Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lost Chicken Hill

Lost Chicken Creek is a small tributary that drains southeast into the South Fork of the Fortymile River about a mile southeast of Chicken. Near the head of Lost Chicken Creek, the valley is separated from that of Chicken Creek by a gravel-capped terrace about 200 feet above Chicken Creek which, according to USGS reports, is richly auriferous. Placer mining on Lost Chicken Creek occurred along the creek and more extensively on a bench at the head of the creek, following the the discovery in 1895. The Lost Chicken Creek placer deposit is often referred to as Lost Chicken Hill. The deposit has been mined from about 1901 to the present, making it one of the longest continually mined deposits in Alaska. 

The original discovery and early mining occurred on the bench between Chicken Creek and Lost Chicken Creek. The bench deposit was initially mined by drifts run from shafts 33 to 53 feet deep. 
The creek and bench gravels have also been mined by hydraulic, bulldozer, and sluice box methods. Lost Chicken Creek was one of the major gold producers of the Fortymile mining district in the early 1900's. Ground mined in 1902 averaged about $1 per square foot of bedrock at $20 gold. Placer gold occurs in the lower part of the gravel and on top of bedrock; the gold is mainly small, flattened pieces. Good-size nuggets are rare, but one weighing nearly 1.5 ounces was found before 1936. The fineness of gold mined from 1935 to 1936 ranged from 820.75 to 845.75 parts of gold per thousand and from 121 to 155 parts of silver per thousand.  A mean of seven assays indicates an average fineness of 842 parts of gold per thousand and 144 parts of silver per thousand; this is higher fineness than gold from the nearby Chicken Creek and Myers Fork placers. 

The rocks in the vicinity of Lost Chicken Creek are granitic rocks of the Taylor Mountain batholith of Triassic age and upper Paleozoic greenschist-facies metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks (Werdon and others, 2001). These units have been cut by high-angle faults. The bedrock at the head of the creek exposed by placer mining is quartz diorite cut by a Tertiary basalt dike (Mertie, 1930 [B 813-C]). Quaternary alluvium and colluvium deposits are extensive in the valley of Lost Chicken Creek; they largely consist of gravel and lesser silt and sand overlain by muck. Placer gold mining of these deposits has exposed numerous Pleistocene mammalian fossils including rare birds, mammoth, horse, bison, musk oxen, Saiga antelope, Yukon ass, moose, elk, wolverine, saber-toothed tiger, caribou, collared lemming, an extinct American lion and bison. Placer concentrates mainly contain magnetite, ilmenite, garnet, jasper, amethyst, wood agate and zircon.

Lode gold in the Lost Chicken area Gold was detected in sheared and altered diorite or quartz diorite in a bedrock cut in the Lost Chicken placer gold mine Fortymile River area Alaska by HL Foster. Gold in bedrock only rarely has been found directly associated with placer deposits in the Fortymile River area and other placer districts of the Yukon Tanana upland. When the mine was visited in early September 1980 good cuts in greenish gray highly sheared diorite or quartz diorite were exposed about 2,000 m above the mouth of the Creek The rock contained abundant sulfides and much of it was stained yellow and orange brown. Six grab samples of bedrock were collected from one cut and analyzed for gold by RM O Leary using the atomic absorption method. Two of the six samples contained 0.10 ppm gold. Gold was not detected in the other four samples limit of detection 0.05 ppm. The samples which contained gold were stained orange brown and one had many visible sulfides. These bedrock analyses suggest that some Lost Chicken placer gold is probably locally derived from sheared mineralized diorite.

The “upper pit” at the Lost Chicken placer gold mine in east central Alaska contains fossils that provide information on the flora and insect fauna of interior Alaska just before the onset of global cooling at 2.5 million years. Fossils come from sediments interbedded with the Lost Chicken volcanic ashbed (dated at 2.9 ± 0.4 million years—early Late Pliocene) and portray the floodplain and valley of a small creek within a region dominated by a coniferous forest richer in genera and species than the present one. Climate was wetter and less continental, and there was probably little or no permafrost. At least one other Pliocene volcanic ashbed (the Fortymile tephra) occurs at the site and is also associated with plant and insect fossils. Among these fossils are extinct plants and insects like those found at other Tertiary sites in northern Canada and Alaska. The Lost Chicken sequence is the same age as the Beaufort Formation on Meighen Island, more than 1000 km to the north. Like Lost Chicken, Meighen Island sediments contain fossils representing a diverse boreal environment.

In 1994, we had the opportunity to lease the western edge of the Lost Chicken claim block. We spent part of that season stripping and mining one 'cut' which was over 50 ft deep against the hillside, but it was worth it as can be seen in the pans and jar of 998 oz below.

