Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Steve Herschbach

Gold & History of The Iditarod Mining District, Alaska

5 posts in this topic

The March 2014 issue of the ICMJ Prospecting and Mining Journal just arrived in the mail. I have an article in it Gold Of The Iditarod Mining District, Alaska. I enjoyed this one because I have been to the Iditarod area in the past and may visit in the future, so the research I did may have some real world practical use for me.

 

If you have an online subscription you can read the article at http://www.icmj.com/article.php?id=2349

 

Iditarod is the third largest gold producing district in Alaska with over 1.45 million ounces of gold and nearly 200,000 ounces of silver mined through 1990. Much of that production came from three bucket line dredges that operated on Flat and Otter Creeks. There are miles of tailing piles so you would think this might be a great metal detecting location but most of the gold found was small. There were a few large nuggets found on tributary streams but the chances of finding a large gold nugget in the bucket line tailing piles is very small. Which explains way although I spent years only 30 miles away at Moore Creek I never made time to go detect in the Flat/Iditarod area.

 

My father and I did fly over at one point to visit and return a jack we had borrowed. I got a few photos and a couple are used in the article. Here are a couple that were not.

 

This is a view of Flat, Alaska. Iditarod was actually a supply port town on the Iditarod River about eight miles away. Flat was where the miners lived. Otter Creek is in the foreground with one end of the runway visible on the left. Flat is about 300 miles from Anchorage. You have to fly to McGrath then charter a plane to Flat or charter direct from Anchorage or Fairbanks. Needless to say getting there is not a cheap date. And be aware the ground is still active and under claim. Flat Creek is visible as the valley behind Flat and you can see miles of tailing piles in this photo. Chicken Mountain, the source of the gold in Flat Creek, is visible in the upper left corner.

 

post-1-0-15350400-1393788631_thumb.jpg

Aerial View of Flat, Alaska by Steve Herschbach June 2005

 

Here is an enlargement detail of the bucket line dredge parked just below the townsite. This was the Beaton-Donnelly dredge, later operated by the North American Gold Dredging Company. The dredge operated from 1916 - 1963.

 

post-1-0-11203500-1393788805_thumb.jpg

Closeup of Beaton-Donnelly Dredge at Flat, Alaska by Steve Herschbach June 2005

 

One great diagram was left out of the article so here it is. It shows the paths the three dredges took while mining the two valleys. The location of the one shown as parked in 1963 is the dredge in the photo above.

 

post-1-0-42096500-1393787555_thumb.jpg

 

The Riley Investment Company dredge operated from 1914 - 1966 and is parked on upper Otter Creek. Here is an aerial photo of it.

 

post-1-0-30856100-1393788189_thumb.jpg

Closeup of Riley Investment Dredge at Flat, Alaska by Steve Herschbach June 2005

 

Anyway, fascinating place with a ton of history. My partner John and I planned on visiting last summer but health issues forced him to put it off. We are meeting soon to discuss whether to give it another go this summer or fall. The prospects for finding gold are not that great. Old coins are a possibility but the old town of Flat was mined at least twice so even that is questionable. Still, it is a place I have always wanted to spend some time at and this may be the year I need to seize the opportunity and just do it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

  Enjoyed those photos ...thanks. I always wanted to get over there, but never made it past

the Nixon Fork area.

  That dredge sure made some nice wetlands !!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Shure would like to see one of those bucket line dredges in operation!

 

It would be an impressive feat in this day and age to set up a dredge in the middle of nowhere let alone 1912. Amazing what the old timers accomplished.

 

You know the history of mining is more interesting than finding gold. Well almost.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Shure would like to see one of those bucket line dredges in operation!

 

It would be an impressive feat in this day and age to set up a dredge in the middle of nowhere let alone 1912. Amazing what the old timers accomplished.

 

You know the history of mining is more interesting than finding gold. Well almost.

 

 

Well your in luck! I have heard from a little bird that one of the miners on GOLD RUSH on Discovery channel happened to get one and is operating it some where in the America's. I will not ruin it for you just trying to give you all something to look forward too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If they operate the whole season, will they get more than an ounce of gold in total?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By GB_Amateur
      I've seen these books recommended here and elsewhere.  I'd like more info on them, and my web searching has only led to confusion.  My observations:
      1) these books were not widely distributed;
      2) they are out-of-print;
      3) they are not cheap.
      I know several of you are familiar with these works.  Could you explain the differences among the editions?  If I'm going to spend as much or more on these as I do on coils I'd like to avoid duplicate purchases.  Thanks in advance.
    • By Steve Herschbach

      I was really heavy into very late fall and very early spring dredging in the late 90's time frame. This photo is from 1996 and was taken by my friend Rich Lampright. I worked a lot at Crow Creek Mine, which is glacial fed. It runs very high and fast in the summer when the glacier is melting. The best time to dredge is in the winter months when freezing temps bring the water levels down by over 50% and the water starts running crystal clear. It also made for some very cold dredging at times, but properly outfitted with a good drysuit you can stay surprisingly comfortable. Usually.

