Central is an active mining area with many private, small-scale mine operations sluicing the creeks along the Steese Highway for gold and other minerals.
Central is about 125 miles northeast of Fairbanks via the Steese Highway. The community dates back to 1894, when a roadhouse called Central House was built at Crooked Creek along the main supply trail from Circle City to the surrounding creeks of the Circle Mining District. Eventually, a small community of miners developed, providing supplies and shelter to nearby mine operations and travelers passing through.
THINGS TO DO
The Circle District Museum, one of the best small museums in Alaska, highlights the early mining history of the area. Established in 1984, the main portion of the museum is a large log lodge that houses a miner’s cabin, exhibits on early mining equipment, and dog team freight and mail hauling. Also on exhibit is the Yukon Press, the first printing press north of Juneau that produced Interior Alaska’s first newspaper. The most interesting display is the museum’s collection of gold nuggets and gold flakes, recovered and donated by local miners. Outside in a large barn are a collection of dog sleds and other artifacts including an unusual covered wagon that is covered in metal rather than canvas.
About 20 miles southwest of Central at Mile 107 of the Steese Highway is a parking area and a display for Eagle Summit and the Pinnell Mountain Trail trailhead. A climb of less than a mile leads to the top of Eagle Summit, the highest point along the Steese Highway at 3,624 feet, a great place to watch the midnight sun skim the horizon around the summer solstice on June 21. The summit is also near a caribou migration route.
With all the gold mining that takes place around Central, you may have the urge to find a little yourself. To avoid claim-jumping, gold pan wherever the Steese Hwy crosses a creek or stream, ensuring that you are on public land. There is also excellent grayling fishing in and around Central at the Chatanika River, Long Creek, and Birch Creek.
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