In 2011, BS Gold Ventures LTD entered into a purchase agreement with the owners of Lost Chicken which 'went through the ringer' before finally being consummated 2 1/2 years later. Finally, in February, 2015 the deal was closed. Chicken Gold Camp has an arrangement with BS Gold Ventures for recreational mining access to the claims. Starting in the mining season of 2015, BS Gold Ventures will be mining the remaining deposit on Lost Chicken Hill and Chicken Gold Camp intends to provide limited access for recreational activities.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Myers Fork

Myers Fork is a small creek about a mile north of Chicken that drains southeast into Chicken Creek. The creek flows through a high-angle-fault bounded, structurally down-dropped basin that preserves a wedge of Tertiary gabbro and sedimentary rocks. The structural basin is bounded to the south and east by the Taylor Mountain batholith of Triassic age and to the north and west by upper Paleozoic greenschist-facies metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks. In the headwaters of Myers Fork, the upper Paleozoic metamorphic rocks are in high-angle fault contact with the Chicken pluton of Jurassic age to the north.

 Quaternary alluvium and colluvium deposits are extensive within the Myers Fork area and Chicken Creek valley. They largely consist of gravel and lesser silt and sand overlain by muck.  Many Quaternary terrace gravel benches of possible glaciofluvial origin occur up to 600 feet above the creek. Along Myers Fork, at least four bedrock benches are recognized below the stream gravels. Near the lower part of Myers Fork, the alluvium is as much as 15 feet thick, and silt and muck over it is about 11 feet thick.

 Most of the gold on the east side of the creek occurs on top of a clay- and silt-rich layer and in fine gravels just below it, a few inches above bedrock. Very little gold is present within or on top of bedrock on the lower end of the creek. The gold is not extremely coarse, but there have been nuggets found that weigh over an ounce including at least one 3 oz nugget. Placer concentrates contain mostly magnetite and ilmenite, as well as minor garnet, barite, scheelite, and zircon. A potential source for placer gold in Myers Fork is the Purdy lode gold prospect, which is located on the ridge just north of the creek. Myers Fork has been mined by drifting, sluicing, bulldozer, and hydraulic methods. Placer gold was produced from the late 1890's to at least 1940, and intermittently in the 1970's. Production in 1904-1907 that included that from Myers Fork, Lost Chicken , Stonehouse Creek, and Ingle Creek  totaled about 18,835 fine ounces. Small scale, recreational mining has produced several hundred ounces in the past few years.

Garret Romaine wrote an article about Chicken Alaska for the "Gold Prospectors" magazine several years ago which mentions Chicken Gold Camp's operation on Myers Fork ( Below is a picture of a one ounce gold nugget specimen found by one of Chicken Gold Camp's customers:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One of Chicken's colorful Sourdoughs...

One more piece of Chicken’s history was “pulled” into place this week, literally. The old Allis Chalmers HD7, which had belonged to Bob McCombe, a long time resident of Chicken, was drug out of the brush where it had quietly rested for at least the past 25 years and was moved to Chicken Gold Camp and added to the historical collection that compliments the Pedro Dredge.

 R.S. (Bob) McCombe, one of Chicken’s latter day pioneers, arrived in the Fortymile in 1938 at the age of 36, having been born at the Isle of Man and seeing a lot of the world as a young man. One of Bob’s early ventures in the Fortymile was in freight. He saw possibilities for supplying the miners of that time and started the Fortymile Freight Co, hauling merchandise from Dawson to Jack Wade, a rough 80 miles, for 3 cents a pound. Bob met and married Molly in 1940 at Jack Wade and shortly after found himself delivering old equipment to Whitehorse to construct the Alaska Hwy for the World War 2 effort. During the war years, Bob and Molly lived in Fairbanks and were involved in freighting enterprises on the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. 

After the war, they returned to the Fortymile, purchased a dozer to do some contract freighting for a dredge company in the 60 Mile and ultimately purchased the roadhouse in Chicken from the Power’s Estate to provide for locals and the occasional overnight visitors who flew into Chicken. Bob obtained a contract to improve the Chicken airstrip and other local airstrips with his Allis Chalmers dozer. Bob and Molly were eventually bought out by the F.E. Co, who used the roadhouse for their dredging operations on Chicken Creek. Bob and Molly then moved to South Fork and established another roadhouse. Bob later entered politics and was elected to the first State House after statehood. Though Bob had traveled the world, he and Molly called Chicken their home and lived out their remaining years on their mining claims along the Mosquito Fork.

