Golden Places
The History of Alaska-Yukon Mining
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Other Stampedes

All the wealth and excitement generated from the Klondike has mitigated against an appreciation of more modestly rich districts developed in '98 or subsequently—and even some of comparable wealth. If significant mineral production had not occurred within Alaska, the territory's historical development would have been very different and certainly long delayed. Stampeders believed ardently that somewhere on the Yukon or elsewhere an "American Klondike" would be unveiled. After all, it had been successful mining on Alaska's Yukon River and its tributaries that had sustained the search that climaxed in Canada's Klondike, and the prospecting possibilities within Alaska had not been exhausted by 1897-98. As time proved, there were "American Klondikes" on the Seward Peninsula, the Copper River, and in the Tanana Valley, areas of valuable mineral resources that yielded enough to sustain large communities at Nome and Fairbanks and kept the economic focus on mining for generations.

If the historical emphasis on the Klondike has tended to obscure the significance of Nome, Fairbanks, and Kennicott, it is no wonder that Alaska districts with less spectacular production are not well remembered. The production of gold and other minerals in Southeast, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, the lower Yukon, the Kuskokwim, Chistochina, Rampart, and Iditarod was significant enough to trigger stampeders, sustain communities, and open trade and transportation throughout the territory. Considering these advances, dispersed in time and place, gives a perspective on the Klondike and all other mineral developments that defines their relationships and continuity.

Continuity in mineral exploitation history can be reviewed on several levels. It can be seen in the appearance of the same individuals at Circle, Dawson, the Porcupine, Nome, Fairbanks, and Iditarod. Or it may be viewed through a consideration of particular aspects of industrial and social development and addressed by a number of queries: How did technology vary from place to place? What conditions determined diverse courses of community and political developments? Which Outside or Alaska social forces or events influenced the industry over many decades? To what extent did the mining industry's needs determine advances and collapses in the transportation network? How did mining financing vary? What role did the government perform at various times? These and other considerations set the incidents of industrial history within a larger context, giving a broader view of a movement that did not stop at Dawson or Nome.

While a full review of these questions must be reserved for sections of this study focusing on particular park regions the following brief summaries of other gold rushes illustrate the continuity of the development.


In 1870 gold strikes were made at Sumdum and Windham Bay. These were placer deposits that were later recognized as part of the Juneau Gold Belt that extended 100 miles along the coast from Windham Bay, 65 miles south of Juneau, to Berners Bay, 60 miles north of Juneau.

Ten years later Joe Juneau and Richard Harris found placer gold at the mouth of Gold Creek in Silver Bow Basin. The first Alaska gold stampede followed, and Juneau developed as the territory's important community with mining as the chief industrial activity until World War II.

The first mines developed were placers. Later the huge deposits of lode above Juneau were exploited by the Alaska-Juneau Mine, while the great Treadwell Mine was developed on Douglas Island. Treadwell reached its peak in 1915 when its mills crushed 5,000 tons of ore daily—ore that was valued at $2.50 per ton. One year later Treadwell's record was surpassed by the Alaska Gastineau (Perseverance) and Alaska-Juneau mines. The Gastineau mill worked 12,000 tons of ore daily. In 1928 the Alaska-Juneau mined 13,000 tons daily—and at a profit despite the low 80 cents per ton value. For some years Juneau was recognized as the lode mining leader of the world.

Juneau tumbled from the top of the mining heap in three stages. Treadwell was flooded after a cave-in of 1917. Only the Ready Bullion Mine continued work, but it closed in 1922. The Alaska Gastineau, famed for the largest dam, longest tunnel, and fastest tunneling in the world of mining, failed in 1921. The Alaska-Juneau shut down in 1944 and is still closed, although there are prospects of a reopening. In all the three mines produced $158 million in gold. [1]

Cook Inlet

Cook Inlet and adjacent regions attracted early prospectors because Russian discoveries of gold there were known. In 1849 Peter Doroshin, a graduate of the Imperial Mining School at St. Petersburg, was dispatched to the colony to investigate Kenai River gold reported by a trader in 1834. Over a four-year period, Doroshin searched for minerals without finding appreciable gold. He followed the Kenai River to its sources and prospected the Russian River, where his crew mined for two seasons to gain a couple ounces of gold. Other kinds of mineral development appeared more promising.

Doroshin's report on coal at Coal Bay resulted in the opening of a coal mine there in 1855. Coal was mined for several years and interest in coal there and in Kachemak Bay brought American prospectors into the region in 1886. Other Americans in the 1880s and early '90s were more interested in gold. Joseph Cooper reported gold on Cooper Creek in 1884, although he did not establish any claims. Other men worked beach sands at Anchor Point and located at Resurrection Creek, Bear Creek, and elsewhere. Many locations were made in the Hope-Sunrise area in 1895, and in the next year several hundred prospectors stampeded to the region, stimulated by the fabulous yield at Mills Creek in 1895—$40,000 in gold.

As the nation's press carried reports of the strike many readers probably gave their first consideration to Alaska and its opportunities. It would be some months later that the news about the great Klondike strike would be circulated. The Cook Inlet discovery appeared significant. The Review of Reviews reported that "Cook Inlet is now the scene of a rush almost as great as that to the Yukon [a reference to the Circle strike], owing to the results of last year's work, which is said to have yielded in some cases as much as $150 a day. It is estimated that some two thousand miners will prospect there this year." [2]

In several respects the Cook Inlet stampede was a lively precursor of the Klondike rush of 1897-98. Its impact upon Seattle merchants and shipping firms was significant in priming businessmen there for the quick start they got in '97 in making their city the "Gateway to the Klondike." Seattle newspapers of April 1896 reported that "no less than fifteen vessels, big and little, with a passenger list of fully 1,000 men, and freight and supplies in proportion, will have sailed from this port for the golden fields in the north." [3]

The 1896 stampede to Turnagain Arm on the northern Kenai Peninsula was described by Fred Moffit of the USGS: "Several thousand men, some state the number as high as 3,000, are said to have landed at Tyonek en route for Turnagain Arm and Susitna River, while a considerable number crossed by way of Portage Glacier from Prince William Sound. This was the banner year on Canyon Creek, 327 men being engaged in mining its gravels during the summer." [4]

Moffit contrasted the experience of the earlier prospectors with the stampeders, noting the wasteful results: "A majority of the men who first entered the field [1894-95] . . . were experienced miners. Many of them had spent years in southeast Alaska or the Yukon country and nearly all had mined in the placer fields of the west. On the other hand, most of the late comers were inexperienced in any kind of mining and many were scarcely able to take care of themselves. Thousands of dollars worth of useless machinery and supplies are said to have been landed at Tyonok for transfer to the arm, only to be abandoned or given away. Several expeditions spent months in hauling cumbersome and unsuitable outfits through an unknown wilderness to localities which none of their members had ever visited and possibly never had heard of till they reached Alaska . . . It is doubtful if there is any other part of Alaska where time and money have been wasted in a more enthusiastically ignorant manner or concerning which stockholders in mining companies have been more utterly misled than some places on the Kenai Peninsula." [5]

The Klondike stampede overflow produced another stampede in 1898, enough men to keep the region lively and productive for some years. The Sunrise district yielded $780,000 in gold from 1895-1900 and another $543,000 from 1901-1906. Subsequently, production dwindled. Most miners rushed to Iditarod in 1910, and the region's only store folded. Several efforts were made to introduce dredge operations on the Kenai River and hydraulic operations were carried on in several locations. But the returns in gold were not practical. Production on the Kenai Peninsula was only $37,500 in 1917 and dropped subsequently. [6]


Rampart did not look like a permanent community to W.A. Ryan of the San Francisco Chronicle, who visited in August and September '97. It had improved from "a more staggering collection of tents, with a doorless, windowless company store" with 30 residents to reach a population of 500 within a month. Rapid growth was due to the freeze-up of the Yukon, which stopped eager stampeders bound for Dawson. But new gold strikes on Minook Creek, where the original strike had occurred in 1894, and on Hunter and Hoosier creeks, kept some of the stranded miners in place and brought more in '98 from the great Dawson overflow. [7]

The new town's progress was steady and orderly. A town council governed efficiency, thanks to the presence of such distinguished, respected men as former Governor John McGraw and former Adjutant-General E.M. Carr of Washington state. Ryan's dour conclusions on Rampart's future may have been influenced by seeing so many abandoned claims and because his few hours work at mining yielded no signs of a fortune. He also considered it suspicious that Dan Carolan, recorder of Hunter Creek, would leave the discovery claim he shared on Minook Creek idle while gathering $2.50 recording fees plus $10 for guiding interested prospectors. Though Carolan figured that the Minook gold would wait for him, Ryan assumed that his choice showed a lack of confidence in Minook. Ryan also believed that miners showing nuggets from Minook actually got them from the Klondike.

Despite Ryan's negativism and the gloom caused by the death of a man named Tucker on the trail, Rampart moved ahead. A.C. Butcher and Neal Sorenson opened a restaurant, and the discovery claim on Minook was sold for $5,000. O.J. Tobin, D.F. Baxter, and O.C. Johnson were wealthy San Francisco men who, among many others, were willing to invest in claims. The largest camp between St. Michael and Dawson thrived over the 1897-1898 winter and continued to prosper in the spring.

Rampart flourished for a number of years until the inevitable decline of the local placers. Before the decline, the community boasted a newspaper and other cultural amenities and numbered among its residents such distinguished men as writer Rex Beach, saloon man Wyatt Earp, and deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Canton.

The Porcupine

The Porcupine district was developed as an incident to the Klondike stampede and was reached by the Dalton Trail. It was 32 miles from Pyramid Harbor, Chilkat Inlet, where the Dalton Trail commenced to the gold field on Porcupine Creek discovered by S.W. Mix and his partners in October 1898. Some 50 miners staked claims, but winter forced a delay until spring when about 1,000 stampeders headed for the Porcupine. Reaching the new mining region was relatively easy, particularly as the Jack Dalton Transportation Company was available to freight in goods. Dalton charged four cents a pound on freight from the coast to the diggings.

Dalton laid out the townsite of Porcupine and built a store. Other entrepreneurs established businesses, and the town's population over the 1899-1903 era was about 200. Things slowed down in 1903, and both the recorder and U.S. Commissioner offices were abolished. The easily mined gold had been taken by 1903—an estimated $460,000, and further development awaited investment in hydraulic mining. A flood in 1905 destroyed a large flume and closed mining for a couple of years until construction of a Haines-Pleasant Camp road and other improvements encouraged further investment. Mining continued until 1918 when another flood closed mines for several years. Revivals in the late 1920s and '30s were shortlived. Production from 1930-60 has been very modest, but the revival of steady small-scale production in the 1970s gave production of 3,500 ounces up to 1988. [8]

When "Porcupine" was discovered the U.S. and Canadian governments were still arguing over the location of the international boundary, and the confused miners staked claims by both Canadian and U.S. law to cover their status. Rich copper deposits were subsequently found at "Maid of Even" at the head of Tsirko River 20 miles to the northwest. A trade of sorts was worked out in 1905 in which the Canadians got the copper and the U.S. got the gold. This is the only instance in Alaska history of mineral resources determining the location of an international boundary.


The discovery of gold on the Seward Peninsula in 1898 led to development of the first Alaska mining district comparable to the Klondike. In 1899 a stampede of miners who had been working and prospecting in the Klondike or elsewhere in Alaska hit Nome, followed by another wave in 1900 from the Outside. Nome's geography determined the two-season nature of the stampedes. Yukon miners were able to reach the new diggings by overland travel; stampeders from Outside, most of whom were not tempted to risk winter travel via Lynn Canal and the Yukon River, had to wait for the opening of the four-month navigational season of the Bering Sea. Thus, the 1899 rush drew hopeful prospectors from Rampart, Dawson, Fortymile, Circle, and other northern points, some 3,000 in all, while the 1900 seaborne stampede brought thousands more from the outside and within Alaska.

No other northern gold rush community except for Dawson drew so many people so fast. Unlike Dawson, where the Mounties were on hand to keep order, Nome's early days were characterized by a high crime incidence. The mining claim situation was also chaotic because of the uncertainty of the law, the prevalence of power-of attorney filings, claim jumpings, and the subversion of the federal judiciary by Alexander McKenzie and others.

Another unique aspect of Nome's development was in the discovery of rich beach sands in 1899. While modest amounts of gold had been found at Yakutat and Lituya Bay, the quantities in the Nome sands occupied hundreds of men who were able to take $2 million in beach gold over a single season. The mining process could not have been simpler. A miner only needed to set up a crude rocker and go to work. Neither were legal niceties like staking and recording necessary. One held his "claim" as long as he stood and worked it. After the 1899 season the beach sands were worked out, but more conventional placer discoveries at various points on the peninsula continued to be made.

The success of Nome as a permanent community was very significant for Alaska's future. Mining provided a stable, long-term economic base for the huge region of northwest Alaska, where otherwise a non-native community might never have developed. Once Nome shook off its bad start and corrupt officials, social development followed the pattern set in other mining communities. Progress in mining technology also followed the established pattern as primitive thawing and digging methods eventually gave way to hydraulic and dredging operations. Even today, however, interest remains in the promise of beach sands and the newest offshore mining technology has been employed with successful results near Nome.


Trader E.T. Barnette, born in Ohio in 1863, had migrated to Montana in the 1880s, thence further west to Oregon where in 1886 he was convicted of theft by bailee and served time in prison. In '97 he stampeded to the Yukon, experienced some fleeting success as a profiteering merchant during Circle's post-Klondike prosperity, and earned the disdain of miners. Before setting up in Circle he managed the North American Transportation and Trading Company mines at Dawson under John J. Healy's supervision. Barnette remained in touch with Healy and acted on the older man's advice when he sought a new trading station. Go to Tanacross, urged Healy. Tanacross or Tanana Crossing was the point on the Tanana River where the Valdez Eagle Trail reached the river. In 1900 there was not much doing in the area, but Healy was planning a railroad and a Tanacross station would be important. The railroad would end the remoteness of the Tanana region and spur gold prospecting and probable revelation of rich fields.

Barnette followed Healy's advice, announcing to Dawson newsmen his plan to found another Chicago serving 50,000 square miles of the Tanana Valley with fine agricultural and mineral prospects. In San Francisco he found a backer, bought $20,000 in trade goods, and in 1901 pushed up the Yukon and Tanana. The steamer Lavelle Young would not reach Tanana because of low water so Barnette turned up the Chena, a small tributary. [9]

It was Barnette's good fortune that Felix Pedro and Tom Gilmore showed up to patronize his store in 1901. Pedro, a veteran prospector who had outfitted in Circle for his trek into the Tanana Country, gladdened Barnette's heart by revealing his discovery of promising gold signs. Chena boomed as the news was spread of Pedro's discovery. Several other towns rose in the region, including Fairbanks, where Barnette induced Judge James Wickersham to establish the district court in 1903, thus insuring the dominance of the town.

Felix Pedro, it should be noted, was no tyro in northern prospecting. He had worked at Caribou, British Columbia, in 1893, at Fortymile, and the Klondike before prospecting on the Tanana. The Tanana prospered after stampedes in 1902 and 1904. By 1904 Fairbanks boasted 387 log houses and 1,000 residents with another 1,000 living along various creeks in the region.

The Tanana Valley mineral development was the most significant one in Alaska's early history. The Tanana gold yield was sustained for decades and the location insured permanent communities in the vast heartland drained by the Yukon River. Tanana's wealth also supported the long-term existence of a trail-road network commencing from the coast at Valdez. Originally, the government trail from Valdez was run to Eagle on the Yukon, but the Fairbanks stampede resulted in a diversion to the Tanana. Over the 376-mile route, winter and summer trails were maintained and served by the stage coaches of the Ed S. Orr Stage Company. Passengers paid $150 to ride to Fairbanks, and a modest amount of freight was carried at 50 to 75 cents per pound. Depending upon the season, horse or dog relay teams were placed at roadhouses along the way so the journey could be made in nine days.

Yukon River transport remained important in serving Fairbanks. Passengers could reach the new town is season from St. Michael or the upper Yukon and the boats could handle large freight that was beyond the capacity of stage coaches. [10]

Fairbanks was Alaska's most important gold district and ranked with the Klondike (Fairbanks = 8.15 million ounces; Klondike = 9.96 million ounces). Gold development there was instrumental in the location of the original University of Alaska campus, the operation of the Alaska railroad, and additional prospecting and discoveries in other areas of the territory. Concerning relative richness of placers, Nome indeed had rich ground on the beaches and on Anvil Mountain, but nothing there was as rich as the paystreak on Cleary Creek north of Fairbanks. To illustrate this, during the first five years of drift mining on that creek alone, more than 1 million ounces of gold were recovered—all by hand methods. This is more than all the gold mined historically in the Circle area.

In 1906 Fairbanks District gold production of 435,000 ounces was 41 percent of all the gold mined in Alaska. By 1909, the district's production of 466,000 ounces was 47 percent of all the gold mined in Alaska. These trends continued. During the late 1940, '50s, and early 1960s, Fairbanks production was generally accounting for 50 to 60 percent of all gold mined in Alaska—mainly from FE dredges.


In 1909-1910, there was a considerable stampede to a region that had not received much attention from prospectors. Iditarod, located on a tributary of the Innoko River which flows into the Yukon from the south, became a thriving boom town. Getting to Iditarod was not easy. During the navigation season stampeders traveled from Valdez to Fairbanks over the trail, then by steamboat down the Tanana to the Yukon, thence via the Innoko River to Iditarod. The other route, used chiefly in winter, was over a trail that is perhaps more famous today than it was in 1910. The Iditarod Trail, scene of an annual dog sled race that is much publicized today, extends from Seward to Iditarod and on to Nome. The Seward-Iditarod stretch is 489 miles.

Flat, another community nine miles from Iditarod, was much closer to the mining district. A narrow-gauge tramway connected the two communities, powered by mules pulling wagons along the wooden rails. For a time the Iditarod area commanded lively interest, but it did not take long to work out its shallow placers and the town's swift demise followed. From a peak population of 2,500 in 1910, Iditarod's population dropped to 500 in 1914, with another 300 in nearby Flat. In 1917 many of Iditarod's buildings were moved to Flat. Mining continued for a few more years, but in the 1920s both Flat and Iditarod became ghost towns.

The Iditarod stampede has been described by historian Robert Spude as "the epitome of a steamboat stampede." There were other such stampedes in the north, but Iditarod's was the grandest. It was not just the steamboat race to the diggings after winter's inactivity that characterized the steamboat stampede. Active promotion of the new camp by transportation companies was another aspect, as was the company promoters' plotting of new towns to serve as entry points for the mines. The timing of the Iditarod discovery—Christmas Day, 1908—gave companies opportunities for planning. Since the news did not reach downriver until summer, there was time for only a small rush, mostly from Fairbanks, in 1909. With a larger rush anticipated for spring 1910, promoters had time to stimulate excitement, gather boats, and sell space for passengers and freight. [11]


Prospectors rushed to Ruby in 1911 and 1912. Gold had been discovered on Long Creek not far from its mouth on the Yukon. Ruby, the only sizeable gold camp ever developed on the lower Yukon, peaked with a population of 1,000. Like Iditarod, Ruby supported two newspapers for a time, along with the usual commercial ventures. Also, as with Iditarod, the gold placers were not comparable in yield to those supporting Fairbanks and Nome. By 1918 Ruby was fading fast and soon went the way of other short-lived mining towns. [12]

Iditarod Trail

The Seward-Nome Trail, famed today as the Iditarod Trail because of annual dog-sled races from Anchorage to Nome, was never a major long-distance route. It consisted of a number of winter trails that had developed in the early prospecting days that were linked in 1910. When the upper Innoko strike attracted miners from Cook Inlet and elsewhere in 1906, a trail to tidewater appeared beneficial. In February 1908 the Alaska Road Commission began a survey of a new trail from Seward to Nome. After a Christmas strike on Otter Creek by prospectors W.A. Dikeman and John Beaton, the boom town of Iditarod developed. Over the winter of 1910 the Alaska Road Commission marked and cleared 1,000 miles of trail from Kern Creek, on the Alaska Northern railroad 71 miles north of Seward, to Nome. Some portions of the trail were new and some had been used by prospectors or natives earlier. The Seward-Knik section became a mail and supply route until the railroad was extended, and the Knik-Kaltag section was much used from 1910-20. Other portions of the wide winter trail network were used as needed, then abandoned when conditions changed. [13]

Prince William Sound

Mining on Prince William Sound was highlighted by the development of major copper deposits on Hinchinbrook and Latouche islands. Copper was discovered in 1897 on Landlocked Bay and on Virgin Bay on Hinchinbrook Island. The Virgin Bay deposit, known as the Ellamar Mine, was the second-greatest producer of the region to the Bonanza mine on Latouche Island—which was also discovered in 1897. The first copper ore was shipped to the Tacoma smelter in 1899-1900 with regular shipments starting in 1904. Copper productions reached $5,000,000 from the shores of Prince William Sound by 1910.

With the proximity of the Prince William Sound mines to ocean transport ore could be shipped to the smelter at far less cost than that mined in the interior. Mining continued until 1930 when the last mine on the sound closed. Fifteen companies had shipped 214,000,000 pounds of copper over the operational years with the Beatson-Kennecott Company at Latouche and the Ellamar Mining Company accounting for 96 percent of the total. The Ellamar Mine closed in 1919 and production of the low-grade ores (five percent copper) dwindled for some years as copper prices were low. By the time Beatson-Kennecott shut down its Latouche operation in 1930, the price was down to 13 cents a pound. [14]


Mike Hess reported gold in the Tolovana or Livengood area in 1892, but development was deferred until 1914. The Livengood discovery, often described as the last strike of the heroic era of mining (1880-1914), was made by Jay Livengood and N.R. Hudson on Livengood Creek. A modest stampede followed and successful claimants began work, relying primarily on drift techniques as bedrock deposits were up to 100 feet below the surface. Mines also developed on other creeks, including Olive, Ruth, Amy, Gertrude, and Wilbur.

With the development of the bulldozer in the 1930s mechanized mining with dozer and dragline replaced drift mining. Transportation costs were high as freight was brought up the Tanana River to the Tolovana until the Fox-Livengood portion of the Steese Highway was opened in 1936.

Dredging began in 1941 after efforts began in 1930 by Clifford Smith in consolidating claims led to the formation of Uvengood Placers, a subsidiary of the Callahan Mining Company. Prosperity did not follow the post-war startup of operations. To recover its loan to Livengood Placers, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation sold the dredge to another company in 1955. The dredge was moved to Hog River. Some work was done in the 1960s and 70s with dozer and dragline. Management of the company mining has changed several times in recent years. [15]


As early as 1881 prospectors were drawn to the Kuskokwim River by reports that Russian traders had found gold and cinnabar deposits earlier in the century. George C. King, who prospected near Kolmalkof in 1881, discovered only a small deposit of cinnabar which was later mined by Reinholt Speare, an Alaska Commercial Company agent. Speare's shipment of ore to a California smelter, assayed at $11 of mercury per ton—too little to warrant further efforts. Some prospecting was done in the 1880s and '90s by George Langtry, Frank Densmore and others, but nothing was found to compare with Fortymile, Circle, and Cook Inlet, which were exciting enough to draw stampeders in the pre-Klondike era.

With the overflow of stampeders to the Klondike, the Kuskokwim received more attention. A rush from Nome in 1900, based on rumors concerning the legendary Yellow River, laid the legend to rest but did result in wide-ranging prospecting efforts. Duncan McDonnell rediscovered the cinnabar deposit near Kolmakof and received high value assay reports from 1901-04, but development did not follow. Other cinnabar discoveries in 1905-06 near the mouth of the Holitna River also appeared favorable, but only modest quantities were mined in 1906. It took the high mercury prices offered during World War II to finally trigger large-scale mining.

There was a stampede to the headwaters of the Innoko River in 1907 following discoveries on Gaines Creek. Some 1,000 men hurried in from Nome and Fairbanks to stake along Ophir, Spruce, and other Innoko tributaries. A year later, Ophir Creek discoveries caused another stampede, one that caused the establishment of stores and transportation services along the Kuskokwim, Takotna, and Innoko rivers. With such services, prospectors had advantages in outfitting and transport that had never existed before and were able to prospect the region intensively.

