Independence Mine State Historical Park

Though most Alaskans recognize that gold played an important part in Alaska’s history, they normally think first of Nome, Fairbanks, or the Iditarod country. But even before a quarter-of-a-million gold seekers began their stampede into those famous areas, gold was discovered just southeast of Anchorage in 1886. From there prospectors spread into the Susitna and Matanuska river basins, testing the creeks in the nearby mountains.

They found hard rock (lode) gold scattered in quartz veins throughout the granite in the Talkeetna Mountains. These veins were created by hydrothermal action that filled fractures in the rock. Erosion loosened flakes of gold, and flowing water eventually washed the gold-bearing gravel into a stream. Throughout the history of gold mining, placer mining has preceded lode mining, and this area was no exception. The rough-textured gold found in the bottom of pans and sluice boxes hinted at something more: a nearby source, or mother lode.

Robert Lee Hatcher discovered and staked the first lode gold claim in the Willow Creek Valley in September 1906, and others soon followed. But lode mining was expensive for an individual operator; it required elaborate tunnels and heavy equipment, so companies merged to pool resources and reduce expenses.

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What is now called Independence Mine was once two mines: The Alaska Free Gold (Martin) Mine on Skyscraper Mountain, and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain. In 1938 the two were bought together under one company, the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC). With a block of 83 mining claims, APC became the largest producer in the Willow Creek Mining District. The claims covered more than 1,350 acres and included 27 structures. In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men, blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels, and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560; today $17,208,000. Twenty-two families lived in nearby Boomtown, with eight children attending the Territorial School in the new bunkhouse.

By 1942, the United States had entered World War II, and the War Production Board designated gold mining as nonessential to the war effort. Gold mining throughout the United States came to a halt, but Independence Mine continued to operate because of the presence of sheelite. Sheelite occurs in some of the quartz veins along with gold, and was a source of tungsten, a strategic metal. But because Independence Mine’s scheelite production was low, the exemption was short-lived. In 1943, Independence Mine was ordered to close.

The wartime ban was lifted in 1946, but gold mining was slow to recover. After the war, gold could be sold only to the U.S. government at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce. Postwar inflation raged, and gold mining became an unprofitable venture. Finally, in January of 1951, after mining nearly 6 million dollars’ worth of gold, Independence Mine was closed by APC, and a chapter of Alaska’s gold mining history came to an end. In 1974, Independence Mine was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, a list of cultural resources significant to American history. In the late 1970’s, 271 acres of land were donated to the Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation for establishment of Independence Mine State Historical Park. On January 16, 1980, title to the acreage was transferred to the State of Alaska.

Resources
Independence Mine Official Site

Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the most popular National Parks in Alaska. Denali National Park & Preserve features North America’s highest mountain, 20,320-foot tall Mount McKinley. The Alaska Range also includes countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. Denali’s more than 6 million acres also encompass a complete sub-arctic eco-system with large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose.

The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917. The original park was designated a wilderness area and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The Park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976.

Today the park accommodates a wide variety of visitor use including wildlife viewing, mountaineering, and backpacking. It continues to provide a laboratory for research in the natural sciences.

Resources
Denali National Park and Preserve Official Site

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management’s primary responsibility is to manage public lands. In Alaska, its focus is conveying land, providing interagency wildland fire management, overseeing the Joint Pipeline Office (a partnership with the state and other federal agencies with oversight responsibility of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline), and responding to the public demand for use of public land.

Most of Alaska’s land is under federal ownership. Four laws – the Native Allotment Act, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the Alaska Statehood Act, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) tremendously affect the land mass administered by the federal government.

The Native Allotment Act of 1906 requires the adjudication of hundreds of small acreage sites throughout Alaska which must be settled prior to completing the final survey and transfer of lands under both the ANCSA and the Statehood Act. The Alaska Statehood Act of 1958 requires the transfer of 104 million acres to the State of Alaska, while ANCSA requires transfer of 44 million acres of public land to Native corporations. ANILCA set aside 80 million acres for inclusion within the national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges and wild and scenic rivers.

Campbell Creek Science Center

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Chugach National Forest – Begich, Boggs Visitor Center

At the head of Portage Valley, fifty miles south of Anchorage, at the end of scenic Turnagain Arm, lies the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. You are invited to come experience it, as living glaciers continue to carve the landscape and shape the life on the Chugach National Forest.

Built on the remnants of a terminal moraine left by Portage Glacier, the Visitor Center is staffed with Forest Service interpreters available to answer questions, assist with trip planning, and provide programs on the historical and natural wonders of the valley.

The award-winning film, “Voices From the Ice” is shown hourly and provides a spectacular view of many glaciers and wildlife. The visitor center currently houses exhibits demonstrating “glaciers on the move” with insight into the retreat of Portage glacier.

Although Portage Glacier is no longer visible from the Visitor Center, due to its retreat, the face of the glacier is still partially in Portage Lake.

The Visitor Centre was open for public visits since 1986 and has been continuously surprising its visitors with its share of new exhibits, just as traders seem to be excited with the new features of the Bitcoin Trader Robot. Visitors have the chance to learn a lot about the famous Chugach National Forest, which is the second largest national forest in the United States of America. In addition to award-winning displays, the Center offers several educational presentations including documentaries of scientific interests. Entry fee for adults is $5, while entry is free for kids who are 15 and below. Admission to exhibits and films are included in the entry fee.  

Begich, Boggs Visitor Center Hours of Operation
Facility

Summer Hours

Winter Hours
BBVC 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Seven days a week.
May 25 to October 1 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday-Sunday

Directions

The turn off for Portage Valley Road and the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center is located approximately 50 miles south of Anchorage or 77 miles north of Seward on the New Seward Highway #1. Turn onto Portage Valley Road and go approximately 5 miles to the end. Follow the road to the right and there will be a turn-off to the Portage Glacier Lodge on the left. Keep following the road as it loops around. The first road off to the right after you pass the lodge is the road to the Ptarmigan boat dock. Lake front parking is just up ahead and if you continue towards the visitor center, there is available parking with special areas for busses and larger vehicles.

Resources
USDA Forest Service in Alaska Chugach National Forest Official Begich, Boggs Visitor Center Page

Your Connection to Alaska’s Public Lands

The Alaska Natural History Association is your connection to Alaska’s national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, state parks, and other public lands.

Alaska’s natural landscape is as large and rich as its cultural history. The Alaska Natural History Association is the nonprofit educational partner of Alaska’s public lands dedicated to sharing Alaska’s rich natural and cultural heritage. The Association is a bookstore, a publisher, an educator, and a supporter of public land educational programs. You can trust the Association to offer the best available information about the natural and cultural heritage of Alaska’s most amazing places.

Within the pages of this website you’ll find:

Alaska’s most complete online bookstore for public lands featuring a variety of top quality products from books and maps to speciality items

Information to help you plan your travel in Alaska and links to Alaska’s public lands

Experiential education courses offered through the Denali Institute, a program of the Association

Ways to become a member and the benefits you’ll enjoy

Alaska Natural History Association Mailing List
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