Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hatcher Pass

Thursday we took a road trip in our little Honda to Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine. That trip took us through some very scenic alpine country (Hatcher Pass has an elevation of 3,886 feet). Below is a picture taken near the top.The road winds through Mat-Su Valley before climbing into the mountains.
The first gold nugget was found in these mountains by a man named Hatcher in 1906. One man by himself could not mine the gold as heavy equipment and elaborate tunnels were needed. The ruins of the mine are still there and gives an idea of how big this operation was during the first 40 years of the twentieth century.
This mine produced about six million dollars worth of gold until WW11 when the government decided that it was nonessential to the war effort. During its peak years it had 204 men working in the mines and eventually 22 families became part of the community. A little city, Boomtown, was established. A school was even started in one of the bunkhouses. So besides the ruins of the mine we were also able to see bunkhouses, apartments and stores around the various buildings connected with the mine operations. One of the bunkhouses can be seen behind John in the picture below. Some of the apartments are still in fairly good shape, complete with furniture. Unfortunately we could only peer through the windows. No effort has been made to make this town into a museum, probably for lack of funding.
John brought his own little pan to mine for gold. In the above picture he is washing out a pile of little rocks from the creek to look for gold nuggets. Several girls from a summer camp located in Anchorage were intrigued by the whole process and thought for sure John was going to strike it rich. If nothing else he entertained them for awhile.

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