When you visit Alaska today, you will find evidence of the state's connection to gold mining just about everywhere you go. From locally held events like Fairbanks Golden Days to the gold nugget jewelry and painted gold pans you're sure to find in local gift shops.
While many consider gold prospecting a thing of the past, there's still gold in Alaska's hills and streams today. In fact, just recently a huge gold and copper deposit was found about 235 miles southwest of Anchorage, near Lake Iliamna.
If you plan to visit Alaska you might want to consider doing a little gold prospecting of your own. You never know what you might find. One of the most popular techniques for finding gold is panning. During the gold rushes of the 1800s, this was the preferred method used by prospectors. In Alaska today there are still a few places where you can pan for gold and not worry about being accused of claim jumping. These are public areas open to the general public for recreational gold panning and sluicing but you cannot file a claim. The Bureau of Land Management office and the Department of Natural Resources office in Fairbanks will provide information on these areas, including maps.
Before you get started, you'll need to pick up the necessary prospecting supplies. You should be able to find what you need at local mining supply shops and discount stores. Please be thoughtful about the tools you select and the methods you use in your search for gold. Avoid anything that might impact negatively on nature and the environment.
OK, are you ready to find your fortune? The following areas are open to the general public for recreational gold panning and sluicing. You are allowed to use gold pans, metal detectors, sluice boxes and rocker boxes in these areas.
Bachelor Creek: Located 80 miles North of Fairbanks just past Montana Creek on the Steese Highway, this is a remote area that does not provide camping facilities. Once you get there you will need to hike about 4 miles to the mining area.
Nome Creek: Located north of the Steese Highway in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, there are three campgrounds in the area. Facilities such as restrooms (outhouses) and drinking water are provided, but a recreation fee is charged. Gold was first discovered here in the early 1900s and has a rich history of gold finds.
Pedro Dome: Located approximately 25 miles north of the city of Fairbanks, this is where Felix Pedro discovered gold in 1902. The area is relatively small, about 1 acre in size. There are no restrooms (outhouses) and you will need to bring your own drinking water and food.
A couple of more areas you can try are Caribou Creek and Dalton Highway.
Some of these areas are very remote. In addition to your prospecting supplies you will need the necessary outdoor supplies and equipment. If you're really not looking for a wilderness experience, but you still want to enjoy the excitement of finding gold, there are other options available.
There are several companies located in the Fairbanks area which have tours of mining towns and areas. These companies generally provide you with everything you need to do a little panning. Some even "stock" the sand so that you can be assured of not going home empty handed.
Here are a couple you can check out:
Klondike Gold Dredge Tour Company, Skagway, Alaska
El Dorado Gold Mine, 1.3 Mile Elliott Hwy, Fox, AK 99709
Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost, Box 70, Chicken, Alaska 99732
One way or another, I'm sure you will have a lot of fun prospecting for gold in Alaska. And who knows? You just might go home with a couple of gold nuggets.
Your Independent guide to Alaska