The Chisana Gold Rush Adventure

“These guests want to go to the gold mines. We’ll be at the mines and Chicken Creek, I think for the whole trip. They have gold fever. If they decide on some fishing, we can just head over to the lakes.

Copper mining inspired some of the early prospectors to travel to what is now the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, but it was the discovery of gold in Chisana (pronounced Shoo-shana) that began the last great gold rush in Alaska.

America’s last great historic gold rush was how many term the brief boom and excitement of the discovery made by Four-Nels Nelson, Billy James, Matilda Wales and Fred Best along with the Alaska Native nicknamed Shushanna Joe in May of 1913.

The Chisana Gold Rush brought a stampede of between 8,000 and 10, 000 people to the area which gave it the honor of being the largest log cabin town in the State of Alaska.



AK Geographic photo of the Chisana Gold Rush

By 1916 the last historic gold rush was already fading and by an account from Milton Medary, a hunter who visited the old gold rush town in 1924 described it as “452 cabins in which one man lives alone.”

Pioneer Outfitters was founded in 1924. Chisana is hidden deep within the Wrangell Mountains and is only accessible by air. The artifacts and flumes, remains of an era gone by are locked in this land for ever.

On the Chisana Gold Rush Adventure, we will pan and dredge for gold in the cold glacial creeks. We will show you what remains of the last Historic Gold Rush.

Gold PanningAlaskan Sourdough Jim, a lifetime gold miner of Chisana, will show us how gold was found, how you will find it, the science and pure luck that had equal influence on the prospectors more than a century before.

When I spent my first week up at the mines, years ago, it was an experience that changed the way I thought about everything I had learned and experienced since coming to Alaska.

The first time you watch gold appear in your pan, that you are holding with fingers you cannot feel, it isn’t a surprise as much as recognition. The knowing.

Laying on your stomach for hours picking at a crevice in the rock with tweezers, seeing for the first time, each time, a solitary chunk of gold, just sitting there, not a flake, but an actual piece of gold. Then another, and another. The understanding.

Exploring the old Shushanna whore house, seeing the pieces of what would have been luxuries in the tea cups and the remains of the wall paper that had been glued to the interior logs, the divided rooms, for privacy instead of the bigger and fewer (usually only 1-2) rooms with multi uses as most cabins were made.

Picking goldThe history is there, a tea cup, broken now, sitting on a rough-slab table, a buckled, high heeled shoe laying in the corner of what had to have been a closet. You can see what remains of the fabric, used as a curtain and the scraps still clinging to the log walls, of what was surely an attempt at wall paper.

It is an amazing Adventure. One that fills your soul with the knowledge that you came, at some point, from those dreamers, those frightfully brave people that crossed glaciers, rivers and wilderness for the chance at something more.

There has always been “more” here in Chisana. More feeling, more freedom. More space, more need. For me. For you.

Book YOUR Chisana Gold Rush Adventure, NOW!


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7 Responses to The Chisana Gold Rush Adventure

  1. That would be a fun and interesting trip. I had no idea that Pioneer Outfitters was so old! Such great history. I appreciate getting the correct pronunciation of Chisana from you! I never would have figured that one out on my own!!
    I think I’d have a blast mining / panning / picking away for gold…laying on my belly, staring at minutia for hours on end. I do that wwith family history (not the belly part) and understand how you can get lost in the search!

    • Betsy,
      I was lucky enough a few years ago to spend a couple of weeks with one of the old miners up at the old gold mines. The history is unbelievable. The sheer will power and physical endurance of these old prospectors is unlike anything I had ever encountered. I was flabbergasted at the science involved. I had had no clue! And hard work? More like hard labor! It was the toughest, coldest work I have ever done. Period.
      ~ It was quite the experience, being out-done by a gent more than three times my age! LOL, I have an enormous respect for the miners I would have never had without that experience.
      ~ Amber-Lee

  2. Wow..452 abandoned cabins to explore..well I know there’s not that many left..but how cool! Kind of amazing the got there, rugged terrain to cross for sure! one of those fishing lakes named Double Dog Dare??? LOL

    This sounds like a fun adventure except for numb hands..I think I’d do the pick in rocks with a tweezers!

    As Always ~*~

    • Ann,
      No, not that many left now… but so much does still remain. It is a wonderful Adventure, and a beautiful spot to have it in.
      LOL! No lakes named “DDD” but Kaleb did get a really nice picture of your lake yesterday! Ha! Picking at the crevices for gold is my own favorite part too, actually. Although I did get unbelievable stiff laying there for hours! It probably didn’t help that I just stayed there and let the boys haul the buckets away for the screens! And, yes, it is a rush to find the gold, just sitting there, where you are digging… but I dunno, I certainly did not catch “the fever”!!
      ~ Amber-Lee
      P.S. I’ll make sure we go up there, it really isn’t that far away. I wouldn’t want to round-trip it, but it certainly can be fit into an overnight unless you catch the fever!

      • Oh boy..I bet that “DDD Lake” still has a foot of ice on it..LOL..

        I don’t think I’d get the fever to try though esp. in a place where so many came to do just that..history I love history! There’s got to be a few spirits still wandering up there..

  3. Oooh, this is really, really good. I’ve panned for a fleck and been truly excited. I never would’ve made it in the gold rush…I would kicked some ass and staked my claim for all those nuggets!

    Miss your ass…look what’s happened to our G+! I don’t know what to do about it, either!

    • LOL! I can see you defending your “claim”, Jayme!

      Where did you get to pan for gold? When? How long did you work at it? (Because in my opinion- it IS work!!)
      Miss your Published butt too, Miss #RockHot!! I have no clue what happened to Bloggers Unite. It is kinda cold and scary over there. We could always build a fire! LOL
      ~ Amber-lee

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