~ Blaine County ~


Blaine County was created by the state legislature on March 5, 1895, by combining Alturas and Logan counties. Its present boundaries were set on February 8, 1917, when a western portion became Camas County.

The county is named after former congressman and 1884 Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine (1830-93). Born in Pennsylvania and a resident of Maine, Blaine had served as Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and Speaker of the House. The county seat and largest city is Hailey. The county is home to the Sun Valley ski resort, adjacent to Ketchum.

The Wood River Valley in present-day Blaine County was organized as part of Alturas County by the Idaho Territorial Legislature in 1864. By the 1880s the area became noted for its mining economy. In 1882 the county seat of Alturas County was moved from Rocky Bar in present-day Elmore County to Hailey, in response to a population shift from Rocky Bar which would eventually become a ghost town to the Wood River Valley.

After Idaho statehood in 1890, as in the rest of the state, mining gradually decreased in significance in Blaine County. At its creation in March 1895, Blaine County included five other present-day counties. Less than two weeks later, Lincoln County was carved from it and later partitioned into Gooding (1913), Minidoka (1913), and Jerome (1919) counties. Blaine County was further reduced in 1917 when Camas County was formed.

The county began to recast itself as a tourism destination in 1936 with the opening of the Sun Valley Resort, originally owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. The area soon attracted celebrity visitors, and later residents, most notably Ernest Hemingway, who is buried in the Ketchum Cemetery.

Bellevue is located in the Wood River Valley, about 18 miles south of the resort area of Ketchum and Sun Valley. The city of Hailey and the airport are a few miles north of Bellevue. The Big Wood River flows near downtown. The population was 2,287 at the 2010 census.

Carey is primarily an agricultural city and is the location of the Blaine County Fairgrounds. Nearby recreational destinations include the Craters of the Moon National Monument, Carey Lake, Silver Creek and the Little Wood River

Hailey is named after John Hailey, a two-time Congressional delegate from the Idaho Territory.

Ketchum was originally the smelting center of the Warm Springs mining district, the town was first named Leadville in 1880. The postal department decided that was too common and renamed it for David Ketchum, a local trapper and guide who had staked a claim in the basin a year earlier. Smelters were built in the 1880s, with the Philadelphia Smelter, located on Warm Springs Road, processing large amounts of lead and silver for about a decade.

After the mining boom subsided in the 1890s, sheepmen from the south drove their herds north through Ketchum in the summer, to graze in the upper elevation areas of the Pioneer, Boulder, and Sawtooth Mountains. By 1920, Ketchum had become the largest sheep-shipping center in the West. In the fall, massive herds of sheep flowed south into the town's livestock corrals at the Union Pacific Railroad's railhead, which connected to the main line at Shoshone.

After the development of Sun Valley by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1936, Ketchum became popular with celebrities, including Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway.


Bald Mountain (9150 feet), "Baldy" is the primary ski mountain of the Sun Valley ski resort, renowned for its lengthy runs of constant gradient, at varying levels of difficulty, with absence of wind. Photos from Wikipedia


Sun Valley is a resort city with a population of about 1,406. The first destination winter resort in the U.S. was developed by W. Averell Harriman, the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, primarily to increase ridership on U.P. passenger trains in the West. The success of the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, spurred an increase in participation in winter sports (and alpine skiing in particular). A lifelong skier, Harriman determined that America would embrace a destination mountain resort, similar to those he enjoyed in the Swiss Alps, such as St. Moritz and Davos. During the winter of 193536, Harriman enlisted the services of an Austrian count, Felix Schaffgotsch, to travel across the western U.S. to locate an ideal site for a winter resort. The Count toured Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Yosemite, the San Bernardino Mountains, Zion, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Wasatch Mountains, Pocatello, Jackson Hole, and Grand Targhee areas. Late in his trip and on the verge of abandoning his search for an ideal location for a mountain resort development, he backtracked toward the Ketchum area in central Idaho. A U.P. employee in Boise had casually mentioned that the rail spur to Ketchum cost the company more money for snow removal than any other branch line and the Count went to explore.

Schaffgotsch was impressed by the combination of Bald Mountain and its surrounding mountains, adequate snowfall, abundant sunshine, moderate elevation, and absence of wind, and selected it as the site. Harriman visited several weeks later and agreed. The 3,888-acre Brass Ranch was purchased for about $4 per acre and construction commenced that spring; it was built in seven months for $1.5 million.

