Dougout Ranch

Useful Information

Location: Elk Bend. At Highway 93, above Salmon river. 32 km south of Salmon.
From Salmon follow Hwy 93 south for 19 miles, turn off, cross Salmon River on Rattlesnake Creek Bridge then turn south.
Open: Closed. [2012]
Fee: Closed. [2012]
Classification: SubterraneaCave House
Light: kerosene lamps
Dimension: up to 30 m long
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1948 construction started by Dugout Dick.
APR-2010 Dugout Dick dies at age 94.
2012 caves filled by the BLM.


The Dougout Ranch is a complex of about ten small mines, turned into rustic residences by the owner and excavator Dugout Dick. Born as Richard Zimmerman on 26th February 1916 in Milford, Indiana, he came to this place in 1948. He settled here, clearing the land while he was living in a tent. He built a road to the closest bridge, about two kilometre away. Soon he started to dig caves along the banks of the river, and he moved in his own cave.

Today he has a garden to grow enough vegetables for himself and to sell some at the local health food store in town. He has a 4 m on 10 m big dugout where he lives, with old automobile windshields as windows and an old cookstove for cooking and heating during the winter. He uses a natural ice cave as a refridgerator to store food. What he does not have are electricity, modern heating, plumbing, or telephone.

During the years Dugout Dick has built many caves, using only a pick, shovel and prybar. Some years ago he furnished them and started to rent about a dozen to tourists. They are pretty cheap, for about $5 per day or $20 per month, so they are also used by people who are down on their luck.

But it is not necessary to stay there in order to see the dugouts. Dugout Dick gives guided tours of his Dugout Ranch, even if the caves are rented. His guests are required to allow tourists to see their cave.

Dugout Dick died in April 2010 at age 94. The U.S. Department of Interior had an agreement with Zimmerman allowing him to live on public land. After his death the land was reclaimed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Many caves were deemed a safety hazard because support timbers were starting to crack. As a result the caves were filled with dirt and lava rock in 2012. A cabin remains at the site as a memory of Dugout Dick, and the BLM plans to put up interpretive signs within a year.