Early Down town Anchorage
I thought all that gold in Alaska & Yukon was panned from creeks by miners, but not so. Much came from miners digging dirt all winter along those creeks into piles and spending the warmer weather panning that dirt they had dug.
I did pan for gold in Bonanza Creek and actually got some VERY SMALL grains of gold. Again in Chicken and got a piece of 'color' the size of a grain of sand.
At Chicken I met a man who searches for gold all summer, then heads for the lower 48 for the winter and sells the gold to cover his expenses. Sherry and I walked alongside a couple creeks. They were posted with owner’s name, claim number on an Official metal tag. Something like 50 or a hundred feet each. We never saw anyone working a claim.
The miner I met had a small generator and a pump mounted on a small trailer that he towed with a 4 wheeler. That was “his mule, pan and pick”. He had what is called a shaker and pumped water from the creek into it. The last part of the shaker was a sheep skin that trapped the minute particles of gold. He said that is where the term ‘Golden Fleece’ originated (the same on the dredge). Anyway he did show me 4 35mm film canisters full of gold grains, he said “This is a few thousand dollars.”
He drove the 4 wheeler up the creeks siphoning water (and sand) from the deepest crevasses, the gold settles in those places naturally.
Now for something I did not know existed. The Dredge. Something like a 3 story house with a mouth and a tail.
Above (in the distance) is an abandoned dredge we passed near Chicken.
This monster was built on site in a creek. The teeth on the long arm and its chain weighed a ton each. It worked like a giant ‘ditch witch’ that digs trenches using a chain. The entire Dredge was held in place by a sharpened pole as big as a power pole. The dredge used that pole to hold it in place as it dug a half circle ahead of the dredge pivoting on the center pole in the creek. The dirt and rocks were washed and vibrated the gold being heavier, then fell thru mesh of the convertor belt. The loose sand and rocks went out the back to dam up the creek.
Eventually a small lake was formed and the dredge floated. Once floated, the anchor pole was raised and the big arm with the chain moved the dredge up the creek the length of the dredge then the pole was set again and the process started over again.The lake actually moved with the dredge.
An ingenious idea. They bought out the claim owners as they went up the creek. Thus all the lines of rock in the Yukon and Alaska. The smart miners bargained for a portion of the gold as it crossed their claim rather than a set price. When the gold ran out the dredges were abandoned.