During Bob’s residency in Chicken he wrote 2 books, “Capetown South Africa to Chicken, Alaska” and “Alaska on the Cover”. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Winter's silence is broken...

Interior Alaska is a land of extremes. The sub-arctic climate has but two seasons according to popular descriptions: summer and the rest of the year. From October through mid-April, the reign of winter is absolute.

The arrival of summer in late April/early May is announced by the thundering sounds of breaking ice on the larger rivers. After months of silence, the event seems as sudden as it is spectacular. First, the smaller streams and rivers thaw sending currents of water out over the river ice or swelling the flow from underneath. As the flow increases, the river ice is lifted and begins to move. Motion causes the frozen masses to splinter and shatter, releasing ice floes which tumble down the valleys shoving away everything in their path. As the ice slabs rush downstream knocking each other to bits, they often lodge together forming temporary dams backing up acres of water. Pressure builds until the dam collapses and the new torrent hurtles ice and uprooted trees over the river's banks. Watching the mountains of ice alternately building and falling, one is filled with a sense of awe and gratitude for the return of life and light to this northern land. Soon enough, the air will heat up to nearly 100 in nearly round-the-clock sunlight, but now, for a few brief spring weeks, the battle will rage between winter's fading grip and summer's coming triumph with snow squalls, hail storms, warm, sun-soothing mornings, icy cold-windy afternoons, brief cold rain shower and hot dry dust devils. 

During this brief interlude between the silence of winter and business of summer, it is not only the creeks and rivers that stir to life; the land and sky are alive with the migration of all who come to partake of the intense sub-acrtic summer. No longer is the silence of the land dominant. The constant murmur of creeks to the roaring of swollen rivers is a backdrop to the sudden beat of hooves of passing caribou, unmistakable calls of Sandhill cranes passing overhead in their seemingly effortless journey north or the drumming of the ruffed grouse in  their spring mating ritual. The ponds and lakes are busy with cackling geese and quacking ducks and soon, the noisy chorus of wood frogs and winnowing sound of the male snipe. It will be late September before the silence begins to return so might as well join in symphony...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chena Hot Springs

After a week in southern Arizona, it felt good to back in Alaska scrambling to get as much done in Fairbanks as I could before heading for Chicken with 5,000 lbs or more of supplies for the rapidly approaching season. During the day, I connected with Bernie Karl and was invited out to Chena Hot Springs for the evening to have dinner and see Bernie's latest developments, so I left a few items on the list for Sunday morning and headed up up to Chena on a beautiful spring afternoon. The 60 mile drive from Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs is a delightful drive through mature birch and white spruce stands along the Chena River and it's various tributaries with sporadic views of the surrounding alpine heights and distant Alaska Range. The river and streams are just breaking up with the runoff from rapidly disappearing winter's snow pack and dotted with arriving ducks and a few geese and cranes checking out the newly open waters.

The small lakes and ponds interspersed between the meandering bends of the river are still ice covered with a few preserved moose tracks frozen in time.


After 30 miles of travel through the Chena River State Recreation area, an area rich in offerings for outdoor enthusiasts, the road ends at Chena Hot Springs (CHS),


Besides being a great destination for guests wishing to soak in the "healing waters", visit the Aurora Ice Museum (the only year round ice built palace on the globe) and relax in the oldest resort in Alaska, there are a number of research projects in agriculture and alternative energy, mostly tied to the geothermal presence.                        

I did not have time to tour the geothermal power plant, or the absorption chiller used to keep the Ice Museum frozen, but did spend some time with Bernie in the greenhouses and checked out his work on LEDs and solar tubes.  

After exploring the incredible green production in the geothermally heated and LED lit greenhoues, I had no choice but to order one of the super salads for dinner. Exquisite! A little over 10 years ago, when I first met Bernie shortly after he and his wife Connie first bought CHS, Bernie  would expound upon his vision for a self-sufficient resort entirely driven by the geothermal local activity. They have come a long way since then not only in direct geothermal applications, but also solar, wind, hydrogen, energy storage and LED research and manufacturing and a few other yet to be revealed pilot projects.
There are not many people who have gone as far out on a visionary limb as Bernie and made it all happen within a decade. Hat's off to you sir!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Welcome Home!

Ten pm (Alaska time), somewhere halfway between Seattle and Alaska the feeling of “going home” grabs me. I first made this flight to Alaska in 1972 and have made many since, mostly during the winter months. But I don’t think I have ever made the trip north in late April and never to Fairbanks. Leaving drizzle-foggy Seattle at 9 pm, the sky is dark in every direction, but now, halfway home, the northern horizon is beginning to show a dusky twilight as if we were headed east into a new dawn.

