Burke, Idaho, is not your run-of-the-mill ghost town. Its story starts out familiar: The mining town rose up after rich deposits of silver and lead were discovered in 1884. But the boomtown that developed was situated in a comically narrow canyon, resulting in some wonderfully creative architecture.
Burke Canyon is long and thin, only 300 feet wide at its narrowest point. It’s a seemingly impossible space to fit a whole town into, and yet they did. The train tracks and the road for vehicles both shared the main street, so cars and carriages had to pull over when the train rolled by. Stranger still, the railroad was built right through the lobby of the town’s hotel.
The Tiger Hotel was built in 1896, straddling the main street and the creek that ran through the canyon. When the railroad expanded in 1906, the lack of space forced it to run right through the hotel. A covered walkway crossed over the tracks connecting the two sides of the building, and five cars of the Northern Pacific Railroad passed through the tunnel in the hotel each day.
Like so many mining towns in the Old West, Burke began to decline at the beginning of the 20th century and the mines starting shutting down. By 1990 there were reportedly just 15 residents left in town. The last of the mines closed in 1991, and within a few years, there was no one left in Burke.
Some of the old buildings have been destroyed by fire, floods, or time, including the unusual Tiger Hotel, which shuttered in 1954. But the decaying remains of many of structures, deserted mining equipment, and abandoned artifacts can still be seen around town. A twisted railroad track, strewn with old massive tools, runs through the town, and there is an unmarked, unknown cemetery with most of the headstones destroyed. You can also see the remnants of the town’s unique architecture, such as the cave-like holes carved into the side of the hills where the former residents of this unlikely village built their houses.
Know Before You Go
Tip: Do not go into any caves or dwellings. It's also not recommended to visit after dark (there is talk of paranormal activity in the area). To find the town, take exit 62 on Interstate 90 at Wallace, ID and then go north on Idaho State Highway 4. Burke is exactly 7 miles up the canyon.