The town of Murray (population 93) is located about 25 miles north of Wallace. There are no signs indicating the road to Murray from the 90 Freeway. The only way that we found it was that we had a very detailed map. Get off in downtown Murray and take 6th street under the 90 Freeway heading north. The road is quite good, just a bit windy. You may want to have a map of this area if you are going to attempt to reach Murray. I can’t remember very many signs pointing towards Murray. I just had a tourist travel map that I ripped out of one of the travel brochures that I had picked up in Coeur d’ Alene.
About 6 miles from Murray you will come to a fork in the road. One direction continues to be paved while the other turns to improved dirt. Either way will bring you to Murray. The question is how dirty do you want to get your vehicle? If you are just going to Murray and you do not want to get your vehicle dirty I recommend the paved road. If you are going past Murray the road becomes dirt anyway, so you may as well take the shorter dirt road to Murray.
When I drove into Murray the town was just recovering or relaxing after the Molly B’Damm days. For three days (the first three days of August) the tourists hit this town in droves. Molly B’Damm was a famous prostitute. On the dirt main street many vendors set up shop and sell their wares. I saw some nice arrowheads, and antiques being sold here. The two bars in town (there was once many more during the mining days) do a booming business. There is even a large plastic container that contains dirt and water that has been generously salted with gold flakes and small nuggets. For a fee ($5) people can pan for gold and keep any that they find. I tell ya, it sure beats sitting out in the sun from 6am until 7pm mining on your own!
In the late 90’s Tommer Construction Company improved the main road that is next the Murray; the same road that winds over to Thompson Falls and crosses the Montana border. Before these improvements, this used to be a small road. Now this construction company has taken a lot of gravel from the river and built what I call the “dirt super highway”. I suppose eventually this road will be paved and cars will whiz right by Murray. This road will be a shortcut for those people wanting to go to Glacier.
This construction company has flattened all the mining tailing piles (large piles of rocks left over from the mining). Just south of town you can see the original tailing piles, as of yet, still unaltered for the construction of the road. Also, one mile south of Murray you will find the town’s historic cemetery. This cemetery is home to some of the original pioneers that settled these lands. It is also home to Captain Toncray who is credited with being Mark Twain’s inspiration for Huck Finn. I seem to run into Mark Twain’s name almost everywhere I travel.
Some things to check out in downtown Murray: Make sure that you visit the Bedroom Mine . In the mid 1950’s a man decided to sink a mine shaft in his bedroom. He kept digging and digging until he had sunk a hole over 36 feet down. He finally hit bedrock and then tunneled around on bedrock. If you are a bit knowledgeable about gold mining you will know that since gold is so heavy it falls to bedrock and can sink no further. Anyway this grizzled old prospector found an 11 ounce nugget at the bottom of the hole in his bedroom. An 11 ounce piece of gold is quite large and spectacular. There are pictures of this nugget in the Bedroom Mine. The man who dug the shaft is still alive at 93 years of age. Today the Bedroom Mine building looks like it is about to fall down. The front room is a large bar. The entire property is for sale. For more information call PHONE NUMBER (208) 682-4394.
Towards the middle of town you will come upon the Spragpole Museum . I decided to order what I thought would be a good dinner to fill my empty stomach. I was wrong. It was one of the worst meals that I have ever eaten. Anyway while I was waiting for the chicken to deep fry in the oil I decided to have a look around the museum. This museum is part of this bar and restaurant. Admission is FREE. Donations are accepted. I thought I would see a small little museum, similar to museums that you find in other gold mining towns. I was again wrong. I have never seen so much stuff crammed into several rooms. You could get lost in the place! I don’t think the towns people of Murray ever threw away anything. It all seemed to be in this museum. I saw everything from hip and knee prostheses, to cigarette collections, to old jars, to ancient typewriters, to pots and pans, to old newspapers. They do have a fine geological collection. One interesting piece of work that they had displayed was the progression of how a wood carver carves the links in a chain. They showed each link at different stages of being carved. A guest book located at one end of the museum showed that people from all over the United States had visited. For more information call PHONE NUMBER (208) 682-3901.
The Old Gold Shop is located in downtown Murray. In front of the store is that panning area that I mentioned above. They also carry jewelry and antiques in the store. Metal detectors are sold. If the store appears to be closed and you want to pan for gold or view the items inside of the store Dave Miller and family live behind the store. You can always walk around to the back and knock.
Lastly, the 1884 Murray House located on Main Street in Murray is a bed and breakfast. No smoking or alcohol. PHONE NUMBER (208) 682-GOLD. Website: www.murray-idaho.com