I love to travel and I am comfortable calling almost anywhere a temporary home. This particular trip, I am headed home from southern Arizona after visiting my mother in Tucson. Lou and I have made many trips to southern Arizona's Santa Cruz River watershed over the past 25 years. We have always been comfortable here in mid-winter and have often dreamed of making a winter home somewhere in the area. The last few winters, we have spent months camping in the various "islands in the sky" mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona and occasionally peruse the real estate market, particularly around Patagonia and Tubac. Last winter we got a little more serious about finding a spot to be more permanent than a camper in the mesquite, but after submitting an offer for a respectable deal and wading part way through the paperwork, it was not meant to be.

This winter, for various reasons, we didn’t make the journey south, but we continued to keep abreast of new real estate listings via the internet, which I now know, does not present a necessarily accurate picture of places for sale. I promised my mother that we, or at least I, would pay her a visit before spring, so after procrastinating all winter, I finally made the trip this week. The timing may have been perfect for various reasons...spring snowstorm in Chicken, desert flowers in southern Arizona and a possible connection with a potential winter retreat; we’ll have to wait to see. I spent some time checking listed properties and one, a foreclosed home on 5 acres in the Tumacacori mountains, felt like the right fit (and maybe the right price). After making a “steal it from the banks" offer,  I have spent the past few days enamored with the thought of a new winter place to visit and explore, even a mystical arch in the Tumacacori Mtns that reportedly provides entrance into another world, but even so, the feeling of my real home will probably always apply only to Alaska. Now, about a half hour after starting this scribbling (I’m a slow writer), the northern horizon is growing brighter with a layer of burnt umber topped by a light shade of yellow-green and then shades of bluish-turquoise before rapidly fading into the darkness overhead (you northern travelers will know what I mean); the light beckons, calling me to the only place I have ever felt was truly home. 

Now, another half hour has past as I have gazed out the window into the increasing light and dimly lit mountainous landscape passing beneath us. It is after 11pm and the light continues to grow; another happy homecoming. Welcome home! I never feel like a stranger in this place called Alaska.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A perfect night...almost


A perfect night! Absolutely transparent after several days of spring bloggy weather. Shining sliver of a moon is keeping Venus company in the fading twilight of the spring arctic sky. It's 10:30 and the afterglow of the sun setting over 2 hours ago is now more northerly than westerly as we move rapidly closer to the suns summer dominion over the north country. It's so so good to be here in this place! Not that this place has much of what most people desire; it's partly what it doesn't have that makes it a place that I am happy to call home.

This place called "Chicken" doesn't have a Home Depot or Walmart with or without a bomb scare in the parking lot; it doesn't have a swat team, police squad, not even a policeman. We almost never hear a siren of an ambulance or trooper and never from the fire department...we are too distant. We don't have a utility company; no water, gas, telephone or electricity and no monthly utility bills. We're off the grid...all the way off and I have no complaints. We each provide our own utilities, if we want them. We don't have a mayor, no city council and no city manager; we don't have local politics. Not missing anything there! No dog catcher, no attorneys, no bankers. We don't have a traffic light and never will. We don't have sidewalks, bike trails, golf carts lanes...don't need them. We don't have j-walking laws, parking authorities, speeding tickets; can't speed, the one and only road isn't good enough. We don't have pan-handlers or homeless shelters; nobody is homeless that doesn't want to be. No TV and no talk radio (unless you want to subscribe to a satellite provider); no Katie Couric, no Bill O'Reilly, no Diane Sawyer, no Ed Schultz and no Rush Limbaugh. No long commutes to work, so need to listen to the liberal-conservative yin-yang. And because we don't have or need any of these things, we don't have taxes; no sales tax, property tax, no income tax, at least not State. Sure, we still get our annual bill from Uncle Sam, but no where, not even Chicken, is perfect.

Some of the things that we do have, most people don't want. I try, but I know I can never put into words the feeling of living so far away in an ever encroaching zoo of humanity. It's not that I am anti-social; actually the opposite. I just prefer to have my space, my solitude and time to enjoy the natural world without the blemishes imparted by a busy man-world. I play my part in the operations of the State, the U.S. and the world as I'm sure all of the 10 or so residents of Chicken do. But I like the concept of being able to turn it all off when I want and at the same time being an integral part of the working whole...from a safe distance. Certainly technology enables us to be here, at a distance, and yet participate out there. And it provides ways to live off the grid comfortably and inexpensively. So to those of you "out there", it sure is an almost perfect night here.