|Elk City is the oldest mining town in the county. This location was founded in early August, 1861 by a party of fifty-two prospectors who violated Federal law, and an agreement with the local Nez Perce Indians, and explored up the South Fork of the Clearwater. Within three weeks after it was founded, the population was up to nearly 1,000 and twenty-five buildings had already been constructed. By 1866 the mines had produced over $3.5 million in gold. In 1888 there were 400 Chinese settlers in town. It is said that at one point there were over 1,400 Chinese and only a dozen white folks in town. The Chinese people were hired to work the claims, but by the late 1880s, mistreatment of the Chinese was so common they had to hire themselves white guards to watch over them while they worked. In 1887, a judge ruled that aliens could not hold mining ground under the U.S. mining laws and thus began the Chinese exodus in 1889.
Aliens who leased ground from U.S. citizens prior to 1887 were allowed to retain those leases.
In 1902, mining began for quartz lode and productions yielded nearly $5 million. Dredging began in 1935 and raked in nearly $1 million. Today, Elk City supplies hikers, campers and snowmobilers with necessities.