Name: Cuprum, Idaho
Class: H1 (Copper mines originally, now Summer Cabins and loggers.)
GPS: Latitude: 45.0865458, Longitude: -116.6893141
Directions: *Note* Two wheel drive accessible only in summer months. Kleinscmidt Grade is an historic road known for it’s steep grade.
From Ontario, Oregon head north on US-95 North for 44 miles. At the town of Cambridge Idaho, take a left on to ID-71. The road will cross the Snake River to Brownlee, Oregon and then join OR-86. Take a right towards Copperfield, Oregon, then take the next right to cross the Snake River again on NF-4545. After crossing the river take a left onto Hells Canyon Road. Just under six miles, take right onto Kleinschmidt Grade. This road is also labeled National Forest Development Road 050. In 5 and half miles Windy Ridge Road joins Kleinschmidt Grade at a “Y” intersection. Continue for another two and half miles, when Council Cuprum Road joins Windy Ridge Road. Cuprum is 1.6 miles further.
Description: Sit back and enjoy the drive along parts of the Snake River that most people don’t get to see. Cuprum is Latin for “Copper,” an apt description as this remote part of Idaho likely still has huge untapped copper deposits. Several mines were in the area, leading to the need for a town. An hospital was built here in 1897, and a Post Office was established the same year on December 1st.
The Pacific and Idaho Northern railroad was supposed to be built through here with an eventual stop at Landore, Idaho 20 miles north, but litigation among mine owners in the area ended up halting it’s construction. By the time this was resolved, it was found that the open pit type of mining pioneered in Montana was not a good fit for the Seven Devils mining region that Cuprum is part of.
Since then repeated attempts to mine the area have all been minimally successful. Kleinschmidt grade continues to be a huge hurdle despite multiple attempts to bypass it. In 1960, $400,000 worth of copper was recovered from the area. But it cost $1.6 million to do so. The Copper Cliff mine was started in 1974 to much optimism. Local reserves of mined copper ore were able to keep the mine running until 1979. It was still in continuous operation until the late 1980’s, but was finally completely closed and the buildings destroyed in 2006.
“Modern” Cuprum has a few dozen summer residents, and as of the 1970’s, some logging work.
Ghost towns of Idaho by Donald Miller
The Idaho Historical Society has a few pictures of the Cuprum area, including the Seven Devil’s Hotel and Bar.