Wallace Idaho is a small mining town located in the heart of the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho. Wallace was established during the late 1880’s and once silver was discovered the town began to boom.
Mining in the Silver Valley at one time was responsible for 45% of the world’s silver production. As of 2013 the United States had dropped to 9th on the list of top silver producers with 35 million ounces per year with the Helcla Mining Company, located in the Silver Valley area, contributing about 8.9 million ounces to the overall total for the United States.
While visiting Wallace we decided to learn more about the mining industry by taking a tour. The Sierra Silver Mine Tour starts out in downtown Wallace where you and your fellow tour-goers load onto a trolley. The trolley driver gives you a bit of history of the town and mining community while you drive to the entrance of the formally used mine.
Once the tour starts, your guide who is a former miner, will give you a behind the scenes look at a real silver mine. Probably the most interesting part of the tour is seeing the mining equipment in action. The tour guide gave us a brief run down on the mining equipment used and how it has changed over the years.
And for those you not traveling with kids take a stop by the Oasis Bordello. This brothel was in operation for just over 100 years, closing in January of 1988. It is literally a time capsule you can walk through. The former residents left in a haste as they had received a tip that they were going to be raided by the FBI. The building was later preserved as a museum.
At the time of our tour photos were not allowed of the inside but the rooms were left just as the ladies had left them. Cigarettes still in the ash trays, dirty dishes in the sink and rooms still prepped for clients. The tour gives you a peek inside the working rooms as well as the madam’s room and the living quarters. The guide told us that some of the working ladies have returned to take the tour of their former place of work, which helped add more colorful stories to the tour.
I do remember while on the tour that I found myself slightly perplexed. I think it was that the brothel had been operational during my lifetime. I was 7 years old when this place was shut down which was weird because brothels to me are something from the Wild West days (and yes I know that there are still brothels operational to this day, even legalized in the state of Nevada). And although I found it slightly unsettling, I would have in no way skipped the tour. The tour is pretty quick, maybe 20 minutes, but full of interesting stories about sneaking clients out the back door or why they had only one shoe. The rate sheet is also amusing as well, blunt and to the point “straight no frills” for 8 minutes of fun for $15.