Gold Dredge Number 8 is a popular tourist destination in the Fairbanks area of Alaska. The site has a lot of historical significance when considering the gold mining history in Alaska as a whole, as it was the site of one of Alaska’s richest gold rushes.
Each year the dredge attracts thousands of visitors who come to not only learn about the history of gold mining in Alaska but to try their hands at panning for gold. The dredge sits along the old Steese Highway, midway between Fox and Fairbanks.
Some Alaskan Mining History
Gold was discovered in the Fairbanks region in the early 1900s. The news of this discovery caused a local gold rush that brought in thousands of gold miners. Many of the miners were already in Alaska working areas that the richest ground was starting to get mined out.
Within the next fewer years there were miners all over creeks, streams, and rivers within Fairbanks region panning for gold. It took just a few years for the easy gold, recoverable by traditional placer methods, to decline.
Long after most of the miners had left the area, others considered working the areas using a different method.
Bucket Line Dredges
Dredges were used throughout the world, mostly during the first half of the 20th century. They were giant floating barges, designed to scoop up river gravels and process the material to remove gold.
The huge volume of gravel that they were able to process meant that the recovered a lot gold. They could be used to mine even marginally rich gravels and still operate profitably.
Gold Dredge Number 8 was one of the most productive in Alaska. It was operated between 1928 and 1942 closing down briefly due to the Second World War. It reopened in 1946 and continued with production until 1959.
By the time it was being closed down in 1959 the dredge had produced well over 7.5 million ounces of gold.
After 1959 the mine remained closed down for several years before a few gold prospectors began recreational mining on its mine tailings.
In 1984 the Gold Dredge No.8 was officially recognized as a historic place and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Two years later in 1986, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers named mine as a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
The Gold Dredge No. 8 Today
Today this historic gold mine is a popular recreational site with many people coming from all over the world to learn about the history of gold mining in Alaska.
Viewing the dredge is a special treat, especially considering that most of the gold dredges in Alaska were torn down, destroyed, or simply decayed over time. The Gold Dredge Number 8 is in excellent condition and is a pleasure to see.
While exploring the area, visitors also get to enjoy the beautiful views and to try their luck at panning for gold. If you would love to visit the dredge then here is what you will do at the mine:
Travel like the Pioneer Gold Miners
When traveling to the Gold Dredge No. 8 you will board a replica of the famous Tanana Valley Railroad. In the early days of gold mining in the United States and in Alaska by extension, the railroad used were the narrow gauge types which are quite different from the railroads you know today.
Unfortunately for many young Americans, these types of railroads have been completely removed in many places. This is why boarding this train is of great significance as it takes you back in time and lets you feel how the pioneer miners felt when traveling along these narrow railroads.
Learn About the History of the Gold Dredge No. 8
We have touched a bit on the history of the dredge here, but if you get a chance to visit then you will take a tour of the mine and learn about the process of dredging gold during the early days of gold mining in Alaska.
You will have a chance to learn how the mine operated and how a lot of other nearby mines worked.
Pan for Gold
Once the tour of the mine is over, you can even pan for gold and find some gold for you to keep.
The site provides paydirt from the old dredge tailing from which to pan for gold. Once you are through with panning you can have the gold you find weighed and valued at the gift shop.
This is one of those unique experiences that you simply can’t have anywhere except for Alaska. If you ever make it up to Fairbanks, be sure to visit the historic Gold Dredge Number 8.