The New International Encyclopædia/Yukon Gold-Fields

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YUKON GOLD-FIELDS. It is intended to describe under this title not only the gold-mining districts situated along the tributaries of the Yukon River, but also the Nome district of Seward Peninsula, which was discovered and developed largely as a result of the operations in the Yukon region. The occurrence of gold in the interior of Alaska was known in the early part of the last century, but it was not until 1886, when the auriferous gravels of Forty-Mile Creek, a tributary of the Yukon, were found, that mining operations assumed a permanent character. Soon after this date the settlements of Forty-Mile and Circle City became the centres of a small mining industry, and further explorations made known the gold districts of Birch Creek, Mission Creek, Koyukuk River, and other streams in the Yukon basin. In August, 1896, a rich placer claim was located by a California prospector on Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, which joins the Yukon a short distance above the American boundary. This discovery may be said to mark the beginning of the present important industry. It was followed by an invasion of miners from the other fields of Alaska, and during the ensuing winter began the remarkable ‘rush’ from Canada and the United States, which was attended with terrible hardships and great loss of life. By the summer of 1898 there were over 40,000 people in the Klondike region, and Dawson had become a thriving camp with several thousand inhabitants.

The Klondike region includes approximately the area lying on the east side of the Yukon River between the Klondike River on the north and the Indian River on the south. The gold is found in gravel deposits along the courses of the small streams. Its source has been presumed to be the quartz veins which occur in the schists of the neighboring hills, but no gold-bearing quartz, in quantity at least, has yet been found in situ in the region. Most of the gold has been mined from the river-bed deposits. But in many places the terraces which lie 50 feet or more above the streams have been found sufficiently rich to repay working. The values are usually concentrated along bed-rock, sometimes impregnating the latter to the depth of a foot. Except for a few feet near the surface the ground is frozen throughout the year, and the work of thawing and excavation is extremely difficult and tedious. The gravels are washed during the summer months, usually in short sluices. The total production of the Klondike district from 1896 to 1902 inclusive was approximately $80,000,000.

The Nome district, which is next in importance to the Klondike, is situated on the southern side of Seward Peninsula, at the entrance to Norton Sound. The first discoveries were made in the summer of 1898, and the next year witnessed the establishment of Nome City, and the development of mining into an important industry. A peculiar feature of the district is that the gold occurs not only in the creek and bench deposits of the small valleys, but it is also found in the gravels of the coastal plain, which is a tundra, and even more extensively in the beach sands. The creek deposits are similar in character to those occurring in the Klondike. A large number of the small streams that drain the southern side of the peninsula have been worked, including Anvil, Cripple, Eldorado, Ophir, Solomon, and Kugruk creeks, each of which gives its name to a local district. The coastal plain in the vicinity of Nome is covered with a heavy growth of moss, and beneath this there are layers of gravel from 40 to 80 feet thick which carry gold. The methods employed in mining these deposits are similar to those used in working the creek gravels. Most of the excavation is done with the aid of steam for thawing the frozen gravels. The production of the Nome district from its discovery to the close of 1902 was about $20,000,000.