FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- Always wanted to see if you could find gold in
them thar hills? Interested in a taste of what prospecting was
like? Craving a history lesson? Try visiting Gold Dredge #8, the
only gold mine in Alaska open to the public.
Upon arrival at the Gold Dredge, visitors view a 20-minute film,
which gives them the history of the dredge and shows some of the
hardships the miners faced.
The film, shown in theaters that are converted bunkhouses,
provides visitors with a taste of how difficult the miners lives
were. It also highlights various methods miners used to thaw the
earth before gold could be harvested.
This includes driving hollow metal poles into the frozen earth
inch by inch. Water was then poured through the tubes to melt the
After the film, guests are taken on a guided tour of the
premises. Visitors are then encouraged to roam through a
historically preserved bunkhouse and the dredgemaster's
Artifacts on display include old photos of the miners, their
tools and many years of dredge records. There is also a room
devoted to fossils, which were uncovered by the miners. (It is a
truly fascinating reminder that camels and mammoths once roamed in
Afterward, guests explore the dredge, where they can see the
mining process from beginning to end.
The dredge is almost 100 feet long, and the bucket line, which
did the actual dredging, consists of 68 buckets with a capacity of
6 cubic feet. The buckets moved in a continuous loop, dumping their
contents into a funnel shaped hopper. The gravel was washed through
the hopper into a perforated rotating trommel that sorted the gold
by size. After the gold was separated, the water, gold and
remaining debris fell on to sluice boxes or "gold-saving tables."
Following the gold removal, the tailings were sorted into either
coarse or fine gravel and conveyed off the stern.
During its 30-year operation, the dredge moved only 4.5 miles
and uncovered more than 7.5 million ounces of gold. Prices for gold
remained steady from the mine's opening in 1928 at $35 an ounce
until its close in 1959. Today, the gold's estimated value would be
more than 1 billion dollars.
After the dredge, visitors are ushered to a panning shed so they
can get hands-on experience panning for gold. A bag of dirt, a pan
and a water trough are provided; guides are available if anyone
At this point, guests get the chance to learn such technical
panning terms as "levarite" (leave it right there), "deadpan" (no
gold) and "panned out" (you accidentally dumped all your dirt into
The soil is so rich in gold that everyone turns up a few flakes.
Guests can have their gold weighed and find out its value at the
Clear lockets and chains can be purchased so visitors can show
off the take.
Of course, an assortment of other goodies are available there
too, including an $800 gold chunk.
After working up an appetite, guests are treated to an
old-fashioned miner's luncheon. It includes Pioneer Stew (beef stew
with vegetables) biscuits, muffins and a choice of soft drinks. The
lunch is served family-style on long tables in a large mess-hall
Gideon Garcia, general manager of the site, says the facility is
unique because it provides hands-on interaction and feel people
leave the site enriched by the experience.
Garcia's enthusiasm has even expanded to the outdoor decor. He
is in the midst of setting up a "gear garden," using old pieces of
equipment for flower borders, objets d'art and the like.
Although the dredge is closed during the winter months, Garcia
lives there year-round. He makes sure there are no intruders, does
damage control and takes care of future bookings. To amuse himself,
during the long Alaska winter, he cuts his own ski runs.
Gold Dredge #8 is owned by Holland America-Westours, and
operated by Gray Line of Alaska. The Gold Dredge is available for
drive-up as well as to those who take a Holland America Westours or
Gray Line of Alaska tour.
Travellers who arrive at the Gold Dredge on their own can
purchase admission for $20 adults and $13 children which includes
entrance to the Gold Dredge, touring the dredge, introduction
video, exhibits, gold panning. The Miners Lunch is sold separately
at the entrance and is $8 adults and $6 children.
The Discover The Gold Tour includes motorcoach transportation
from Fairbanks hotels, and all the above including the lunch for
$58. This full tour is included in the HAW and GLA tours.
The facility does have a private mess-hall that can be reserved
Gold Dredge #8
Phone: (907) 457-6058
Fax: (907) 457-8888
Gray Line of Alaska