Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting

Detecting the Alaska Fortymile District with the Minelab SDC 2300. Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting.
Detecting the Alaska Fortymile District with the Minelab SDC 2300. Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting.

During July of 2016 I prospected Alaska. First of all this was my first trip to this magnificent state. The trip had many goals, while the main goal was spending time with family and friends and Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting. Due to the great time we had, I am planning on spending every summer in Alaska from now on when I can. The Fortymile District is largely claimed up but there are places to prospect for the adventurous. We traveled and prospected all across the state from Anchorage to Eagle. If you’ve not visited Alaska I hope you have the opportunity to because it’s like no other place on earth.

Jack Wade Creek Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting

Jack Wade Gold Public Prospecting area along the Taylor Highway in Alaska.
Jack Wade Gold Public Prospecting area along the Taylor Highway in Alaska. Click to enlarge.

The Jack Wade area is very large with miles of dredge tailings to detect due to the previous large scale placer dredging that occurred here.. You can reach Jack Wade from some noteworthy places like Tok, Chicken, or in the opposite direction from Eagle, or Dawson City. Jack Wade Creek runs along the Taylor Highway a few miles north of Chicken, Alaska. The recreational area of Jack Wade begins about a half mile upstream from the Walker Fork Campground and runs all the way to the private claims near mile-marker 85. As the sign shows you are allowed to use gold pans, picks, pry bars, shovels, metal detectors, manually fed rocker boxes, and sluice boxes while motorized equipment is not allowed. Furthermore, you cannot use motorized equipment or disturb the Taylor Highway. The 7 ounce nugget in my hand here is from Jack Wade.

7 ounce gold nugget found at Jack Wade flat.
7 ounce gold nugget found at Jack Wade flat.

Wildlife

We saw several other prospectors in the Jack Wade area and heard one story about a grizzly that was attracted to the smell of food and decided to enter into the guy’s camp and join him for lunch. When this happened he ended up on top of his truck camper while the bear ended up with a meal. As a result of his bear encounter, his camper had bear claw marks on it. Apparently, the grizzly was just curious about him not trying to attack but the marks were left none the less. The claw marks in this sense (in his opinion) were kind of cool and certainly make for a great story. Seems like a good ending to a potentially dangerous encounter. The lesson, therefore, is to be careful of food in Grizzly country. To repeat, hide your food dood! We encountered a lot of wildlife in Alaska most notably, a reindeer that would not get out of the way of our Jeep.

Permafrost Challenges in Alaska

Gold Detecting permafrost bank in Alaska with the SDC 2300.
Gold Detecting permafrost bank in Alaska with the SDC 2300.

One thing that I had never experienced before is prospecting in permafrost. Permafrost is a thick sub-surface soil layer that remains frozen in every season. It’s is the opposite of softer soils in the lower 48. While permafrost in very similar to digging in hard rock, it does melt. My good friend and partner of 20 years Laszlo, arrived a few weeks before me and my success depended largely on learning from him. One of the lessons he taught me is that you have to stop digging when you hit frozen ground and let it thaw out before you can dig more. That time period might be a few hours or rather even a day. In as much as I’d like to have a 5 inch dredge, we only had hand tools and detectors. The other lesson was that often the banks of the steeper creeks could (and often would) cave in on your diggings. Subsequently, that means double the effort with digging to work a pay streak.

Sluicing

Five Pound Gold Nugget form the Alaska Fortymile District. It's not mine but my daughter had fun holding it.
Five Pound Gold Nugget form the Alaska Fortymile District. It’s not mine but my daughter had fun holding it.

Our sluice operation was simple for the most part. Dig in as much material as you could, classify the material and recover the gold with a sluice despite the muddy banks. Seeing that I had the muscle, I was the digger, Amy the classifier, and Amanda the sluice tender. While I was detecting the hills and forest, Amanda and Amy panned and sluiced on their own. Additionally, I also used the detector to locate small nuggets in the frozen creek wall. I brought my Minelab SDC 2300 as it’s waterproof and compact. Other prospectors we met were dredging, high banking or panning. There was really no average take. I saw people recovering anywhere from less than a gram a day to over an ounce per day. Part of this goes back to a simple equation, process as much material as you can and also sample to find a good location and then work it hard. A little luck and especially some Alaskan experience can also be helpful.

Chicken Alaska Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting

Chicken, Alaska is a great little town with 7 full time residents. Opposite population from most of the lower 48. We stayed there for a while in one of the cabins and this not only gave us access to Chicken, but also to Jack Wade and the rest of the Fortymile District. The folks who run the Chicken Gold Camp, Lou & Mike Busby, are very nice and the camp is well maintained. Because they were so great as hosts, I highly recommend it to you. You can rent a cabin or a lot to park your truck or RV. On the positive side, reasonable prices. In fact it’s all positive. The town is very small. One point often overlooked when traveling in the Yukon or this close to the arctic circle is that during the summer the sun never really goes down. Given these points you might feel like prospecting into the late hours or not be able to sleep. Below you’ll find some more photos of Alaska. I’ll add more as time goes by.

Prepare for Alaska and Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting

Keep in mind this is Alaska and the further out you go the more prepared you need to be. Equally important, cell phones and internet do not work anywhere we traveled in the Fortymile District. I’m used to that in the lower 48 as I venture many places to prospect deep off grid however, Alaska is immense. I needed to do some research prior to the trip to understand my options. I recommend that you do the same.

If you wish to see the photos below full size just click them. Enjoy your visit to Alaska and the adventure of Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting.

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