Aniak is located on the south bank of the Kuskokwim River at the
head of Aniak Slough, 59 miles southwest of Russian Mission
in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It lies 92 miles northeast
of Bethel and 317 miles west of Anchorage.
Russian traders discovered gold in a tributary to
the Kuskokwim called "Yellow River" in 1832. Many
that the Yellow River these traders referred to is the Aniak River.
A mercury deposit was discovered by Russian traders near the trading
Kolmakov Redoubt 22 miles east of Aniak in 1838. Placer
gold was found by Russian traders in New York Creek 30 miles east
of Aniak in 1844. The Russians however did not engage in any significant
mining activities and it wasn't until after the purchase
of Alaska in 1867 that the American prospectors began seriously
investigating the potential for prospecting along the Kuskokwim
river. A handful of prospecting parties began venturing
into the area, however they had to travel great distances to an
area where trading posts were few and far between, so the activity
The euphoria caused by the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897-98 would
set the stage for a change however with thousands of prospectors
across the territory poised to make a rush upon rumor of each potential
new strike. One such rush was the Yellow River Stampede of 1900
in which many prospectors left Nome to venture into the Kuskokwim
basin upon rumors that someone had found the Yellow River strike
despite the fact that the location of that strike was unknown.
Finding precious little gold and experiencing substantial hardship,
many of these folks would return to Nome following the difficult
winter of 1901, but some stayed behind to continue their search.
A 1906 gold discovery at the head of the Innoko River which is
a tributary to the Yukon River caused another gold rush in 1907
with many of the prospectors choosing to access the site via the
Kuskokwim River instead and trading posts were established at the
Takotna River which required riverboat service to travel the Kuskokwim
river. With riverboat service now available on the Kukskokwim river,
prospecting activity picked up and some strikes were starting to
occur in the Kuskokwim basin. Strikes were made at Crooked Creek,
George River, New York Creek, and Aniak River among others. Most
were short lived, however, the Kuskokwim River was now seeing an
increase in river traffic that needed servicing.
In 1910, a lone prospector named "Old Man" Keeler
found placer gold in the Aniak River basin. In 1911, three prospectors,
Harry Buhro, E. W. "Kid" Fisher, and Fred Labelle,
had been working the George River area decided to give the Aniak
River basin area a try and discovered gold at Marvel, Fisher and
Dome creeks. These creeks feed into the Aniak River about 50
miles (80 km) south of Aniak. Initially prospectors would reach
this site by poling up the river in boats, however that was a difficult
journey due to the nature of the river. The trip would take 15
to 20 days from the Kuskokwim river. By 1913, a hydraulic plant
had been installed at Marvel Creek and in 1914 construction of
a 70-mile (110 km) cat trail began starting 1-mile (1.6 km) south
of Aniak on the mouth of the Aniak Slough and proceeding to the
diggings at Marvel Creek. The cat trail was last used in the spring
of 2006 by miners still working claims.
This same year, Tom L. Johnson homesteaded the site of the long-abandoned
Yup'ik village in the Aniak area and opened a store and post office
there to service prospectors and miners in the vcinity.