Gold Panning In Alaska
Although the official Alaska Gold Rush lasted just three years between 1896 and 1899, gold panning has remained one of the most popular activities throughout Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, both recreationally and professionally. There’s still believed to be plenty of gold left to discover within the rivers and streams of Alaska, with new sources being flushed from the rocks over time, and many die-hard prospectors make a living from gold panning. Recreational panners may not be quite so lucky, but for amateurs the thrill is often in the adventure and the possibilities, rather than the find.
Of course, in the professional world where there’s big bucks at stake, gold panning is quite a serious business, so many of the more promising areas can be explored by permit only. Fortunately, there are still a number of gold-filled waters where recreational panners are welcome, including Hatcher Pass, Caribou Creek, and Petersville. For travelers arriving into Anchorage, either by an Alaska cruise tour to the Port of Anchorage, or by airplane into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Petersville is perhaps the most accessible, located just 145 miles north of the city.
Gold panning, rather than the more involved gold mining, is a gentle introduction to prospecting, and is an excellent activity for families, especially those with young children who will relish the excitement of finding real gold. It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to entertain the kids, as all a recreational panner really needs is a small shovel and a pan. Pans are widely available in traditional mining regions, but today many are made from plastic as a way to reduce costs. For the authentic panning experience, it’s worth paying more for a metal pan, just like the prospectors used back in the 1800s. Of course, those who decide to take the activity further will need more equipment, including a sluice pan, a grizzly pan, magnifiers and tweezers, but these items really aren’t needed for a beginners’ expedition.
Although the Alaska panning experience in itself is a fascinating adventure, and helps travelers to learn about some of the most important history of the state, what many want to know is what they’ll find lurking underneath the waters. Unfortunately for both panning amateurs and mining pros, the world’s largest gold nugget is unlikely to be found in Alaska. Although there is much debate over what can truly be considered the largest nugget in the world, the contenders come from California, Australia, and Brazil, and Alaska isn’t particularly known for producing notably large specimens. Instead, gold flakes are much more common in the state, and there’s a wealth of precious and semi-precious stones to be found, too.
Gold panning in Alaska is an activity that suits nearly everybody, even those who aren’t too keen on donning rubber boots and wading through streams can enhance their Alaska experience through panning. There are many gold-focused tours available throughout Alaska, and while some take visitors to privately owned land to try to strike it rich, others take travelers to professional mining spots to watch prospectors at work, seeing the stages of the process from start to finish. It really is worth a go, however. And even if you come away empty-handed, you can always rely on a gift shop to offer up some small pieces of real Alaskan gold for sale.