On a recent trip with the kids to stay in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, we took a 45-minute drive east to visit the little town of Wallace. It turned out to be a charming, picturesque town with a fascinating history. Active as a mining town since the 1800’s, about a century ago it was practically destroyed by wildfires that swept through the northwest. When it was rebuilt, the downtown areas were all constructed in brick (to deter future fires!), and the result is that entering Wallace feels like walking into old-town America.
Wallace earned the nickname “Silver Capital Of The World” by its mining of over 60 tons (and counting!) from the local mountains over the course of its history.
The Sierra Silver Mine is not presently active (as much mining has been discontinued recently due to relatively low silver prices) and now hosts daily civilian tours through its tunnels. We loaded up the family on their old-fashioned open-air trolley, starting with a narrated tour of the streets of Wallace, and then taken up 9 Mile Road to the mine entrance.
We were led into the maze of tunnels from the entrance, and then taken through different areas ranging from large caverns to small corners where different kinds of equipment had been set up for drilling, blasting, and transporting rock debris and precious metals. We got to see rudimentary elevators for use by their miners, and even handle a bit of their equipment.
The tour guide explained safety precautions they take and what kind of emergency situations can occur. (There’s a surprising variety of ways to die in a mine! Thankfully, we did not experience any of them.)
Most interesting to us adults was hearing stories of the mine and personal anecdotes of the miner’s experiences. The kids liked handling anything they were allowed to, and even got to take home (with permission!) rocks with metal veins running through them.
Returning to their main office by the trolley again, the mining artifacts and paraphernalia shown from their history meant a lot more after learning about how a mining operation works. We had a great time in Wallace with the family, and it made for an educational outing as well!
If you are visiting the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho area, might we suggest the following: