Gold prospecting, Alaska, panning, dredging, forum, message board

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They say one photo is worth a thousand words...

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Soooooo.... 
This is a pound of gold,
found in six weeks by me, my (ex-) husband and son, using our 4- and/or 5-inch dredge
on our claim on a small California creek.  To read the story of how we found this gold, just click on the photo.

To find out about Prospecting in Alaska, or to read more stories about my prospecting background, read on.....

 

Gold Prospecting in Alaska!

Perhaps no other state has more resources available for those who are interested in coming here to do some recreational gold prospecting.

However, there are a number of things which are not readily known to non-residents that will be important to anyone coming here for the first time. 

 1998 was the 100th Anniversary of the Alaskan Gold Rush!
I missed most of the celebration, but the cute character on the right (Moosey), was an image used for the 1998 Gold Rush Expo (to give creditMoosey.GIF (13317 bytes) where it is due).

Moosey (right) is a very appropriate icon, as you cannot ignore the fact that moose are very prevalent in interior Alaska.

 

Prospecting for gold  in Alaska is something that many of you recreational prospectors dream about doing someday, and this page is dedicated to helping you do so responsibly, and to increase your enjoyment of such a trip.   Because regulations change frequently, and because they vary so much from state to state, only someone residing in any particular state, who stays abreast of current regulations, can provide the information you will need to have whatever permits are necessary when you arrive in Alaska, so that your limited time will not be delayed by the permit process.   It is a long trip, no matter where you are coming from.  We hope to help you be better prepared to enjoy yourself.  And, if you can't make the trip, we hope to provide you with some interesting information.

DREDGING: In Alaska, permits must be obtained from a  state agency, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for your dredging permit;  if you need anything else, such as a permit to operate a dredge larger than 6 inches, they will help you with special permits needed.  Some of these processes can take as long as three months, so plan to apply and receive permits well in advance of any planned trip. 

Often we only hear depressing things about government studies, so if you want to see a very good, positive outcome, look at this dredging study of the Fortymile River in Alaska!

Here are some government links that will give you a lot of information to help you with prospecting here, and other places:

Alaska Dept. of Public Safety

Alaska State Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining

The Alaska State Legislature Home Page/Email Links, Etc.

BLM Regulatory Actions

Mining Claims and Sites on Federal Lands--Cover

Senator Stevens' Homepage

1872 Mining Law

Hi!

As a fairly new Alaskan, I am not qualified to tell you a lot about prospecting here.  Most of my prospecting has been done in the 'lower 48' states... actually, in several western states.  However, I have a number of friends here in Alaska who prospect, and I can give you some links to  sites where you can get good prospecting and nugget hunting information. 

Another friend, Ron Wendt, was born in Fairbanks, and has prospected a number of areas in interior Alaska for much of his life.  Ron is an excellent writer, and has about a dozen good books on the market that are available in many places.  I believe Ron is probably the most knowledgeable person I have ever met about gold prospecting in Alaska.  From an old mining family here (his family homesteaded in the Fairbanks area in the 1950's) Ron's life work has been gold prospecting, research, and writing about it.  One of these books I consider a "must" for anyone coming here on vacation is "Where to Prospect for Gold in Alaska Without Getting Shot!"  This book has been done much as a rockhounding guide, giving directions from major highways, with mileages, and using highway mileposts.  For recreational gold panning, sluicing, dredging, etc., it is a great resource tool.  I cannot recommend it enough. His other books are also very good, and will be great for a variety of prospectors, depending on what methods you plan to use, and where you plan to use them.  Ron also publishes two magazines now "The Alaska Goldfield" and "Alaska Tales & Trails."  you can reach him at his website now, at this link: Goldstream Publications  to purchase his books or subscribe to his magazines.

The first place you should look for prospecting information for gold is on our Alaska Gold Forum.  This is where prospectors in Alaska exchange information, and other people come to gather it.  It's really interesting, and you can learn more here, perhaps, than any other place, what prospectors are doing here now.  All prospectors are what I call "individualists."  So they don't stick together very well, and you can certainly not put any of them into a mold!  For that reason, the ones who live in Alaska are perhaps more like this than others.  But we have found with this message board that they watch it, and respond when appropriate.  They are all very nice people (as prospectors mostly all are), and you will enjoy the exchange of great information and great photos! 

 Next on the list is Jim Foley's website.  This is my husband's website.  Jim dredges, does some nugget hunting, and has claims not far from Fairbanks.  He's also researching a number of new areas to test during the coming year.  Jim has lived in Alaska for almost 30 years, and in addition to the great prospecting information he has, he is a knowledgeable trapper and hunter, and has a lot of great stories and photos to share... be sure you check on his page often for updates.  Update: 2/28/01 Jim has just put up an update to his pages, including additional pages.  Check them out and let him know what  you think.  Jim's website is at: Jim Foley's Alaska

The second link is to Jesse Atencio's website.  Jesse is a good friend who lives in Fairbanks here.  He metal detects for coins here, nugget hunts prospecting areas which are in and around Fairbanks, and dredges on his own claims.  He's doing pretty well with them. Jesse's site has a lot of good information for metal detecting, nugget hunting, prospecting and dredging in Alaska.  It can be found at: Jesse's Metal Detecting & Gold Web Site

The next website is done by a guy I ran into in the 'alt.mining.recreational' newsgroup several years ago named Dennis Garrett.  There's a lot of good info there, so be sure to check it out!  You can find it at: http://alaskaminers.com

Here's a link to the Gold Prospector's Association of Anchorage chapter website where you can get some good information about prospecting in Alaska. 

Steve Herschbach has a lot of good information about prospecting at the Alaska Mining & Diving Supply website.  Check out their "mining" section link.

This next website is that of Alaskan prospector and artist, Vernon Cross.  Vernon does quite a bit of prospecting and is super with a metal detector.  He has some wonderful Alaskan prospecting paintings, and he has prints of some that are very reasonable in price, check it out!: Alaskan Art Prints 

Check out Rich Lampright's website, The Alaska Recreational Gold Prospecting Site and Iron Fire Publications.  He has some great photos, information, and some books that could provide you with information you need.

Next, if you are looking for the ultimate experience in staying at a genuine Alaskan lodge but want to be close to town, AND want a place to prospect, go to A Taste of Alaska Lodge.  This is an old homestead the family has developed less than 10 miles from Fairbanks, but secluded and very nice.  Proprietor Debbie Eberhardt will take good care of you, and you will have the opportunity to prospect on her husband Dave's patented claims in the Fairbanks area!  Dave IS an Alaskan miner.

My Prospecting Background

Links to articles about prospecting methods, equipment and experiences are contained in the text below.   I will add to these links as I can finish the pages... be patient :)

My family moved to Fontana, California, when I was 8 years old. Here I was raised, I married at age 17, and raised a family of three sons. Fontana is located just 12 miles west of San Bernardino, and approximately 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

My love for prospecting for gold began a long time ago. It actually came from another hobby.

Sometime in the very early 1970's, a friend and neighbor told me of another neighbor who was a 'bottle collector,' and who had a wonderful collection. She was moving, and was looking for someone who might want some bottles that she did not plan to take with her. More about old bottles...

Once we discovered that gold was still to be found, we attempted drywashing on the desert, 'dry-panning' in the Holcomb Valley area of the San Bernardino Mountains, dredging in Cajon pass, panning in Lytle Creek, and several other methods in nearby areas before we decided that we needed to go to California's Mother Lode the next summer. About 500 miles north of us, it was too far to prospect except on vacation. My husband worked for Kaiser Steel during the heyday of the union, and we had a lot of vacation time. He eventually received 6 weeks every year, with a 3-month vacation every 5th year. Since I worked for the school district, I did not work summers. That summer we already had plans to camp and fish at Lake Almanor, which is fed by the north fork of the Feather River. We made a trip into the canyon below the dam, where we heard an old mining settlement had been.  More about this...

A friend (Ned Walker) purchased a 2-inch dredge that next spring, and we all headed (four families) for the middle fork of the Yuba River. We found we were early for the frigid waters of the Yuba, as the men did not own wetsuits, but they dredged a bit anyway, and we carefully and jealously guarded each piece of shiny gold we carefully put into our small vials. Never have so many been so excited over so little! We had gold fever, and this was the way we wanted to find it-- with a dredge. My youngest son, David, was 10 years old that year, and he has now celebrated his 37th birthday.

My love affair with gold is not as simply defined as the possession or even the search for gold. I have always had a deep abiding interest in our heritage. Those who came to look for gold settled the western states. Their stories, and the searching for gold, are the heritage of the west. Later, during the 'Great Depression,' many more than had looked for gold in the original gold rush supported families by returning to the gold fields. I feel that the right to prospect recreationally, and keep in touch with our past should be preserved so that our grandchildren and their grandchildren can also share in it.

I am fascinated by these prospectors, their families, and their lives. I enjoy the research of old mining areas, and once I am there I enjoy poking around for odd bits of things that remain, things that give you a glimpse into those lives of long ago. What kid does not want to explore a ghost town? I suppose it is that same feeling that sparks my interest.

