Gold Prospecting in Alaska
Alaska has been home to many of the gold rushes of the 19th and 20th centuries. People came from all over the world to take a chance at making their fortune in the goldfields of Alaska and still do so today. Some are professional exploration geologists and gold prospectors while others are greenhorns learning the ropes of Alaska gold prospecting. No matter what level of experience you bring to the state you can have a wonderful time exploring for gold. You might be content to spend an afternoon panning for gold along the beaches of Nome, Alaska, or maybe you want to run a gold dredge along the forty mile creek, you might even want to get your supplies and head into the wilds of Alaska to search for the newest gold strike. If you have already been bitten by the gold bug you can utilize these pages to help plan your alaska prospecting trip, so you can spend the most days working in color. Those new to gold prospecting can utilize the information here to get started on their new gold adventure in Alaska. The emphasis of information offered to alaska gold prospectors and adventurers on these pages in predominantly for placer gold and paleoplacer gold prospecting and mining. Hard rock mining and underground exploration for gold in Alaska are beyond the scope of the information and purpose of this site. If you would like to learn more about lode gold in Alaska please refer to the links at the bottom of the page. While gold is a very valuable metal and many fortunes have been made from gold, you not plan on making money or even breaking even on any of your Alaskan Gold adventures. You easily could find the gold nugget of a lifetime but more than likely you will find some gold, have some fun, and earn a greater respect for the prospectors that came before you.
The first consideration when planning a gold prospecting trip to Alaska is your budget. How much time and money are you willing to devote to the venture. If you can only fit an afternoon of gold panning on your trip might want to consider one of the commercial gold panning operations operated throughout the state of Alaska. If you have a week and only want to gold prospect in Alaska during your trip a club or professional prospecting and mining adventure might be the right choice. If you have all summer and really want to have a go of exploring for gold in Alaska then perhaps getting a serious outfit is in order. You will have fun regardless of your time and financial budget. The key is to make the most the resources available to you while you are in Alaska prospecting for gold.
Once you have an idea of you budget next you will want to consider the type of trip you want to take. Do you want to do-it-yourself, go with a gold prospecting club, or a commercial operation? What kind of accommodations do you need? Is roughing it to you, no room service or are you happy in a primitive setting, cooking your own food and sleeping in a tent? What ever your preference you will be able to find the type of trip or adventure you want with just a little planning.
Finally you will want to prepare well in advance for your Alaska gold prospecting trip. If you are planning on doing your own trip and you are new to gold prospecting, you will have the most preparation prior to coming to Alaska. You will have supplies to purchase, equipment to master, and research to do prior to departing to Alaska. The easiest way to get up to speed on gold prospecting is to join a club in your local area prior to your Alaska trip. If you have decided to come on a club trip they will be able to tell you what to expect and what your duties will be in camp. You will also want to research the area prior to arriving at the mining camps. Commercial trips take the least amount of preparation but are the easiest. The outfitter will tell you what you will need, normally just your warm weather clothes and rain gear, all other supplies will be provided. Typically your food will be prepared and you will have a warm dry place to sleep, if you requested a multi day gold prospecting trip.