Overall, all the gold production from the Kuskokwim did not place the region among Alaska's leaders. The McKinley district in the foothills of Mount McKinley near the North Fork, on the Arolik River in Kuskokwim Bay, ranked 14th by 1930 with $2,702,400, followed by Tuluksak-Aniak (number 27 with $680,000) and Goodnews Bay (number 35 with $243,200). The total yield of some $3,650,000 by 1930, compared to $80,000,000 for Fairbanks and $68,000,000 for Nome, indicates the Kuskokwim's position. By 1960 the total gold production was 650,000 ounces, only 3.2 percent of all placer gold produced in Alaska. Despite the Kuskokwim's relative low ranking among Alaska's gold regions, the industry had great local significance, providing a useful economic base.

In the mining of mercury and platinum, the Kuskokwim holds a more commanding place. By the 1930s some 3,000 ounces of platinum were taken from Goodnews Bay region and with later dragline and dredge operations on the Salmon River, production reached a half million ounces by 1960.

Mercury mining boomed during World War II. By 1943 production totalled 783 flasks, most of it from the Red Devil mine near Sleetmute. High production continued through the 1960s, with a total production of 34,602 flasks by 1965, but most mines shut down in the early 1970s. During the 1950s and early 1960s the Red Devil mine supplied about 20 percent of U.S. mercury requirements. Total production of mercury in Alaska through 1986 has been 40,950 flasks (76 pounds). [16]


A review of mining history in regions outside of the parks make it obvious that the mining frontier was a single entity. At different times, particular areas commanded attention. Some were regions of prolific and sustained gold production like the Seward Peninsula and the Tanana Valley. Others, including places not noted here like Marshall and Willow Creek, were far less significant. But all districts, large or small, contributed to sustain an economy that depended largely upon mining for many decades.

Notes: Chapter 7

1. David & Brenda Stone, Hard Rock Gold (Juneau: Juneau Centennial Committee, 1980), 7.

2. Cited in Ward L. & Thelma S. Miner, "Gold Prospecting on Cook Inlet in 1896," (Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 3, July, 1973), 99.

3. Ibid., 100.

4. Fred H. Moffit, Mineral Resources of Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, USGS Bulletin No. 277, (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1906), 9.

5. Ibid.

6. Rolfe Buzzell. "Settlement Patterns," in Charles E. Holmes, "Supplementary Report: Sterling Highway Archeology, 1985-1986," (Fairbanks: Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, 1986), ii, 8, 10.

7. San Francisco Chronicle, October 22 and 24, 1897.

8. Patricia Roppel, "Porcupine," (Alaska Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter, 1975, 2-10), passim; Tom Budtzen to author, July 20, 1989.

9. Terrence Cole, E. T. Barnette (Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publ. Co., 1981), 18. Barnette became a rich man without the benefit of Healy's railroad, although the crash of his bank in 1911 led to a criminal prosecution ending with acquittal on all but one minor charge.

10. William R. Hunt, North of 53° (New York: MacMillan Publ. Co., 1974), 129-75.

11. Robert L. Spude, "Steamboat Stampedes in Alaska & the Yukon," symposium paper, University of Victoria, 1987, passim; Hunt, North of 53°, 228-31.

12. Steve Sherman, "Ruby's Gold Rush Newspapers" (Alaska Journal, Autumn, 1971), 16-24.

13. Steven Peterson, "The Iditarod Trail," in Mining in Alaska's Past, (Anchorage: Alaska State Parks, 1980), 178-89.

14. John Kinney, "Copper and the Settlement of South Central Alaska," (Journal of West. Vol. X, No. 2, April 1971), 309.

15. Ernest Wolff and Bruce Thomas, The Effects of Placer Mining on the Environment in Central Alaska (Fairbanks: Mineral Industries Research Lab, 1982), 16-18.

16. C. Michael Brown, "Alaska's Kuskokwim Region," (Anchorage: Bureau of Land Management, 1983), 101-11; Tom Budtzen to author, July 20, 1989.

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Last Updated: 01-Oct-2008