This place was originally called the Fairbanks Exploration Company gold dredge #3. It was established in 1923 as a gold mining operation. Between 1926 and 1957, some $70 million worth of gold was extracted from this lake. At one time the population of the mining camp reached 10,000, making it bigger than Fairbanks, Alaska!
The dredge ceased operations in 1962. It changed hands several times before Jane Haigh and Patricia Peirsol bought the property in 1997. Haigh is a historian and a professor at Kenai Peninsula College. Rather than turning it into a tourist attraction, like some other historic gold dredges, the co-owners left the dredge equipment as it was, to preserve a piece of Alaska history.
The steel framework and equipment still mostly survive, though they were heavily damaged by fires in 2013 and 2016. It is popular with local sightseers as it is just 25 miles outside of Fairbanks just off Steese Highway. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Know Before You Go
The gold dredge is easily accessible by taking the old Steese Highway out of Fairbanks, Alaska. It is approximately 25 miles outside the city. The owners of the nearby Chatanika Lodge are happy to give final directions to the dredge.
This is private property, but there is no security or admission charge. The terrain is steep in places and rocky. Wear good hiking boots. You visit at your own risk and emergency services are not readily available! Be respectful of nature and do not litter or build any campfires.
Please keep in mind that this is a wilderness area. Bear and other predators may be present. Some visitors opt to carry firearms with them for protection.