By Steve Herschbach
I saw this video posted by Chicago Ron about his visit this summer to the AKAU operation in Nome. From YouTube:
“1 week trip to Nome Alaska with 7 other hunters. We tried everything they had. 2 days working the slick plate, groups of 2 for half a day. High banking and panning, and lots of detecting tailing piles that had been pushed with a dozer. Mike got the find of the trip with a 7.93 ounce specimen worth well over 20K. I had the most nuggets with 7 and we all got gold and had a blast! Already planning the return trip End of July 2022”
Nome Alaska Gold Hunt August 2021 Warning Adult Language!
By Reno Chris
I also am back from Alaska, although its from a different part of the state than Steve was in.
I am back from Gold King Creek, about 50 miles south of Fairbanks. It was quite an adventure. They run an operation for tourists as well as running a regular commercial scale operation at the same time. I did metal detecting and shoveled gravel into a highbanker. Shoveling gravel is taxing and with my back still only at about 90% from my car accident, after a couple weeks of shoveling all day my back was in sore shape. I balanced off shoveling by metal detecting. I found 179 pieces of gold while I was there, but the total weight for all my detected gold was only 5.2 grams. The gold from Gold King is small (as is common for many Alaska placers). Now don't get me wrong, I had a ball detecting all of those 179 pieces, and there are a few rare larger bits in the area. One lady found a nugget of about 3.5 grams before we arrived with an SDC 2300 - very unusual. I think the biggest the commercial operator got while I was there was about a gram, and that is from 65 ounces he produced in the two weeks I was there. My biggest was about 0.2 grams, and average for the 179 pieces was about 0.03 grams. That's a testimony to the sensitivity of the GM 1000. I did get some good gold by shoveling into the highbanker also. The gold does not occur on a real bedrock but on a hardpan of deep clay, real bed rock is 180 feet down and likely has no significant gold ( based on where the gold is coming from). Overall, I think it was a big success, I really enjoyed myself, the folks who went in with me had a great time, and I got to meet a lot of new folks, including some of the staff who were avid detector prospectors from Arizona. On trying to depart, I got stuck there for a day by low fog - which prevents planes from flying in. Very normal for an Alaskan prospecting adventure. I've now taken care of the things I need to do for the ICMJ magazine and am getting back on track to take care of all the other things that go with life here in the lower 48. There will be an article in the ICMJ on it with a lot more detail for those who subscribe, and I have a video about working on hardpan or false bedrock on my Youtube channel.
By Steve Herschbach
This gold prospecting and metal detecting story takes us all the way back to the beginning - my beginning that is. I was fortunate enough to be born in the Territory of Alaska in 1957. Alaska was still very much on the frontier back in those days. My father was a farm boy from the midwest who headed for Alaska in the early 50's with not much more than an old pickup truck. He worked as a longshoreman offloading ships in Seward, Alaska for a time. He decided to get some education, and earned his way through college in Fairbanks, Alaska, by driving steampipe for the fleet of gold dredges that were still working there. He spent some time in Seldovia, Alaska, working the "slime line" in a fish cannery. He met my mom in Seldovia, the two got married, and finally settled in Anchorage, Alaska.
I came along in 1957. My father had taken a job as a surveyor but money was tight in the early years. I was raised on wild game and garden grown vegetables, and as soon as I was old enough to handle it, I was walking a trapline every winter with my father. Dad was a hard worker, and Alaska was having one of its many booms at the time - the construction of the oil and gas fields in Lower Cook Inlet. This was the Swanson River oilfield, discovered the year I was born.
The state was prospering, and my father along with it as a surveyor on the new Swanson Field. He got the bug for flying early on, and by the time I became a teenager he finally got his dream plane at the time - a Piper Super Cub, the classic Alaska Bush airplane. Super Cubs equipped with oversize "tundra tires" can land just about anywhere you can find about 300 - 400 feet of open ground. A great little airplane and the one I ended up flying to get my own pilot's license.
Super Cub N1769P parked on knoll in Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska
It was in this same timeframe that dad got me hooked on gold prospecting. In 1972 I saw an ad in a magazine "Find Lost Treasure" and had acquired my first metal detector, a White's Coinmaster 4. This must have got discussions going about gold, and my father did have some knowledge on the subject having worked around the gold mines in Fairbanks. He took me to a little creek south of Anchorage, Bertha Creek, and I found my very first flakes of gold! By the ripe old age of 14 gold fever was in the air, I had my first metal detector, and already wanted a gold dredge. My first dredge, a 3" Keene with no floatation, was on the way to me in 1973.
Keep in mind that the price of gold had only recently been deregulated from the old fixed price of $35 per ounce. In 1972 it was around $60 per ounce, and in 1973 made it to just over $100 per ounce. The money was not my motivation at all. I already just loved finding gold, and the connection to the prospectors of old and the historical quest for gold were more compelling than any dream of striking it rich. I just wanted to find gold!
