Elk Bend, Idaho: Dugout Dick's Ice Cave Ranch

Dugout Dick Zimmerman used to rent caves that he dug out of a hillside, and gave tours. He died, age 94, on April 21, 2010. The caves are no longer accessible, but you can still visit the Ice Cave Ranch parking lot, which now has interpretive signs. Not what it was, but still a unique stop.
Address:
Salmon River, Elk Bend, ID
Directions:
Drive south from Salmon on US 93 for about 19 miles, or north from Challis around 39 miles. Turn west, cross the one-lane bridge over the Salmon River, then turn left and drive south for a half-mile.
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Salmon River Cave Man sign. Dug Out Dick's Caves

Several members of our family visited with Bruce (the caretaker) of Dug Out Dick in April 2010. Dick was a personal friend of my brother who had just passed away April 6; we were there for the services. Bruce told us that Dick was in very poor health that day so we did not see him that time, but my brother had introduced my husband and I a few years prior. He was a very special friend to my brother; they often swapped stories. Dick was very inventive and would figure out a solution to any possible problem. Good person to have as a friend. God Bless him.

[R A Martin, 05/01/2011]
Salmon River Cave Man

Dugout Dick's caves are a one-of-a-kind marvel. The caves themselves are nothing too special, but the fact that this man spent a lifetime excavating this mountain and then turning it into dwellings is extraordinary.

The caves are still rather primitive and could potentially be improved to modern day standards without much work. This sight is a reminder that having a home doesn't have to mean living apart from nature and that nature provides all that we need to live and build.

[Kevin Brown, 11/19/2009]
DugOut Dick's Ice Cave Ranch

Dug Out busted loose from the nursing home and is being very well cared for in his cave by a long time cave-resident. This is as it should be. True -- the place isn't all it used to be -- only a couple of residents, some of the caves are run down and some are indeed unsafe, BUT it is still a slice of heaven to those who are willing to SEE.

I've been going there annually for almost 10 years now. I love the cave where we stay (which admittedly is probably the nicest of the bunch these days) and am deeply saddened that one day it won't be a welcome place of respite and peace to so many beautiful souls. My 12 year old niece stayed with me this past week and we had a great time.

There is no place on earth that makes me happier and I have tremendous gratitude for Dug Out's life work, his eccentricities and his willingness to live his life in his own way.

[R. Foster, 08/17/2009]
Dugout Dick and the Ice Caves

I met Dugout Dick, May 8, 2009. He was in good health and was looking forward to his 94th birthday. I will admit that I could not live like him, but to each his own. He is one of the most interesting people that I have ever met on any trip I have taken. Yes, there was a lady that I thought was slightly slow. She was very polite and friendly. I talked to her and Dick for about an hour. Both were happy to tell me their stories. On leaving I gave both of them a lapel pin of a Canadian flag...they both knew what it was.

To any person that says these people are of no worth and should be moved on and the caves closed, should take a look at their own lives first. Leave the cave people alone...they are the last of the true free spirits.

[Bob Kelly, London, Ontario, Canada, 06/02/2009]
Dugout Dick's Cave Dwellings

Our trip up the Salmon River to visit Dugout Dick's place in 1998 was one of the most memorable adventures of my life. I was intrigued by his counter-culture approach to life. This man is gentile, kind, intelligent, and very talented. He's the guy I would want with me in a survivalist situation.

When I read a [comment] by one of his "neighbors," I was very taken back by the judgmental mention of the "undesirables" that inhabit some of the cave homes. At our visit, I did observe some renters who exhibited signs consistent with mental imbalance. So what? Dugout's residences provided a place for anyone to call home. This man who used his uncanny ability to recycle junk into usable building materials or furniture has provided an invaluable contribution to the residents of Idaho who live nearby. Why, that man even kept accurate records of every dollar he received for rentals or tours. He said he wanted to be fair with his taxes. Dugout is one cool dude.

[Mary, 07/16/2008]

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