While planning will always make your prospecting trip to Alaska more enjoyable you can always make arrangements for a gold panning adventure once you arrive to Alaska. You might not find the exact trip you want but with a wide selection of gold prospecting and tour companies you will find something to your liking. Time Saving Tips for Gold Prospecting in Alaska
Type of Operation
Gold Panning: The gold pan is the quintessential tool of the Alaska Gold Prospector. When you see one you know that the person is either a gold prospector or planning on becoming one in the near future. They range in size and composition but the shape and style have stayed the same for the last century and no major design changes are foreseen. The gold pan is actually an exploration tool used by gold prospectors to locate an area with the potential for gold or containing visible gold that can be dredged or sluiced. They are inexpensive, small, and easily transported. They also don’t break easily. Normally this is the entry point for those wanting to try out gold prospecting. In Alaska gold pans are used by people exploring creeks, beaches, and panning out the fines after a day of sluicing. Learn more about gold panning in Alaska
Gold Sluicing: Once gold bearing gravel has been located it is time to move to a more efficient method of extracting the gold ore. The preferred method for small prospecting operations is the hand gold sluice. A sluice box consists of a simple trough lined with raised obstructions placed at a ninety-degree angle to the flow of the stream, these are known as riffles. Most modern sluice boxes are made of sheet aluminum or one of the new composite plastic materials. The heavy material such as gold, iron sand, silver, lead and sometimes even platinum, sink quickly and are caught by the riffles. At the end of the day the sluice box is taken apart and the concentrates are panned down to the gold or other metals. Learn more about the gold sluice box
Gold Dredging: In Alaska, dredging is a common method to productively work deeper zones of creeks and streams. A gold miner will use a wet suit and using a suction hose from the dredge, literally vacuum the stream bed. Attention is given to cracks and depressions, behind large racks, and slow moving zones of the stream — where gold is trapped during highwater. To learn more read Gold Dredging in Alaska
Gold Metal Detectors: One of the most productive tools a recreational gold prospector can possess for hunting gold nuggets in Alaska. They are simple to operate, easy to carry, and can be used in many other adventures, not just your gold prospecting trip to Alaska. These detectors use electromagnetic induction to detect metal and are able to distinguish the type and depth of the target. Unwanted metal types (rusty nails) and be filtered out so you won’t be digging for treasure you don’t need. To learn much more about metal detectors and how the work read Gold Metal Detectors in Alaska
Where to Go
Public Mining Areas in Alaska – A list of recreational mining areas throughout the state of Alaska. With the exception of the beach at Nome, all areas are along or accessible from the road system. These are well known areas and will allow the visitor to find some gold during their trip to Alaska.
Commercial Properties – Many owners of mining properties in Alaska have opened up there mining operations to the public. They charge a small fee for access and the visitor gets to keep the gold they find. Some of these properties have gold to find in the existing stream gravels, banks, and pre-worked zones. While others will provide gold bearing sand and gravel. This is where they will salt gold in the gravel so that it is evenly distributed so that everyone will be able to find some gold to take home. Most of the mainstream two hour gold panning tours operate this way. If you are in a hurry these commercial operations offer a nice taste of Alaska gold mining.
Prospecting Club Claims- Mining clubs have purchased productive gold mining claims, specifically the GPAA, and allow their members access to the mining area. They are located throughout Alaska and give the dedicated Alaska prospector a chance to mine in productive historic area. We have listed a few mining properties owned by clubs here in Alaska, but you should check with your local club prior to coming to Alaska, to see if they have any new gold properties in Alaska.
If you are planning to drive to Alaska I would strongly recommend purchasing your prospecting supplies prior to your departure. You will find many streams that will entice you to stop and pan for awhile as you drive through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon — especially if you travel through Dawson City. The supplies you need can also be purchased in Anchorage or Fairbanks. If your town doesn’t have a gold prospecting store your might want to consider these national companies that specialize in gold prospecting supplies.
In Alaska there are four types of property that mining takes place on — private land, native corporation trust lands, state land, and federal land. Most small scale miners will not be able to secure a lease with a native corporation. This leaves the public lands of the state and federal governments that a prospector can explore upon in Alaska. Staking a claim is not a trivial undertaking, but then neither is exploring for gold. Learn more about staking mining claims in Alaska
Selling Your Gold
Finding a place to sell the gold you recovered in Alaska is not nearly as difficult as bringing it to market. Gold can be sold as either a commodity — to a refiner — or as natural art — being sold to individuals, jewelers, artists, and to other prospectors that haven’t had the kind of luck they would find when prospecting for gold in Alaska. The process of selling gold is a little complicated, but easily learned. In the most simple form it can be described as selling the nuggets to jewelers or individual for about twice the spot price of gold (this varies by nugget, but in the up direction) and selling the fine gold to a refiner. Learn about selling gold from Alaska
Clubs and Organizations
Alaska Department of Natural Resource – State of Alaska resource for mining on public lands. The DNR also has geologic reports on mining districts in Alaska.
GPAA – National gold prospecting club that offers group outings, local chapters, and mining vacations. They also have their own TV show.
USGS – United States Geological Survey. Best source for mining reports, maps, and information on where to explore for gold in Alaska and the rest of the USA..