It is difficult to overlook the past and present role that gold had on Alaska. There are evidences of it in everything from the painted goldpans and gold nugget jewelry in gift shops all over the state, to the gold exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, to hotels such as Gold Miner’s, Golden North, Motherlode, and the Golden Nugget, to events such as Valdez Gold Rush Days and Fairbanks Golden Days.
In 1861 gold was found in nearby British Columbia. It was the 1870's when gold was first discovered in Southeast Alaska. In 1872 gold was discovered near Sitka. In 1876 Windham Bay was the location of the second gold strike.
In 1880 the first large discovery of gold in Alaska came in Juneau when two prospectors led by a Native American discovered some galena and black sulfite, large pieces of quartz and gold in a creek that is now known as Gold Creek. They collected one thousand pounds of ore on their original trip. One of the Prospectors named Richard Harris provided his name to the Harris Mining District. The other prospector named Joseph Juneau provided his name to the city itself.
In the 1890’s, gold strikes near Nome and in the Klondike had enticed prospectors to Alaska. Many of these prospectors rode steamships in Southeast Alaska to Skagway where they started their journey to the Klondike. Another port of entry for prospectors of the Klondike was Valdez, Alaska near the Thompson Pass and Keystone Canyon.
In 1898 the discovery of gold at Anvil Creek to the north attracted numerous potential prospectors, even Wyatt Earp, to the Nome region. Then gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome, and prospectors continue to find gold there today. In the 1990’s there was a major commercial gold dredging operation conducted offshore.
Many communities in Alaska got their start as a result of the gold rush. In 1902 after gold was discovered in a creek north of Fairbanks, the town became a center of mining activity and an important supply post. These days in the Fairbanks region, there are some major gold mining operations continuing. Potential prospectors can try panning for some gold and tour some of these operations.
During the 1895 through 1898 gold rush at Cook Inlet Hope, located on the Kenai Peninsula, there was a thriving community of some 3,000 people. These days the hunt for gold still continues although the population is only 200 people.
A large deposit of gold was discovered approximately 235 miles southwest of Anchorage near Lake Iliamna. This deposit was estimated to have 31.3 million ounces of gold, which makes it the largest gold deposit in North America.