During the 1880s and 1890s, gold seekers explored many of Alaska's river basins for mineral wealth. By the spring of 1898, the stampede to the Klondike was in full swing, and reputed gold producing areas were promoted by transportation companies and outfitters who hoped to make their fortunes by supplying prospective miners. Rumors of gold strikes on the Kobuk River in northwest Alaska enticed hundreds of prospectors and adventurers who where looking for a less crowded route to riches than that offered by the Klondike gold fields.
Tales of Gold
There are several accounts of how the rumor of gold riches on the Kobuk began. Captain Cogan, owner of the bark Alaska, told of a prospector who found $15,000 in gold in two hours on the Kobuk in 1897. In the spring of 1898, Cogan transported 40 prospectors and their outfits to Kotzebue. In March of 1898, the San Francisco Chronicle published a letter from prospector John Ross, saying that he had obtained $50,000 worth of gold on the Kobuk River. These accounts, as well as a number of others that flooded the news on both coasts of the United States, turned out to be lies. Nonetheless, a fleet of ships left the west coast during the spring of 1898 bound for Kotzebue with almost 2,000 would-be prospectors on board.