Alaska State

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Historic Sites

Independence Mine State Historical Park
GOLD! A magic word that time cannot tarnish; a soft metal with the strength to forge history. Gold was the magnet that drew thousands of adventurers to the last frontier. Though most Alaskans recognize that gold played an important part in Alaska's history, they normally think first of Nome, Fairbanks, or the Iditarod country. But even before a quarter-of-a-million gold seekers began their stampede into those famous areas, gold was discovered just southeast of Anchorage in 1886. From there prospectors spread into the Susitna and Matanuska river basins, testing the creeks in the nearby mountains. They found hard rock (lode) gold scattered in quartz veins throughout the granite in the Talkeetna Mountains. These veins were created by hydrothermal action that filled fractures in the rock. Erosion loosened flakes of gold, and flowing water eventually washed the gold-bearing gravel into a stream. Throughout the history of gold mining, placer mining has preceded lode mining, and this area was no exception. The rough-textured gold found in the bottom of pans and sluice boxes hinted at something more: a nearby source, or mother lode. Robert Lee Hatcher discovered and staked the first lode gold claim in the Willow Creek Valley in September 1906, and others soon followed. But lode mining was expensive for an individual operator; it required elaborate tunnels and heavy equipment, so companies merged to pool resources and reduce expenses. What is now called Independence Mine was once two mines: The Alaska Free Gold (Martin) Mine on Skyscraper Mountain, and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain. In 1938 the two were bought together under one company, the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC). With a block of 83 mining claims, APC became the largest producer in the Willow Creek Mining District. The claims covered more than 1,350 acres and included 27 structures. In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men, blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels, and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560; today $17,208,000. Twenty-two families lived in nearby Boomtown, with eight children attending the Territorial School in the new bunkhouse. By 1942, the United States had entered World War II, and the War Production Board designated gold mining as nonessential to the war effort. Gold mining throughout the United States came to a halt, but Independence Mine continued to operate because of the presence of sheelite. Sheelite occurs in some of the quartz veins along with gold, and was a source of tungsten, a strategic metal. But because Independence Mine's sheelite production was low, the exemption was short-lived. In 1943, Independence Mine was ordered to close. The wartime ban was lifted in 1946, but gold mining was slow to recover. After the war, gold could be sold only to the U.S. government at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce. Postwar inflation raged, and gold mining became an unprofitable venture. Finally, in January of 1951, after mining nearly 6 million dollars' worth of gold, Independence Mine was closed by APC, and a chapter of Alaska's gold mining history came to an end. In 1974, Independence Mine was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, a list of cultural resources significant to American history. In the late 1970's, 271 acres of land were donated to the Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation for establishment of Independence Mine State Historical Park. On January 16, 1980, title to the acreage was transferred to the State of Alaska. For information call: (907)269-8400

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
News of the gold strike in Canada's Yukon Territory spread from Seattle across the country, and from here most prospector's left for the gold fields. Today the park has a visitor center in the Pioneer Square Historic District, the center of Gold Rush activity. The discovery of gold in Canada's Yukon brought thousands of gold hungry stampeders to Skagway and Dyea, Alaska. The White Pass Trail from Skagway, and the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea were the most popular overland routes to the gold fields. Today the park has a visitor center in Skagway, and administers the Chilkoot Trail and White Pass Trail units. For information call: (206)553-7220 or (907)983-2921

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is a remnant of the land bridge that connected Asia with North America more than 13,000 years ago. The land bridge itself is now overlain by the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea. During the glacial epoch this was part of a migration route for people, animals, and plants whenever ocean levels fell enough to expose the land bridge. Archeologists agree that it was across this Bering Land Bridge, also called Beringia, that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas. For information call: (907)443-2522

Sitka National Historical Park
Alaska's oldest federally designated park was established in 1910 to commemorate the Battle of Sitka, which took place in 1804. All that remains of this last major conflict between Europeans and natives of the Northwest Coast is the site of a Kiksadi Fort, located within the confines of this scenic 107 acre park in a temperate rain forest. The park's story continues at the Russian Bishop's House, one of four surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America. This original 1843 log structure conveys the legacy of Russian America through exhibits, refurbished living quarters and the Chapel of the Annunciation. A classic combination of Northwest Coast totem poles and temperate rain forest are combined on the scenic coastal trail within Sitka National Historical Park. For information call: (907)747-6281

Tourist Attractions

Alaska Heritage Library and Museum
Features Alaska Native culture, baskets and artifacts, paintings by Alaska artists such as Sydney Laurence, photos and rare books. For information call: (907)265-2834

Alaskan Botanical Gardens
Easy walking trails lead you to two gardens of Alaskan vegetation, the first phase of a five-phase project planned by volunteers. For information call: (907)265-3165

Alaska Zoo
An easy way to see animals native to Alaska. Inhabitants include trumpeter and tundra swans, moose, wolverine, musk ox, ringtail seals, fox and lynx. Most residents were orphans or injured when they came to the zoo and were raised here so they no longer have the survival skills to return to the wild. The zoo is also home to an African and an Asian elephant. For information call: (907)346-2133

Spirit Walker Expeditions
Kayak with whales in Alaska's Inside Passage! Premium guided trips include everything; suitable for beginners. For information call: (800)KAYAKER