Searching for Jim Moore’s Treasure
A little piece of history still remains along the Main Salmon River in Idaho
The nine scattered cabins that make up Jim Moore’s Camp among knee high grasses were all hand-hewn. I see the ax marks and wonder at Moore taking 15 years to make all the massive beams by hand. Most of the cabins still stand, with a little help from volunteers from the United States Forest Service and a designation in the National Register of Historic Places (#78001063, respectfully).
Flocks of people came through making the property’s extensive development worth the effort. Jim Moore said himself that between the years 1900 and 1902, 1,800 men came through his property as they headed upstream to Campbell’s Ferry, crossing the Salmon, and heading for the purported gold on Thunder Mountain. He said they came year-round, with backpacks and mules in the summer and snowshoes and skis in the winter.
Whether stopping for lunch or camp along the Main Salmon River, we guides oftentimes make the couple hundred-or-so-yard walk up to the terrace and take a look around Jim Moore’s Place. We tell the guests a short history of Jim and his homestead. He was born in Kentucky around 1868 and died April 25th, 1942.
As the guests are milling about and looking in cabin windows at old shoes and rusted pots, I walk towards the scree slope. I give Jim’s grave a little nod as I walk by it, acknowledging him and his long-gone, historic and generous homestead on the Salmon’s shore. As I get near the hill’s base, I take a look around, trying to remember where I left off last time. I start lifting up rocks, hoping that maybe I’ll pick the right one and find a mason jar filled with gold nuggets.
Jim started placer mining in the late 1890’s and didn’t find much. As word spread that gold was found on Thunder Mountain, Jim recognized opportunity. He raised chickens and sold eggs. He was known to make good money selling his homemade moonshine, whiskey, and peach brandy. He grew veggies and planted an orchard that still produces deliciously crisp and sweet apples for rafters and bears passing by in mid-to late summer.
I search a few more minutes. Sometimes a guest will saunter up and ask what I’m doing. I always tell them I’m hunting for Jim Moore’s lost treasure. Sometimes they help. They always laugh. I haven’t found it yet.
I allow the tiny irrational part of me to think this day might be the time I strike gold. The appeal? Fame and fortune? More, I imagine it would be remarkable handling a dusty treasure not seen since Jim’s death in 1942. Oh, and it’s full of gold, and I need a new truck.
I’d love to find the hidden treasure someday, even if that means facing Jim Moore’s ghost.
Much of Moore’s history was gleaned from Carrey and Conley’s River of No Return.