What is great about visiting Alaska is that there is a lot of living history that you can see. Gold Dredge #8 is no exception and this attraction is rich in history with a hands-on experience. Located on Alaska Highway 2, Gold Dredge #8 is an easy 30-minute drive from Fairbanks International Airport.
The Alaska Pipeline
You will walk underneath the Alaska pipeline as soon as you enter the site. Our guide, Tim did a great job in explaining the building of the pipeline, the challenges faced during construction and what it takes to keep the oil flowing from the North Slope to the Alaska port of Valdez, a distance of 800 miles.
The building of the pipeline was a direct result of the first energy crisis in the early 1970’s and the need to lessen our reliance on Middle East Oil. It is also at this time that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created as a cartel to control the price of crude oil.
Construction of the pipeline began April, 1974 and began transporting crude oil in July, 1977. The pipeline had to be constructed on permafrost and withstand a magnitude 8.5 earthquake. Alaska crude oil contains a small percentage of wax that ends up lining the interior of the pipe. A scrubbing device called a “pig” is inserted at the beginning of the pipe and is pushed along the length of the pipe to scour the inside of the pipe.
The Tanana Valley Narrow-Guage Railroad
After learning about the pipeline, it is time to head over to the dredge. You will board the train which will transport you to and from the dredge. During the train ride, our guide Tim explained the gold mining process both on small, medium and large scales. Panning for gold is small scale and Gold Dredge #8 is large-scale gold mining on steroids.
When you arrive at the dredge, you will learn about the amazing living history contained in the dredge. Afterward, you will see a demonstration of proper gold panning techniques.
Panning For Gold
Your tour of Gold Dredge #8 comes with this hands-on activity. You already saw the panning demonstration so it is time to head over to the troughs. When you enter the troughs, you are handed a “poke” sack filled with concentrate. You pour the concentrate into your gold pan and use the water and effective panning techniques to separate sand and rocks from the gold.
Now it is hands-on time. Each poke sack has some amount of gold in them. Who will find more gold?
When we finish panning, we put our gold in a canister and take it in to have it weighed. We combined our gold which weighed in at 3.3 grains and was worth about $20.00.
Gold mining using water is called placer mining. Placer mining can be worked as:
- Small scale using a gold pan and a stream,
- Medium scale using a sluice box or
- Large scale using a dredge and high-pressure water nozzles.
Gold dredge #8 was a beast on steroids. This monster would scoop up earth around the clock and reduce it to gold-laden concentrate. The concentrate would be further worked until just the gold remained. It was in operation from 1928 off and on until 1959.
This enormous dredge consumed massive amounts of water and electricity. It was very efficient and it could operate with just a six-man crew.
Overcoming the need to supply the dredge with water and electricity was only the beginning of the issues for gold dredge 8.
In 1942, the War Productions Board inacted order L-208 which effectively shut down gold mining until the end of world war II.
In the 1930’s, the price of gold was set by the United States government at just $35.00 per ounce. Since the price of gold is allowed to float under market conditions, will dredge #8 come back? The price of gold might make it profitable but this beast would not comply with OSHA and EPA rules. The dredge is here for you and your family to enjoy.
Visiting Gold Dredge #8
You can learn more about this adventure by clicking here.
- Tours run three times per day,
- The cost is $45.95 for adults and teens, $29.95 for children aged 3-12,
- Duration: two hours and
- Walkability: easy.
Gold Dredge #8 is truly a magnificent piece of living history. Before oil in Alaska, there was gold and this dredge produced a lot of it. This is an excellent experience for adults and children. If you turn your gold into jewelry, you will carry a keepsake of your trip to the dredge.