The early miners wanted to name this settlement “Ptarmigan” but they couldn’t spell it, so they settled on “Chicken.” Both birds are about the same size…
Location / Coordinates: Chicken, Alaska is located on the Alaska Highway (Alaska 5) 80 miles northeast of Tok and roughly 100 miles west of Dawson City, Yukon in Canada.
Coordinates: Latitude 64.07 & Longitude 141.94.
Population / Elevation: Chicken claims 37 citizens year ‘round with a few more in the summer season. The private airstrip is 1640 feet above sea level. This gravel strip, 2,500 in length, is maintained year ‘round.
Description: “The last of the Old Frontier Alaska” otherwise known as “Chicken” is a popular stop for many visitors every summer. Remote and a bit quirky, this gaggle of businesses, historic buildings and mining machinery, and the post office is a great place to spend a day or two. Chicken is made up of several parts, Commercial Chicken, Historic Chicken, and the Chicken, Alaska Post Office.
What to do there: Commercial Chicken has three businesses: Beautiful Downtown Chicken, the Original Chicken Gold Camp/Chicken Creek Outpost, and Chicken Center/The Goldpanner. It’s quite a little place, Chicken. Take your post cards to the post office (established in 1903) to have them postmarked “Chicken, Alaska.”
Downtown Chicken is a classic piece of Alaska—western-style wooden sidewalks connecting gift shops, the Chicken Creek Café, and the old Chicken Creek Saloon. The saloon is a great place to meet real Alaskans, geologists, gold seekers, and other tourists.
Take a tour through the privately owned Original Chicken Gold Camp / Chicken Creek Outpost and experience gold mining as it was in its heyday. One of the buildings in this complex, the old school house, was home for Anne Purdy. Robert Specht wrote about her in his book, “Tisha,” based on her experience as a schoolteacher here in Chicken. Copies can be purchased at the Chicken Mercantile Emporium.
Try your hand at goldpanning, for free, or buy it already panned and made into jewelry.
Have lunch at the Chicken Creek Café and then fill up your vehicle with gas and don’t forget snacks—it’s a few miles to the next gas station. On the way out of town, stop by the Chicken Dredge. It was used to extract gold from the creek between 1959 and 1965. Mining claims are still staked and worked all over this area.
History: Chicken, Alaska became a thriving mining center at the beginning of the last century (1900s), early prospectors founded a tent city in Chicken. Also living here were lots of plump, poorly flighted, and tasty birds called Ptarmigan. The miners admired this bird so much that they wanted to name their little town after it, but none of them could spell “Ptarmigan.” They could spell “Chicken” and so it was named.
Gold was actually discovered in Chicken on Franklin Creek ten years before the famous Klondike discovery. Chicken is one of the few surviving “goldrush” towns in Alaska and it is on the Alaska Register of Historical Sites.
By the early 1900s, Chicken had grown to a mining population of about 400. Chicken was an important supply point for these men, everything, including the mail, had to be brought in from Eagle on the Yukon River by boat and horses in the summer and by horse-drawn sleds up the frozen Yukon in the winter. The telegraph lines doubles as a trail for travelers who walked the Valdez-Eagle Trail. They stayed and ate at the Road House in Chicken, Alaska.
After World War II, FE Gold Company (Fairbanks Exploration Gold Company) established a remote mining camp in the Chicken area known as the 40-mile Mining District. The company bought up claims on Chicken Creek as well as all the buildings in the community. These buildings were used and the Company actively mined on Chicken Creek during the summer season until 1967.
In 1959 the Pedro Gold Dredge was dismantled in Fairbanks and trucked to Chicken where it was reassembled and began dredging at the mouth of Chicken Creek. The dredge can now be seen where it was stopped for the season and never restarted.
How to get there: Road and air—open only during the summer season. The Taylor Highway winds its way about 60 miles to Chicken from Tetlin Junction on the Alaska Highway, 12 miles east of Tok. Generally, rental cars are not allowed on the Taylor and Top of the World highways (the roads are not paved and can be a little “rough” on cars.) Hitchhiking isn’t recommended. There are commercial busses that routinely drive this area on their way to Eagle, Boundary and Dawson City, Yukon.
If you are a pilot, there is a privately owned airstrip in Chicken.
Facilities: Camping in Chicken is an experience—just put up your tent somewhere level, or sack out under the stars or inside the Café. Gas, gifts, food, snacks, internet and e-mail are all available in Chicken. There is no phone service here, and it’s a good bet your cell phone won’t work either. Mail is delivered–twice a week, weather permitting.
RV info: Chicken Center boasts 7.5 acres of RV parking with a dump station, plug-ins, and water.