ponds that remain today, over which an
acid solution was sprayed. The copper, gold, and silver were leached
from the rock and reclaimed. Production from 1902 to 1975 was 921,077
tons of ore that yielded 41,431 oz. of Gold, 1,294,531 oz. of Silver,
61,689,291 lbs of Copper, 24,110 lbs of Lead, and 908,078 lbs of Zinc.
The large steel balls seen here and elsewhere are naval buoys left over
from scrap iron collection for the leaching process. These were intended
to be fuel tanks but were never used.