Poking around old mining camps near Barstow, California (in the Mojave Desert) it is easy to see what a hard life these people led. Remains of tiny adobe hovels, one against the other, speak of an uncomfortable life, at best. Small clay marbles remain to show that children inhabited these areas, so entire families lived here in this hot, dry, inhospitable land. Visits to Stanton, Arizona, a town owned by LDMA (where buildings are still in place) offered a more comprehensive look into the past.

The northern Mother Lode areas we worked were well documented, as a local historian had published a complete series of books on Sierra county, and we were able to get one of the last of these which chronicled events and everyday life in the area of our Canyon Creek claim. As we'd sit around the campfire at the end of the day, I would often read from this book, and we were silent as we listened to the crackling fire, gazing into the flames as we tried to picture life as it must have been for those people more than 100 years before.

Prospecting for gold also brought me in touch with many wonderful friends I still value today. Campgrounds near where we prospected were often full of other prospectors, and lifelong friendships were formed. One summer a family we met at an LDMA claim followed us the rest of the summer. Interesting people, they had two teen daughters who sang. As we sat around a campfire singing songs, others would wander over, and soon an entire campground would be congregated around our fire. 

We worked on the middle fork (Yuba River), and then the north fork, graduating from the 2-inch dredge to a 4-inch, and finally, a 5-inch dredge. Later our son bought a 4-inch and we used both, or whichever was more appropriate. We joined GPAA, and then LDMA. I did more research, and we took a 6-week trip through the gold areas of northern California, Oregon, Idaho, and bits of Montana. We then spent several summers on Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Klamath River in northern California. 

We went back to the north fork of the Yuba River after talking George Massey (then president of GPAA and LDMA) into buying claims there. And our youngest son, David, who was still dredging with us (and a friend) began checking out the back country on their trail bikes, looking for a claim we could buy. 

We had attempted to locate a claim we could work on a percentage, and attempted to buy a claim that was nearer to where we lived. All without success, and ending with a really funny story. This one has been unpublished...

Eventually a claim was found on Canyon Creek, the dividing line between Sierra and Yuba Counties. I did not see it that year, it was too late. It would wait for the next year. The story of that next year was published in Gold & Treasure Hunter magazine, so I am not going to recount it now, but will bring that story here for you to read. This was the year that we found our first 'pound' of gold in one summer. It was also a pretty horrendous one for me, woefully unprepared as I was for the conditions getting to the claim and out, and for the conditions there. I am going to add some photos that have not been seen before.

Miles from anywhere or anyone, the summers we spent on Canyon Creek gave us a unique experience that not many families ever have these days. I actually wrote several articles taken from our experiences there, and will provide all of them here for you to read, with the permission of Gold & Treasure Hunter magazine. More about Canyon Creek...

We worked that claim for 3 years. Then, in the winter of 1985-86, Dave McCracken came to Quartzsite, Arizona to introduce his new club (The New 49'ers). He signed up his first member at our home there, but we had commitments to work Canyon Creek that next summer, so we did not visit Happy Camp (CA) until the summer of 1987. We fell in love with it, and only returned to Quartzsite long enough to sell out and move. I was to be a partner to Dave, and General Manager of Pro-Mack Mining Supplies, his new store in Happy Camp, located in northern California on the Klamath River. 

The winters of the four years previous to 1987 were spent living in a mobilehome in Quartzsite, Arizona. We sold gold that we had prospected during the previous summer, and crafts that I made there during the winter. These things supplemented the pension my husband received from Kaiser Steel, who closed down their Fontana plant when he was 48 years old. Because we sold gold we came in contact with people prospecting with metal detectors. A very interesting area, Quartzsite is famous for the gold found there with metal detectors. 

Thus began eleven years of living and working in Happy Camp, a little prospecting on the Klamath River and surrounding areas, and working closely with Dave McCracken, which ended with the end of my marriage in early 1998 and subsequent move to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Update:  I have now been in Fairbanks for almost three years.  I have not had the opportunity to do as much prospecting as I would like, but I have been in contact with prospectors in this area, and in other areas of Alaska.  Prospecting is quite different here than what I was used to, and what I expected before I came here.  Before planning your trip, read The Scoop on Prospecting in Alaska, and then ask all the questions I forgot to answer in that.  This is not a place to come to, unprepared.  It is expensive to travel here, it is a very large and unforgiving place if you are not "a prudent man."  :)  So do  your homework, guys...  

And let me know what I really need to include here that I have not.

Please send me your comments and suggestions, I would appreciate them.  Please report any broken links by email below, and be sure to include the name of the page you are on... it appears just above this window on the tool bar.  Thanks!

   

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updated January 14, 2001