24 July 2005

Today we went for gold. We heard of the great gold strikes in the Fairbanks area and felt that we should also get rich. What we got was about $30 worth of gold dust between us. The area north of Fairbanks had two major gold strikes, one in 1902 and the other in 1903. These strikes were responsible for the growth of Fairbanks from a small trading post to the city it is today. Supplies for the gold miners were brought up the Yukon, Tanana and Chena rivers by steamer and off-loaded near today's downtown Fairbanks.

Unlike the gold seekers of the early 20th Century, we took a bus (rather than a donkey) to the Eldorado Gold Mine about 15 miles north of Fairbanks. The mine and the streams in the area were a source of placer gold. Placer gold is sedimentary gold that settled to the boundary between the bedrock and layers of sediment above it. This is different from the "hard rock" gold mines which work a seam of gold. The Eldorado mine is a permafrost (permanently frozen) tunnel. The miners used steam to thaw out the sediment, send it to the surface and then using sluices (see pictures) to separate gravel and rocks from the gold dust and nuggets. The other method to get this placer gold is to dig into river and steam beds and banks, run it through a sluice to get a concentrate of heavier material and then use a gold pan to separate the nuggets and dust from the lighter materials. Gold being heavier settles to the bottom of the pan and the gravel is washed out.

"Old time" miner in front of his cabin panning from gold.
Small sluice box is used to make the concentrate.
Gravel from the mine or river is slowly dumped into the sluice box where the water sends down through a series of "ripples," ever smaller barriers that provides a concentrate of gold containing material.
Mine shaft head with steam driven winch that brings up the "muck bucket" full of material that will be placed in the sluice box
Pan of concentrate at the beginning of the panning process, left, and the pan with gold dust, right.
This pan had more gold in it then the total found by us.
These two will never get rich doing this
Susie with her gold mining boy friend