Mullan, Idaho – If you do any driving on I-90 near here chances are you’ve driven by Elmer’s Fountain many times.
The next time you really should pull off for a minute or two and admire this amazing folk art fountain, built out of mining scraps.
Sitting on the south side of I-90, at the Gold Creek Exit (66), this funky folk art fountain stands roughly 20 feet tall with a beautiful sprinkle of gravity fed, fresh mountain lake water year-round.
The tallest of the two fountains is a big yellow pipe with a fountain head at its very top, and several dishes in which water will pool, before it hits the small basin below.
In the winter, ice curtains drape from the structure, but the water still runs.
Look closely at the base of the tallest fountain, and you will see someone wrote “Arnold’s Fountain” in the wet cement.
Here’s the story behind the fountain complex, as told by Elmer Almquist’s son Art Almquist – you can read the whole story and see more photos.
The fountains were built by Elmer Almquist, a local miner and skilled welder, who also held a pilot’s license and was an avid hunter. He built the house he raised his family in and ended up taking care of the 600 acres where the fountains are located, after Gold Creek Mine and Mill was shut down.
Arnold was Elmer’s best friend and the original owner of the property where the fountain sits. After the mine closed, Elmer became the caretaker of the property and just before Arnold (who lived in California) passed away, he let Elmer buy the 600 acres for a song.
The water in Elmer’s Fountain runs year-round, thanks to the genius engineering skills of Elmer Almquist: The water comes from a lake high above the fountain, runs down a flume and dam system, and at one point it is stored in a closed horizontal mining shaft. The water dammed up in that abandoned shaft – and gravity - is why Elmer’s Fountain runs no matter how cold it gets.
Elmer Almquist died in 1986 and his family still takes care of the beautifully maintained grounds around the fountain.
After his death, the fountain was named after the man who so lovingly constructed and protected it as it became Elmer’s Fountain.