Galena was originally founded as a mining town in 1879. During its heyday with 800 or so residents, Galena was the largest community in the Wood River Valley boasting several hotels, stables, a meat market & the Daisy Saloon. By the 1890s the residents all moved on as the veins of ore were not as profitable as hoped and Galena was left virtually a ghost town.
In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Sawtooth National Forest into existence. While silver no longer lured prospectors, other natural resources began attracting visitors. The Galena Store served as the last Wood River Valley outpost in the early 1900’s for the hunter and fisherman drawn to the “Switzerland of America”.
From 1924 to 1959 the Galena Store and several outbuildings were operated by Charles & Pearl Barber. When asked how she came to live in such a place, Pearl answered in two words: good fishing! The development of Sun Valley brought the first skiers to Galena. The Barbers erected a rope tow powered with an old Ford Engine on a hillside south of the store. In 1941 Charles suffered a stroke and died three years later leaving Pearl to operate the Galena Store on her own.
Pearl sold Galena in 1960. Galena went through a succession of ownership transfers until it was purchased by the Gelsky’s who constructed Galena Lodge in its present location, using remnants of the old townsite for much of the interior construction. In 1976 a seven member ownership team purchased the lodge. A cross country trail system was developed which utilized the old mining and logging roads around Galena. A couple years later the resort was sold again to the Fullers who submitted an ambitious master development plan to the Forest Service in 1982. The project was deemed too large and it was never approved. In 1987 the Fullers sold the lodge to Steve Haims who spent over $300,000 renovating the lodge and improving its trail system. Haims came up with a master plan for Galena that included overnight accommodations and trail development. But chances for making the resort a profitable wintertime enterprise were handicapped by the lodge’s remote location, difficult access for employees and the lack of a reliable source of power. Haims master plan was abandoned and the resort was closed. For 18 months the lodge sat cold and empty and there were discussions about tearing it down.
In 1994 a community wide effort known as the Help Save Galena Campaign was launched. Over $500,000 was raised in just a few short months and Galena was purchased by the community and donated to the Blaine County Recreation District, BCRD. Today the lodge is operated as a concession and maintained by BCRD who rely solely on donations & trail fees to cover expenses. Without consistent annual donations, Galena could not exist as it stands.
If you would like to read more on Galena, BCRD can send you the publication “A 125-Year History of Galena”.
Please call 208-578-2273. There is a suggested donation of $5.00 to offset the cost of book production.