The two prominent Trails into the Klondike interior were originated thru Skagway and Valdez Alaska, I guess I had been inadvertently studying these trails for many years, as I was very interested in this Gold Rush, the antics of some of the characters involved and of course the many waypoints they established...After some thought I decided the Chilcoot trail was to far away for me to ever spend much time looking, but the Valdez trail basically came thru my own back yard...I poured over books written by these characters and it was quite an interesting education....I'm not going to get into that part too much as it is a lot to talk about so I will confine this into the area that is close to my home in Copper Center.. The trail came up the Valdez Glacier then turned and followed the Klutina Glacier to the beginnings of the river it formed.. At the bottom of the Glacier was Boulder Camp not much left of that area because the Glacier had receded a lot but you could see why it was called that it truly is a boulder patch. The other camps leading to the main stopping point were pretty insignificant but Sawmill camp, the place where boats were constructed to float the Roiling Klutina River to the Copper was really a relic hunters paradise. However, it is a look and don't touch now as it is part of the massive Wrangel Park.. it took a Super Cub with large tires to fly myself and companions there but we explored took photos and really enjoyed looking at the piles of gear those old timers had packed over the Glacier and left Behind.. Whomwver is interested in knowing more can find a copy of Basil Austins "Diary of. 98er" this particular book has hand drawn maps of campsites etc all the way to the Klondike. I found Basil Austins personal copy in Powells bookstore in Portland Oregon in the 70s ..I almost choked when I picked this book up and started looking thru it..lol I couldn't get to the Check stand quickly enough... Very interesting reading, however keep in mind that most of these sites are off limits as they run smack dab thru this massive park system. I just wanted to point out a few important things about history. If you want to find Things of Old, choose something and research, research, research, it carefully...for myself I spent years doing just that and unexpectedly I found a treasure map in an old bookstore.....the one site I will talk about is very close to my home in Copper Center.. Stampeders walked all over my land, some paid the ultimate price and are resting in the cemetery constructed by their mates very close to the Copper River...Lots of relics I have found are in the little museum on the bypass road in Copper Center, it is a very nice place to visit if you are ever there.. I've spent hours scouring that area listening for a golden whisper that so far has eluded me, I did find 5 coins at one of the sites all dated before 98, I'm happy with that as the Quarter, dime, nickel, and Indian heads hold a special place for me.. Hope you enjoyed my true story.....
By Steve Herschbach
Back around 2008 I was involved with the use of the White's TDI in a very big way at my mine at Moore Creek, Alaska. I made various posts at locations around the internet on our success with the TDI but never did get around to collecting it all together in one place. Until now. I just made a belated entry on Steve Mining Journal titled White's TDI at Moore Creek, Alaska - Summer 2008. Lots of gold nugget stories and photos there - check it out.
Also added a page about the TDI itself I am still working on but a ton of information there at White's PulseScan TDI Metal Detector already so went ahead and posted it.
0.31 ounce Gold Specimen found with White's TDI
This is a cool book I stumbled across years ago while doing some research looking for old places to hunt. You cannot believe how many of these places existed all over the State. I managed to find a few that weren't to far from me and there are old coins there and a lot of trash, which led me to make a magnetic rake tool that was very helpful....Books are very important in your research and reading the bibliographies in them will lead you to additional material....
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 however, 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