My first metal detector and first gold dredge (my 3502 had the older aluminum header box & a power jet)
A young man with a new detector, new gold dredge, gold fever, and a father willing to fly him anywhere in Alaska on adventure. How great is that? Now there was only one problem - where to go? There was no internet then, so it boiled down to libraries and research. In short order I discovered the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) bulletin series and the number one Alaska title of the series, Placer Deposits of Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 1374 by Edward H. Cobb. This one book and the references contained in it became my prospecting guide to Alaska. My desired target? Remote locations with large gold nuggets!
I read the book and certain places just jumped out at me. One was the Iditarod area and places like Ganes Creek and Moore Creek - tales told elsewhere. This paragraph of page 114 caught my eye:
"Placer mining in the Chisana district, first of creek gravels and later of bench and old channel deposits of Bonanza and Little Eldorado Creeks, has always been on a small scale with simple equipment. The remoteness of the area, shortages of water on some streams, and the small extent of the deposits all prevented the development of large operations. There has been little activity since World War II; the last reported mining was a two-man nonfloat operation in 1965."
Wow, that alone sounds pretty good. Nothing really about the gold however. The secret to the Placer Deposits series is not so much the books themselves, though they are great for getting ideas, like I did. The key is to use the references listed and in this case the main one is The Chisana-White River District, Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 630 (1916) by Stephen Reid Capps.
It turns out I had stumbled over the location of the last actual gold rush in Alaska in 1913. It was a small rush and did not last long, but it did mark the end of an era. The world was on the brink of war and the age of gold rushes was soon to be history. The history of the area is covered in the report starting on page 89. It is fascinating reading, but it was this note on page 105 that really sealed the deal:
"The gold is bright, coarse, and smoothly worn. The largest nugget found has a value of over $130, and pieces weighing a quarter of an ounce or over make up about 5 per cent of the total gold recovered. The gold is said to assay $16.67 an ounce."
Gold nuggets a quarter ounce or larger make up five percent of the gold? And that $130 nugget at $16.67 an ounce? Somewhere over seven ounces. That's all I needed to know. Very remote, worked by simple means, and large gold - I wanted to go to Chisana in general and Bonanza Creek in particular. Even the creek names scream gold - Bonanza Creek, Big Eldorado Creek, Little Eldorado Creek, Coarse Money Creek, and Gold Run. Now all we had to do was get there. But when I said remote, I meant remote. Chisana is practically in Canada 250 air miles from Anchorage.
To be continued.....
Chisana, Alaska location map
Last weekend I made the drive from Anchorage up to the Taylor Highway and past Chicken to the Jack Wade public gold panning area. Look up Steve’s excellent posts on the area for more descriptions and pictures of nuggets, no gold on my trip.
It’s still pretty early so Chicken wasn’t even open yet and some ice shelfs were still along sections of the creek. Got great weather, just some passing downpours but in a T-shirt with no mosquitos most of the time. I did take waders to cross the creek,as it was running a little high with snowmelt.
This was the first trip I dedicated a lot of time as a serious search for gold and was just as much about learning the detector. Mostly I have worked beaches, campsites, a few roadsides, so I know it can find the tiniest bits of melted aluminum can, bullets and coins.
As expected I dug a lot of trash, but I did find some interesting nuggets that are definitely not gold. Most are iron based, magnetic, but a couple look very noduly, and one is not magnetic. The others are probably just rusted bits of iron. There were some sparkles I thought might be pyrite but I think is just dust from the surrounding shist as even the nails and bits of wire sparkle under the right light. Take a look at the pics and see what you think, maybe just welding or torch cutting remnants. They were all in the same area.
The area has been heavily worked by detectorists with lots of dig holes around. Equally lots of unexplored tailings but many so overgrown that swinging a detector is impossible. I put in about 16 hours of exploring and detecting on the tailings. Covered a wide variety of terrain and tailings, new, old, tall, short, and along some bedrock sections.
On to the Equinox: I tried both Park 2 and the Gold 1 settings. Obviously, my ear is not tuned to the Gold 1 program, it was providing way more chatter than I could process, even with sensitivity turned down to 15 or so. I would have turned it down more but I could run in Park 2 at 20-22 sensitivity and thought I may miss more in Gold 1. I was using the 11” stock coil.
Is it normal to have to run at a much lower sensitivity in the gold modes?
Most of the time I ended up running in Park 2 with -7,-8,-9 turned off, which may have been a mistake. With how worked the area is, the best chance is probably digging all the iron and hoping for a nugget that might be masked by the trash.
In one area I did have some trouble with hot rocks, they would sound as a fairly small but round 12 with iron nearby but after digging out would end up as a -6 hot rock. Was curious why it read so high.
All in all a great trip. No gold, and not much wildlife but got a nice shot of a Short-eared Owl on the drive out the Taylor Hwy. Photos of finds, handful of magnetic nuggets, close up of the non magnetic nugget (maybe lead or silver?)