      Funny how some days I really was cozy and others it was just plain cold. I could operate well down to about 15 degrees. Below that, and the water literally froze in the sluice box while it was running. I resorted to subsurface dredges for the coldest spells as the box being underwater did not freeze up. But even then you see weird stuff. Ice crystals floating in the water build like snow drifts of slush behind rocks on the bottom, and giant balls of slush form on the pump intakes, eventually plugging them. Why suffer this you ask? I was seeing multi-ounce days working by myself. I took a lot of gold out of Crow Creek; even after paying a percentage to the owners it was good. In fact the best dredging I ever did. My best day in there working a 6" by myself was over 8 ounces of gold.

      This was my favorite dredge, my old Keene 6" with twin Honda 6HP pumps. This model was made with a molded marlex powerjet in two pieces - the jet and the flare. The jet and flare assembled was about six feet long but I could just toss it over my shoulder and carry it in one piece it was so light. The dredge had a stout frame with a lever handle leveling system, far superior to the later slide the box back and forth nonsense. The box was a well built single run sluice that I preferred over later double-decker designs. I never should have sold it. I did however, to Brian Berkhahn, and he also got a lot of gold with it. And I know he now also regrets selling it. It was the best Keene dredge I ever owned.

      Mark Keene told me they stopped making the marlex jets due to a high failure rate with the process but they should have either fixed the process or just charged more to make up for the failures. It was an incredible advance in the technology, and amazingly after all the years of use the inside of that jet never showed more than light scuffing. I think it was actually more durable than steel jets.
      This photo is first thing in the morning, breaking away all the ice that has formed around the dredge overnight.
    • By Steve Herschbach

      This one sure brings back nice memories! My old Keene 5" dredge parked on lower Stetson Creek on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska in 1979. The first of many years dredging on this creek and on Cooper Creek, which Stetson feeds into. This was one of my more pleasant summers of dredging. The weather was nice, the water was low, the gold was good. This location was giving up about an ounce a day, better than the average on Stetson Creek. Mainly because of plentiful shallow bedrock. The gold is almost all on bedrock in Stetson Creek with little or nothing in the overburden. The more overburden you process, the less gold you get overall as a rule. This is because Stetson Creek is a classic gulch deposit, a very steep creek with waterfall after waterfall. Mother nature's giant sluice box, and the gold has been well settled and concentrated. The paystreaks were small and very well defined, move over just a foot and it was like crossing a line, you were in the gold and now you are out. There were large stretches of creek with smooth bedrock and so little gold you would think there was none in the creek if you got into one of those sections.
      The gold was nice - lots of jewelry gold buy nothing really big. The two pennyweight nugget in the photo was about as large as I ever found in years of mining, though the records report a three ounce nugget having been found on the creek. Must of been a fluke from what I saw, if it even happened at all.

    • By Steve Herschbach

      I visited Ganes Creek, Alaska many times over the years. This was always to metal detect for gold in my case. However, there were others who wanted to suction dredge while at Ganes Creek. My friend Brian Berkhahn was one of them. Brian just loves dredging. Detecting he is good at but has less patience for. So in 2002 while we were at Ganes on a nugget hunt Brian talked Doug into letting him use a 5" Keene dredge they had at the mine. There was a drainage ditch upstream where several large nuggets had been found in the pile of material dug out of the ditch. I was a bit skeptical as the nuggets in the tailings are few and far between, but Brian wanted to give it a go. As I recall he did not find much here, but he does have the distinction of being one of the few guys who have done some dredging at Ganes Creek. He is on the forum so maybe he will chime in with his recollections on this photo.
    • By Steve Herschbach
      Arizona Locations
      New Mexico Locations
    • By TintedSnow
      Is there a way to search land records/claims by owner's name? I have a friend who is looking for where his grandfather's claim was many years ago. I know it's somewhere on the Kenai Peninsula, but that's about all we know. Thanks!