During July of 2016 I prospected Alaska. It was my first trip to this magnificent state. The trip had many goals, time with family and friends and Fortymile District Alaska Gold Prospecting. I am planning on spending every summer in Alaska from now on.The Fortymile District is largely claimed up but there are places to prospect for the adventurous. There is even the public Jack Wade Creek area. Keep in mind this is Alaska and the further out you go the more prepared you need to be. Cell phones and internet do not work anywhere we traveled in the Fortymile District . I’m used to that in the lower 48 as I venture many places to prospect deep offgrid however, Alaska is immense.I needed to do some research prior to the trip to understand my options. I’ve been a miner for 30 years but only in the lower 48. One thing that I had never experienced before is prospecting in permafrost. Permafrost is a thick sub-surface soil layer that remains frozen in every season. And permafrost in very similar to digging in hard rock.
Laszlo arrived a few weeks before me and my success depended largely on learning from him. One of the lessons he taught me is that you have to stop digging when you hit frozen ground and let it thaw out before you can dig more. That might be a few hours or even a day. We only had hand tools and detectors. Next year I’ll bring a dredge. The other lesson was that often the banks of the creek would cave in on your diggins. That often means double the effort with digging to work a pay streak.
Our prospecting operation was simple for the most part. Dig in as much material as you could, classify the material and recover the gold with a sluice. I was the digger, Amy the classifier and Amanda the sluice tender. When I was detecting Amanda and Amy panned and sluiced on their on. I also used the detector to locate small nuggets in the frozen creek wall for Laszlo. I brought my Minelab SDC 2300 as it’s waterproof and compact. Other prospectors we met were dredging, highbanking or panning. There was really no average take. I saw people recovering anywhere from less than a gram a day to over a half ounce per day. Part of this goes back to a simple equation, process as much material as you can and also sample to find a good location and then work it hard.
As a successful detectorist a few things I have learned over the years are to be observant, patient and persistent. These lessons served me well in Alaska. I had miles of dredge piles to detect, endless benches and lots of creek walls. With only an SDC 2300 with an 8 inch coil you have to pick and choose your battles to detect nuggets.