By Clay Diggins
The Secretary of the Interior is releasing 9.7 million acres of previously closed federally administered Alaskan land to prospecting and claiming.
The land rush begins February 18th.
Read all about it.
Is it cold in Seward in February? 😶
First of all, I just wanted to publicly say thank you to Steve and the rest of the members on this site. Although this is my first post, I have been using the wealth of information gathered from everyone here for a while now.
It's that time of year up here in Alaska where the days are dark and the memory of summer seems like a distant past. To cure my deep seated winter time blues and my sense for adventure, I decided to check out a spot I have been wanting to try for a while now, but let the myriad of summertime activities get in the way. But perhaps the real underlying driving force for this trip was my new highbanker waiting patiently in the garage to process dirt. Whatever the REAL reason, I looked at the forecast and saw a balmy 26 degrees forecasted and knew it was time to shine.
So I drove North of Anchorage with my back country cross country skis (say that ten times fast) in tow, looking forward to a day out in the back country. I have found that if my main objective is to get out and enjoy the outdoors with a side chance of pay dirt, I am rarely if ever disappointed. And this day was no different. I arrived and strapped on the skis and my touring sled and set off into the snow.
I quickly found out that hauling equipment by skis should be an Olympic event. The powder was easily three feet deep and probably pushing on four, making me earn every "stride". In reality, the snow was so deep and the sled so heavy that my skis weren't gliding at all, but being used more like elongated snowshoes, trudging through the snow. But the temperature was warm and snacks aplenty, so I trotted along the creek ahead encountering open water in places and crossing precarious snow bridges at times in order to make my way along. Just around the moment where I realized that I may be in for more of a workout than I intended, I had arrived.
Located a few miles downstream was a section of the creek forced into a ninety degree bend by an outcrop of ancient gold bearing glacial till. During the summer months this "creek" (creek only in name) produces too swift of a current to properly explore this bend. But thanks to mother nature, winter freeze up reduces this section to a little more than a shin deep trickle.
(The section of glacial till forcing the creek into a perfect ninety degree bend. The creek erodes alongside this till and prevents any debris from accumulating at the base.)
(The creek encountering the glacial till and being turned at a sharp ninety degree angle, causing a major drop in water velocity.)
As I considered this to be more of an exploratory trip on skis I had left my waders at home, preventing me from properly getting out in the channel. What I settled for instead was balancing myself on the edge of the ice as close as possible (not recommended) and shoveling a few scoops of dirt from the pool formed at the base of the till and into my bucket from the area that I could reach. Realizing that I had all that skiing back left to do, with darkness quickly advancing, I hurriedly filled half a bucket from mostly surface gravels and raced the darkness back to my car.
Now for the fun! With dirt in hand and back home in the comforts of a heated garage, I was ready to test out my new 6 inch highbanker. Now let me preface this with some information. This highbanker is not meant to be loaded into a vehicle and dropped off at your spot of choosing. This highbanker is made to tear down and fit inside your pack and hiked into your spot of choosing. Weighing in at only six pounds, this highbanker fits a niche group for those wanting to pack out their operation on foot. And let me tell you what, I am extremely excited to do just that this summer with this bad boy. Made by Gold Rat Engineering out of Australia, this highbanker tears down to nuts and bolts and runs off of a 2,000 GPH electric bilge pump. Coupled with a lithium ion battery (less weight), you can have this set up packed out in the backcountry at 10lbs.
While I realize that using an ultra lightweight 6 inch backpack highbanker out of your garage is like using a Ferarri to drive to the corner store, that's exactly what occurred. Running the half bucket that I brought back, the highbanker took it in stride and I soon found myself wishing that I had brought more back (the soreness in my quads reminded me otherwise). I panned out the concentrates from the lower mat (which can be detached and not brought into the field, making it even smaller and lighter) and found it LOADED with black sand. But not a single speck of gold.
(The highbanker uses a matting called the Dream Mat)
Feeling a little disheartened I ran the top mat, not expecting much after the lower mat didn't produce. Again, LOADED with black sand. And as I panned it back, gold!
Now I realize it's not much (it was only half a bucket and ten minutes of digging in all fairness) but what I was really impressed with was the capture rate of the highbanker and the fines of the gold it was able to capture. Some of this stuff was the definition of fly poop. And for it to capture all of that in the top mat without any getting to the lower, I'll take it. So overall, I am extremely happy with this new highbanker and look forward to using it this summer out in the backcountry of Alaska. I am happy with the quick results of the spot I tested out. With a little more effort I believe it will produce some decent results. Once it hits 33 degrees I am taking the highbanker out there to really run some dirt. (Although a suction dredge would be the best tool for this location). But the biggest takeaway was being able to shake the wintertime blues, enjoy the outdoors, and remind myself that springtime prospecting isn't as far off as it sometime feels.
Once again I want to thank this community for the knowledge and expertise you all have shared and hope that my short trip report reminds everyone that better panning days are ahead (looking at you 2021).
Happy New Years,