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Petersville Recreational Mining Area, Alaska

Steve Herschbach

The Petersville Recreational Mining Area has been set aside by the state of Alaska so people can experience some of the thrill of prospecting for gold. The site generally has smaller gold but some dredgers have done well at finding larger pieces. A nugget weighing just under 1/2 ounce was reported by a suction dredger in 2003. Bedrock around the bridge is a good place for the casual panner to find a little gold by scraping out pockets and crevices. The bedrock has streaks of iron mineral and there are graphite slate hot rocks here that make metal detecting a major challenge.

Petersville Recreational Mining Area
The state legislature designated a corridor of public land along the Peters Creek, near the Petersville Road (southwest of Denali State Park) for recreational mining and other general public recreation in 1997 (AS 41.23.630(b)) to give Alaskans and visitors a place where they can gain first-hand experience in recreational mining, help celebrate the Gold Rush Centennial, and maybe take home a few gold nuggets. To prevent conflict between the public and mining claim owners, the Petersville Recreational Mining Area is closed to staking of new mining claims.

How do I get to the new Petersville Recreational Mining Area?
The Petersville Recreational Mining Area is located along the Peters Creek, within the Seward Meridian in Township 28N, Range 9W Section 1 and Township 28N, Range 8W Sections 6-8.

Access is provided to the Petersville Recreational Mining Area by Petersville Road. Petersville Road leaves the Parks Highway at Trapper Creek, about 115 miles north of Anchorage and 243 miles south of Fairbanks. Many areas along the road have outstanding viewpoints of Mount McKinley. The first 9.4 miles are paved. The next 8.9 miles goes to the site where the Forks Roadhouse once stood (which is the junction of Collinsville Rd. and Petersville Rd.)

The Collinsville Road is only maintained to the Peters Creek bridge and becomes a 4 wheeler trail soon after. Beyond this junction, for the next 14.9 miles the Petersville becomes a primitive road all the way to the Recreational Mining Area. It is recommended that this next section be traveled using a 4-wheel drive vehicle or a vehicle with high clearance.

Petersville Road is closed to thru traffic during the winter months. Additional access is provided to the area by the Willow Creek Trail (RST 512), which ultimately connects with the Youngstown-Home Lake Trail (RST 1608) and leads into the Denali State Park. The bridge at Peters Creek (mile 32) has weight restrictions so oversize vehicles must use the ford to reach the upper end of the Recreational Mining Area. This ford and the second ford in the same area have been approved by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game as a vehicle crossing. 

What facilities are there now?
There are no developed campsites, sanitation facilities, drinking-water supplies, or trash cans at present. Visitors should be prepared for self-sufficient, low-impact camping.

Petersville Recreational Mining Area Map - click image for larger version

How will the Petersville Recreational Mining Area be developed?State law requires the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to prepare a plan for the management, use, and development of the area, including the mining methods that can be used while still protecting important habitat such as for salmon in Peters Creek. The Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Transportation will participate in the management plan, with full public input. In the meantime, the area is open to use.

What kind of mining can I do?
Recreational gold panning, mineral prospecting, or mining using light portable field equipment, such as pick and shovel, pan, earth auger are allowed and do not require permitting. ADF&G does not authorize the use of backpack power drills or augers through their over-the-counter mining permits, therefore this type of equipment cannot be used. The use of mechanized equipment such as a suction dredge or a water pump requires a permit from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Refer to the Fact Sheet for Generally Allowed Uses for information about the types of uses allowed on Alaska public land.

How can I get a Fish and Game permit for suction dredging?
Visit your local ADF&G, Division of Habitat office in Anchorage, Soldotna, Palmer, or Fairbanks. Permit application forms and contact information for ADF&G offices are available online at http://www.habitat.adfg.alaska.gov. Permits are free. Please call the ADF&G Division of Habitat Palmer office at 907-861-3200. Suction Dredging in the Petersville Recreational Mining Area is allowed May 15 through July 15; closing at midnight on July 15 to protect the salmon habitat.

The Department of Environmental Conservation requires a General Permit for suction dredging activities. The
application can be found on their website. The fees vary according to projected suction dredging use.

Note: Suction Dredges will only be authorized by ADF&G and DEC if they are 6” or less and must be 18 hp or less. Power Sluicing (High-banking) will only be authorized if they are 18 hp or less.

Are there any mining claims already in the area?
There are no mining claims within the Petersville Recreational Mining Area, there are claims located outside the boundary. The Department of Natural Resources clearly marked the upstream and downstream ends of the area during the summer of 1997, and is looking for a way to show the side boundaries too.

In the meantime, you can avoid any conflict by doing your prospecting and mining only on the Peters Creek valley floor, not up Cottonwood Creek or on the higher ground where there are likely to be mining claims. Any minerals within the boundaries of these claims are the property of the claim owner. Please respect the mining locators’ rights under the laws of the State of Alaska. Of course, you are free to walk across these mining claims or use them for camping, hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, and other recreation, but you can’t mine on them without the claimant’s permission. 

More information including detailed land status maps can be found at the Alaska DNR Case Abstract.

What else can I do in the area?
The Petersville Recreational Mining Area and surrounding public lands are highly popular for hunting, fishing, hiking, four-wheeling, snowmachining, cross-country skiing, and dog mushing.

What about camping in the area?
From http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/factsht/gen_allow_use.pdf 

Generally allowed: Setting up and using a camp for personal, noncommercial recreational purposes, or for any non-recreational purpose (such as a support camp during mineral exploration), for no more than 14 days at one site, using a tent platform or other temporary structure that can readily be dismantled and removed, or a floathouse that can readily be moved. Moving the entire camp at least two miles starts a new 14-day period. Cabins or other permanent improvements are not allowed, even if they are on skids or another non-permanent foundation. The camp must be removed immediately if the department determines that it interferes with public access or other public uses or interests.

Where can I get detailed maps?
You can purchase topographical maps that show more detail on the area. Ask for USGS Topographical map Talkeetna C2. If you like, you can research status plats showing the location of existing mining claims weekdays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at a DNR Public Information Center (see below). 

For answers to questions not covered in the Fact Sheet please contact a Public Information Center:

Anchorage Public Information Center
Department of Natural Resources
Public Information Center
550 West 7thAve., Suite 1260
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3557
Monday thru Friday / 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
(907) 269-8400 TDD: (907) 269-8411 

Fairbanks Public Information Center
Department of Natural Resources
Public Information Center
3700 Airport Way,
Fairbanks Alaska 99709-4699
Monday thru Friday / 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
(907) 451-2705 TDD (907) 451-2770 

Source: Modified with additions from the Alaska Division of Mining, Land, & Water Fact Sheet May 2014.


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