Pioneering publicist Steve Hannigan, who had successfully promoted Miami Beach, Florida, was hired and named the resort "Sun Valley." (Count Schaffgotsch returned to Austria and was killed on the Eastern Front during World War II.) The centerpiece of the new resort was the Sun Valley Lodge, which opened in December 1936. The 220-room, X-shaped lodge's exterior was constructed of concrete, poured inside rough-sawn forms. The wood grain was impressed on the concrete finish, which was acid-stained brown to imitate wood.


Historic Ski School Sign. Photo by Chalmers Butterfield


The Swiss-style Sun Valley Inn (formerly the "Challenger Inn") and village were also part of the initial resort, opening in 1937. Hannigan wanted swimming pools at the resort, "so people won't think skiing is too cold." Both the Lodge and the Inn have heated outdoor swimming pools, circular in shape. Hannigan had the pools designed this way, unique at the time, in the hope they would be widely photographed, providing free publicity, and it worked.

Visitors to Sun Valley are relatively close to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, accessed over Galena Summit on Highway 75, the Sawtooth Scenic Byway.


Sometimes the heavens open up and shine down upon us. While the Aspens were sparse, the God Rays electrified a small grove on them in the distance. Located in the Sawtooth Valley of Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. Photo from Wikipedia


Unincorporated communities: Picabo, Triumph, and Sawtooth City. Ghost towns: Boulder City and Vienna

Picabo is an unincorporated community. The community is surrounded by large ranches and irrigated fields. The name "Picabo" supposedly derives from a Native American term translated as "silver water". The name Picabo was made familiar by Picabo Street, an Olympic skier who grew up in nearby Triumph.

Sawtooth City (an unincorporated community) was founded as a mining camp after a mine was opened in the area on July 2, 1878; discoveries in the Sawtooth City area grew out of discoveries to the south. Its peak was between the years 1880 and 1886. A community cemetery is located northeast of central Sawtooth City.

Sawtooth City sits at an altitude of 7,342 feet, along Beaver Creek near its confluence with the Salmon River in the Sawtooth Valley of Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

In 1975, the entire community was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.[

Triumph is an unincorporated village in the East Fork of Big Wood River. Triumph was the location of the famous Triumph Mine, which closed in 1957 after a history of producing millions of dollars in silver and lead since its discovery in the late 19th century. It is located approximately 12 miles north of Hailey. Population is less than 50 full-time residents.

The Triumph mine was first discovered in 1883 with the recording of the North Star claim. Additional claims were grouped together over the next 20 years and operated as 14 separate mining companies. All the ore was processed by the Philadelphia Mining and Smelting Company in Ketchum. The North Star mill was built in 1889 by the Freedman's of The Philadelphia Company. They were bought out by George Hurst around 1927 and his San Louise Mining Company. In 1933, fire destroyed the stamp mill works and ore was stockpiled. Around 1937 the Department of the interior, under the contro; of The War Department, expanded the Triumph Mine. Federal money built a modern sink float mill, new offices, warehouses and a Main Tunnel that went straight into the mountain for a mile and a half. The small companies were joined to form "The Triumph Mining Co" who, at its WW2 peak, employed 200 men, 24 hours a day, and held the world record for zinc. By 1959, lead, silver, and zinc prices had fallen to half of the WW2 price while union labour was demanding higher wages. The mine was shut down in 1959 and sold to the Forman. Rupert House formed the Triumph Mineral Company in 1964 and began mining again in 1970. In 1982 the mine was leased to The Getty Mining Company and they did an extensive drilling and exploration of both the Mine and the Tailings. Company records show about $45,000,000 in gold left in the Tailings but the gold was not a strategic metal and was not of interest to the War Department. In 1988 the EPA listed Triumph as a Potencial Hazard so in the next 10 years they spent millions on a bureaucratic boondoggle (Clean up). The EPA and State, instead of recovering the gold to pay for the cleanup, buried it. In 2007 the Triumph Mine was purchased by Carl Massaro. The goal was to build a small solar village on the mill site and a large solar collector as suggested by the new EPA's "Mine Scarred Program". This solar project met with public criticism and ultimately failed. The mountain was sold to Denovo in 2008 but "The Triumph Mineral Co" holds the tailings with plans for a solar project in the works for that site. The Denovo Company has cleaned the site and plans additional land uses. Although the mine sill has resources, and agreement was reached by State and Local authorities, to never mine again.


Stanley Lake, base of the Sawtooth Mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.


Headwaters of the Salmon River northwest side of Galena Summit. The Sawtooth Mountains in the background. Photo El-Wyhee Hi-Lites / Ed Walter


Additional Blaine County History



Source: Wikipedia, Blaine County, El-Wyhee Hi-Lites, Elmore County Press, City of Ketchum, City of Bellevue, & City of Hailey.