The Alaska gold miner interviews -
Bill Kalt of Chicken, Alaska
“In Chicken, Alaska you get down and get your hands wet…and dirty,” so says Bill Kalt who has been an Alaskan gold prospector, a commercial fisherman in Cordova, a bartender and miner in Chicken, and now a proud father of three bouncing girls all under the age of seven.
I zeroed in on the gold prospector bit right away, perhaps because I am wearing my favorite gold nugget ring bought at a jewelry store at the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage some years ago. I asked Bill what had brought him to Alaska, and to a town called Chicken in particular.
“The price of gold at the time I came here was roughly $250 an ounce. Today, the same gold that I still have is worth nearly $1400 an ounce. My dad and I came up here about ten years ago from California where we did a little dredging along the Russian River. We had a couple of claims, but nothing came of it. We had heard from some prospector friends about a place called Chicken, and it was almost springtime in Alaska anyway!”
I am curious about Bill’s first impression of Chicken, so I urge him on. “What’s the place like from a miner’s perspective?”
“I’d have to say that a person should be prepared for something similar to the ‘Wild West’ with a touch of latte! My buddy Mike and his wife, who run the Chicken Gold Camp, have been there for 35 years. Their daughter does a mean Mocha! They also have one of the better gold panning operations where you can pan for gold right then and there. I’ve seen a number of tourists and visitors walk off with some nice size little nuggets.”
“The people that work their claims are a bit rough around the edges. They work hard and play hard.” Bill rolls up his lumberman’s jacket to reveal huge biceps that developed during his time in the Alaskan Bush. I ask him about the food and lodging accommodations?
“Well the best pie I ever ate came from a little restaurant in Chicken. Homemade piecrusts and from scratch cinnamon rolls, 400 of ‘em daily during the busy tourist season, and the best fried “chicken” this side of your grandmother’s house! Chicken is unique in that they have daily plane flights in and have a historic post office that has operated continuously since 1905. Everybody knows everybody by name too. OK, so there are only 15 people that live there year ‘round!”
Bill explains that he has known it to get to nearly negative 90 degrees in the winter and swing to nearly 100 degrees in the summer, so it’s no wonder that it takes hardy men and women to live there.
“As to lodging, most people who work their claims live in their own RVs or camp. I was there not long ago and they do have a couple of flushing toilets and showers in the Chicken Creek Hotel, but most folks still use outhouses!”
Bill and his family now live in Tok, 80 miles south of Chicken, but he says with a smile that, “the round trip is worth it for that awesome pie and fried chicken and perhaps a small bit of somethin’ shiny and yellow!”