Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

Exploring the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area: Resurrection Creek




Topic:    Hydraulic Mining Strategies

Short Description: This area was (and still is) exploited for placer gold at the turn of the century.   Students can observe physical remains to get a sense of strategies used for hydraulic mining.

Required Equipment: None

Suggested Equipment: Notebook, camera

Safety Consideration: Brown Bear and Moose Habitat

Other Info: Single Pit Toilet

F6-2Helpful Resources:

Inquiry Prompts:  What’s Going On Here?

This area is opportunity rich for observing techniques and long term effects. This lesson will focus upon the small area around bridge, however this entire valley has been, and still is, being mined. Encourage students to make their own observations and interpretations.

Here are some key points for observations:

From Parking Lot: Compare mountains on east vs west

From Bridge: Look carefully along bank for unusual, unnatural rock placement.

On Trail:

  • Observe changing tree size/age.
  • Observe change in terrain
  • Observe other unnatural landscape features.


F6-3The Story:

No doubt the students will find many more features than what are mentioned in this lesson. The key thing is that this area was heavily mined for placer gold, the flakes and nuggets laying in outwash gravel. In order to get to the gold bearing gravel, the overburden (material resting above gold bearing levels) basically had to be removed. This is why this area looks like it has been turned up side down.

But alas . . . the rest of the story

From the Parking Lot:

Careful observation will show that the mountains on the east appear a bit different than the mountains on the west. This is because Resurrection Creek valley is the suture zone separating the gold-laden Valdez complex on the east and the gold-barren McHugh Complex to the west. Looking at the map on page 62 of Trails Across Time students can get a sense that all the rich placer and lode operations were in the Valdez Complex.

From the Bridge:

This is a tough one. Careful observations may reveal several circular or semicircular rings of large rock along the margins of the creek. These are prospect holes– exploratory pits to see if any gold has “pooled” under the larger rocks. The large rocks are removed and placed near the rim of the pit. These features are from recent mining exploration.

The Trail:

Terraces: Several terraces will be encountered. These are levels from which the overburden material were sluiced in the search for placer gold.

Trees:  Tree size and apparent age will provide clues to the extent of dredging. Keep walking until old growth trees (over 100 years) are observed.

Coyote Holes: Small holes dug into ground. These are recent prospect holes that were dug during the search for gold that was left after the original mining operations.


More Time to Go Up River?

This entire valley was once a thriving industrial area of mining. Look around for more signs of this time period by looking for old machine parts, ruins, and evidence of activity.