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Elmer's Fountain

 


Heading east a few miles from Wallace, Idaho on  I-90, you briefly pass Elmer's Fountain on your right.
It takes frequent travel on that stretch for its awesome folk beauty to penetrate your perception.
In the winter the fountain grows mushrooms of ice around it.

If you want to stop, take the Gold Creek exit, and it's right there.
Here's a view of the second fountain with the freeway in the background:

From Zac Ward, here's a brief history of the fountain, slightly edited:
Elmer Almquist who built these fountains was a silver miner, resident of Mullan. He was part owner of the Sunshine mine and he died in March 1986. His brother Harry Almquist (died March 2007)  lived in Murray ID where there is a museum he and Walt, the third brother founded. Harry is my wife’s grandfather.
  Arnold was Elmer’s best friend and the original owner of the land the fountains are on. For years it was known as Arnold’s Fountain. Soon after Elmer’s death the name was changed to Elmer’s Fountain.

From Art Almquist, Elmer's son:
Elmer Almquist was my Dad, he passed away in 1986.  I helped my dad maintain the water flume system up the side of the 600 acre mountain side property that is fed year-round from Gold Lake at a much higher elevation since I was a very young boy.  The water flows down Gold Creek and about 300 yards up the mountain from the fountain location is a small water dam and a water flume that skirts the mountain side before a final steep slop drop through a four inch water pipe to a valve which controls the flow at each fountain.  The water supply remains unfrozen during winter because my Dad was smart enough to store the water upstream in a horizontal mine tunnel.  I agree with what the trucker stated on your fountain article posting, it is the best fresh water I ever tasted.  We actually investigated bottling the water for resale but the bottled water company wanted it to be spring water which it is not, it is primarily snow melt mountain watershed from Gold Lake which has no road or trail access and has remained essentially unpolluted.
             Our family periodically maintains the area by cutting brush, falling newer tree growth that blocks the view from Interstate 90 as well as sand blasting and re-painting occasionally.  My dad was a skilled welder and created log cabin bird houses out of metal as well as numerous small sculptured items.  He was an accomplished pilot, hunter and businessman.  At one time he was offered $3 million dollars for the 600 acre Gold Creek property but turned it down since he wanted to keep feeding his pet ducks and geese that used to be there.  He was also president of a mining company, Allied Silver Lead.  Dad was pretty handy, he rigged his car to run on diesel fuel during the Second World War when gasoline was rationed even though everyone told him it was impossible.  He started the car on gas but then once warmed up would throw a switch and run diesel fuel through a system of copper tubes wrapped around the engine exhaust manifold to preheat it prior to carburetor atomization intake into the combustion chamber and it ran great.
             Dad had the record in North Idaho at the time for surviving 12 years on a kidney machine which we installed in a remodeled upper room in our house, (he also built that house).  Mom went to the hospital and learned how to run the entire system and as a couple they took care of the entire dialysis process for all those years.  My dad was a little cantankerous but a very honest and hard worker.  He used to say the key to success was to sleep 8 hours, work 8 hours and just make sure they are not the same 8 hours.  He also like to say: “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”  I live down here in Florida now but always make a trip to Gold Creek whenever I make a trip back home with my wife and kids.

Incidentally, Mr. Arnold was a millionaire who lived in La Jolla, California and used my Dad to manage the property after the Gold Creek Mine and Mill were shut down many years ago.  The water flume was originally used to create hydro-electric power to run the mining mill that had a small rock crushing and gold, silver and lead ore processing plant.  Mr. Arnold was so grateful for my Dad’s thoroughness and honesty over the years that he let my Dad have the 600 acre property for just $20,000 not long before Mr. Arnold died.  My Mother made the decision to rename the fountain Elmer’s Fountain after my Dad passed away.



      
It's clearly a folk construction from mining parts.  Although the piping in itself is not particularly attractive, the gracefully sprinkling spray is very nice. The ingenuity it took to craft these fountains to continue for years has to be admired.
As you may read in the cement, this is Arnold's fountain.  Although clearly designed for washing hands and taking a drink, nothing is known by me of the quality or source of the water, but I got this email from someone visiting this website:

 "I first saw Elmer's (Arnold's) fountain when I moved to Idaho In 1956. I have been drinking water from that Artesian (sic) well ever since. I don't live close to the fountain anymore but as a long haul trucker I go by it regularly and fill all the plastic water bottles I keep in my truck. It is undoubtedly the best tasting water I've had in my lifetime (62 years).  Sincerely Chuck Martin "
 

There is also on the site an ore train car, a picnic table, and a small dog house sized log cabin.
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