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Steve Herschbach

Gold & History Of The Iditarod Mining District, Alaska

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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 !!

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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.

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On 3/3/2014 at 10:55 PM, sjmpainter said:

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.

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