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Girdwood, Fairbanks and Nome Gold Rush Heritage
Girdwood, Fairbanks and Nome Gold Rush Heritage
A couple panning for gold

This is a great gold-rush-focused addition to a longer Alaska trip, or the starting point for other history-oriented travels throughout the state.

Day 1

Start the day south of Anchorage with a tour of Crow Creek Mine near Girdwood. Located just 35 miles south of Anchorage, the town of Girdwood (originally named “Glacier City”) was established in the mid 1890s as the first strikes were made in the Turnagain Arm area. Crow Creek Mine was built in 1898, and is still a working mine today. Visitors to the mine can pan for gold and take a guided tour of the historical buildings still on site, or just watch other miners who regularly work Crow Creek. Enjoy a meal at 7 Glaciers restaurant on Mount Alyeska at Girdwood’s Alyeska Resort ski area. The tram ride to the mountaintop restaurant offers a panoramic view of the Girdwood Valley, including seven hanging glaciers in the surrounding peaks. Later in the day, catch a flight from Anchorage to Nome for an exploration of one of Alaska’s most famous boomtowns.

Day 2

Spend a day working a creek in the Nome area. Local tour companies offer a variety of gold panning tours and experiences, and many can combine a day of gold panning with fishing for salmon or a visit to historical buildings and cabins from the early 1900s. To learn more about the gold rush in Nome, visit the local Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum on Front Street. The city-owned museum includes gold rush history, Alaska Native culture and Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race history, among other artifacts. Grab a photo in front of the largest gold pan in the United States, located in downtown Nome, or spend a few hours beachcombing along the coast. Beach glass, pottery and other artifacts from the city’s earliest days can be found where the Bering Sea meets the Seward Peninsula.

Day 3

In the morning, fly back to Anchorage and on to Fairbanks. The University of Alaska Museum of the North, located on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, features the state’s largest public display of gold and a wealth of information on the role gold has played in Alaska’s history. Here, you’ll learn about the founding of Fairbanks and the strike by Italian immigrant Felix Pedro that brought hordes of gold seekers to Interior Alaska. Enjoy dinner outdoors on the deck of one of several Fairbanks restaurants situated on the banks of the Chena River and soak in the long, sunny summer evening.

Day 4

Ready to get your hands dirty? A tour of Gold Dredge No. 8 offers a historical overview while teaching guests to pan for gold just like the old-timers used to. With a guarantee that you’ll find gold, you can’t lose. The tour includes a stop at the Trans Alaska Pipeline viewing area on the Steese Highway en route to the gold dredge, as well as a ride to the dredge on a replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad, a narrow-gauge railroad that operated in the area during Fairbanks’ gold-rush years. Later in the day, head to downtown Fairbanks and spend some time at the Fairbanks Community Museum and the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, both of which provide more information on the gold rush and local culture.

Day 5

Spend the day exploring Fairbanks’ delightful Pioneer Park, which features dozens of shops, small museums and historical artifacts scattered throughout a large outdoor park in the heart of Fairbanks. The Kitty Hensley House, for example, was built in 1914 and relocated to the park in the mid-1960s. It is filled with furnishings and decorations typical of an early Fairbanks home and offers and interesting window into life in the then-remote and isolated frontier town. Other park attractions related to the gold rush include Pioneer Hall, the Riverboat Nenana, the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Wickersham House, Lucky Fox Gold Mine and a large outdoor display of gold-dredge equipment. Don’t miss the nightly performance of “The Gold Rush Revue” at Pioneer Park’s Palace Theatre. Return home from Fairbanks.

 

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