Gold panning guide to Chicken, Alaska
With the gold price per ounce being at $1,343.40 today, you should not turn your nose up at panning or mining for gold in Alaska at the moment. And if you want to get the feel of it without staying to freeze your fanny off, a trip to Chicken, Alaska is just what your stockbroker ordered. In the summer that is!
Chicken, Alaska…the very mention of the town name brings smiles if not downright belly laughter. Why do they call it Chicken you ask? Seems that in the late 1800’s early miners traveled long distances in search of gold. Food was often hard to come by and ptarmigan, a bird that resembles a chicken, and tastes fairly good too, was the culinary delight at the time. The ptarmigan is now the state bird of Alaska. In 1902, the area was the second place in all of Alaska to become incorporated as a town. The name Ptarmigan was suggested. However, no one could agree on the correct spelling. The town fathers did not want to become the brunt of jokes – so they decided on “Chicken.” Oh, the ultimate irony!
In its heyday, the town boasted 400 or so hearty souls, but today there are around 14 permanent residents. In the summer when everyone else returns, the population grows to around 200 to 300 folks, most who come back to work their mining claims or cater to the visitors and tourists who try their hand at finding the elusive shiny stuff.
You won’t need to use picks and shovels to stake your claim. Recreational gold panning is available and many have walked off with descent gold samples. Federal patent mining claims are available for your mining adventure and one source claims that 1/10 of an ounce of gold lies in each ton of dirt anywhere in and around Chicken! Today, most local miners use suction dredging methods and are always on hand at the local watering hole, the Chicken Creek Saloon, to tell you a tall tale or two. Most of the miners are crusty sorts who hate city life, work hard, and came to remote Alaska to get away from the mundane and ordinary.
There are a number of amenities that travelers can select from when planning a trip to Chicken such as cabins and the famous Chicken Creek Hotel, established in 1905 and still operating. RV hook-ups are available and plenty of places to camp if you are not afraid of the wild life. One tough prospector claims to have waited 30 minutes for a herd of caribou to pass by his truck on the Taylor Highway before he could make his way into town one spring. Wolves, wolverines, moose, lynx, and porcupines have been spotted often and the fact that the area around Chicken is surrounded by scenic beauty adds to the photo opportunities.
So if finding gold is on your “bucket list” and you’re anxious to see if you too can strike it rich, “get the cluck over here,” as one Chicken resident articulates. There is more to do and see in Chicken that meets the eye! A warning is in order however, there are only a few modern flushing toilets and showers in town - the other facilities are the outhouses!