Logo bar of the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers which are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok and Ketchikan
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Gold Panning
A grizzled prospector, boasting a wiry if not mighty beard and a mustache most impressive, pans for gold in a river while scowling.  One can only assume that this scowl is a direct result of hard days working with little to no results.  Hopefully, this man found his gold.
Many traveled up north for their chance to strike it big.
The History of Gold Panning
During the Klondike Gold Rush, brave, (or crazy) people from across the world trekked to Alaska in the hopes of striking it rich. The melting-pot culture produced a wealth of tales about rivers of gold and hardened prospectors. Many of those stampeders stayed to form communities and towns that exist today.

Try Gold Panning!

Visitors still travel to Alaska set on finding gold, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to win their slice of the riches.

If you are planning to visit Alaska and try your hand at gold panning, download our Gold Panning packet and if you have any questions contact an Alaska Public Lands Information Center.

When you do come up to find gold, remember to do your research. Alaska is a big, big place, with lots of land to explore--too much for one visit!

Classic Video: Frozen Gold [1949 footage]

Note: This Embedded video resides on the official Alaska National Parks YouTube channel

Check out the Quicktime version of this classic film Frozen Gold and see what gold mining was like in Fairbanks in 1949.

Frozen Gold Transcript:
>>In 1949, Fairbanks was the center of gold mining in the state.

>>It was gold that made Fairbanks grow into a town, and it was gold that would make a city out of it.

>>From1925, this company was gold mining in Fairbanks in a big way.

>>Placer mining uses water poured over gold-bearing gravel to separate gravel and sand from the gold.

>>For this large an operation it took a great deal of water.

>>The company used a complex of ditches to bring it in.

>>Hydraulic hoses forced warm water into the frozen muck, or overburden layer, above the gold-bearing gravel.

>>Sometimes the layer was 200 feet deep. It took two hours just to clear two inches.

>>Forty-eight hoses were needed to clear an area for one dredge.

>>The hoses also exposed ice-age fossils which were given to the museum.

>>The next layer to remove was the gravel that didn’t contain gold.

>>The drag line, the largest in Alaska at the time, scraped up 40,000 pounds to a load.

>>The base slid on pontoons so it could move continuously.

>>Excess gravel became the bed for the highway to Anchorage.

>>Finally, the gold-bearing gravel had to be thawed before the dredge could go to work.

>>Men hammered points into the ground either by hand or by machine.

>>The points were hollow to jet warm water into the frozen gravel.

>>While the machine was no faster than the men, it took  much less effort.

>>The interior’s frozen ground made mining exceptional.

>>It too seven years from survey to gold bar, mostly in preparation for the dredges.

>>Buckets of gravel went into the dredges and water and tailings went out.

>>The dredging continued around the clock all the way down to bedrock.

>>The machine could pivot on its shaft to maneuver  to more rock.

>>Nine months a year dredging never stopped.

>>Crews housed on the site worked in three shifts.

>>The winter freeze stopped dredging, but workers returned in early spring, removing fifteen thousand tons of ice from the dredging ponds.

>>Cleanup every couple of weeks was actually removing gold from the riffles. 

>>Gold-bearing sand remained when the gravel was washed away.

>>It combined with mercury to form a solid amalgam.

>>Paddling separated the amalgam from other material.

>>The boxed amalgam was taken to town and shoveled into a retort and melting furnace.

>>Heat separated the mercury which distilled out as a liquid to be reused.

>>More heat melted the gold and released impurities. 

>>Then pure liquid gold was poured into molds.

>>In those days it went for $35 an ounce.


$1,250,000 in gold bars (1949) sits stacked on a desk in Nome, Alaska. This would represent nearly $60,000,000 in today's market.
Archives, University Alaska, Fairbanks
Dozens of gold bars...    Gold is very heavy over 11 ounces per cubic inch.

Places to pan in Alaska (Maps and PDFs):

Nome Creek in White Mountains Recreation Area

The Dalton Highway (Large PDF)

Caribou Creek Recreational Mining Area (PDF)

Hatcher Pass Public Use Area

Petersville Recreational Mining Area (PDF)


If you are an educator interested in the gold rush make sure you go to our statewide education kits page for information on how to check out a Stampeder Kit or the Minerals Kit for use in your classroom.

Visit our brochures page for a complete listing of brochures about where to gold pan in Alaska. A teachers resource for the klondike gold rush

Yukon Gold!
Alaska Minerals
Learn about Alaska's mineral resources.
Hundreds of gold flakes in a green pan.
Gold Fever
Find out more information on gold mining or panning in Alaska!
Distant view of downtown Anchorage from across the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet. Several low skyscrapers are seen across a wide expanse of ocean. Thin, leafy bushes are in the foreground. Did You Know?
Half of Alaska's nearly 700,000 people live in the state's largest city of Anchorage, located on the Anchorage Peninsula at the head of the Cook Inlet.