Alaska Gold Rush History and Genealogy





US Geological Paper 610

The Fairbanks district, about 300 square miles between lat 64°40' and 65°20' N. and long 147°00' and 148°10' W., has produced more gold than any other district in Alaska. It is predominantly a placer district, although it also ranks high among the lode districts. · Fairbanks was slow to develop. Placer gold was known in the area as early as 1878 · (Mertie, 1937, p. 4), but the active districts of Fortymile, Rampart, and Circle kept all but the most restless away from the Fairbanks area. In 1901 the town of Fairbanks was founded as a trading post, not as a consequence of gold mining (Prindle and Katz, 1913, p. 86). The following year some workable placers were found along Pedro Creek. This discovery brought a rush of miners and prospectors to the district, most of whom became discouraged and left after learning that the rich, easily accessible placers were few and that the large, lower grade deposits were buried and required processing large volumes of material with special machinery. Large investments were needed to purchase and construct hoisting machinery, large dredges, and machinery for thawing the frozen overburden. But gradually, as the obstacles were overcome, it was found that the buried gravels could be mined profitably, and the district prospered as the dredges chewed through huge reserves of auriferous gravels on Dome, Ester, Vault, Cleary, and Chatanika Creeks. Production continued at a high level even after World War II, but in 1959, activity began to diminish. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (Sept. 15, 1959) that gold dredging was gradually ceasing in this area. Two dredges were closed in 1959 and a third was transferred to the Fortymile district. Interest in lode mining began after the placers were developed. Small-scale operations were under way in 1910 in Skoogy Gulch and upper Cleary and Fairbanks Creeks (Hill, 1933, p. 51). The peak of lode mining was reached just before World War II. The Pedro Dome and Ester Dome areas contain the most productive lode deposits. The total gold production of the Fairbanks district through 1959 was 7,464,167 ounces-7,239,696 ounces from placers, 224,471 ounces from lodes. The Birch Creek Schist, of Precambrian or early Paleozoic age, underlies most of the district (Hill, 1933, p. 41). This includes a variety of rock types, among which quartz schist and quartzite are domi- ALASKA 27 nant. Masses of crystalline limestone are present locally. Small bodies of biotite granite and quartz diorite believed to be of Mesozoic age (Hill, 1933, p. 43) intrude the Birch Creek. In the northeast corner of the district is a small patch of Tertiary sandstone and conglomerate, and in the same general area are a few small isolated areas of Tertiary basalt (Hill, 1933, p. 42-43). The lode deposits of the Fairbanks district are fissure veins in the Birch Creek Schist in the vicinity of bodies of intrusive rock. The trends of both the veins and intrusives seem to be controlled structurally, but the trends are not consistent throughout the district (Hill, 1933, p. 63-64). All the major intrusives trend eastward; the veins in the Pedro Dome area also trend eastward, but the veins in the Ester Dome area trend more northward. The veins consist of quartz with small amounts of the sulfides arsenopyrite, pyrite, sphalerite, jamesonite, and stibnite, and free gold which is associated either with quartz or with the sulfides. Cervantite is widespread as an oxidation product of stibnite, and its yellow-green stain is a guide to high-grade gold ore in this district (Hill, 1933, p. 64-73). The gold placers occur along stream valleys in unconsolidated gravels. The most productive layer is normally a few inches to 8 feet above the bedrock; the bedrock from 1 foot to several feet below the gravel is usually gold bearing. A thick mantle of barren material consisting of sands, clays, and muck covers the deposits (Prindle and Katz, 1913, p. 92-98).

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