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Gold Rush & Pipeline

Gold was found in great quantity in the Fairbanks area at the turn of the 20th century and the pipeline was built in the 1970s. These two significant historic events are integral to the foundation and prosperity of Fairbanks.

Gold Rush

Gold Nugget AlaskaItalian immigrant Felix Pedro’s initial 1902 gold strike coincided with Captain E.T. Barnette’s building of a trading post on the banks of the Chena River, and the gold rush to Fairbanks was on. The town has grown over the last century, but Fairbanks still has operating gold mines and embraces its colorful gold rush roots. Today, visitor attractions and fun-filled events celebrate the historic quest for gold. See the largest public display of gold in the state at the university’s museum. Visit the Pedro Monument or try your hand at gold panning. Find that perfect gold nugget souvenir to take back home. Discover one of the many reasons Fairbanks is called the “Golden Heart City.”

Pipeline

The amazing trans-Alaska oil pipeline is an engineering feat of the highest order. The 800 mile (1,288 kilometers) pipeline crosses three mountains ranges and 34 major rivers through some of the most rugged and remote terrain on earth. Starting at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean, the pipeline runs below and above ground to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free point in America. The iconic pipeline is one of the longest in the world and was built to withstand earthquakes and permafrost as well as to allow caribou migration. Construction started in April of 1974 and the first oil flowed through the pipeline on June 20, 1977. The pipeline transformed Fairbanks and the state of Alaska in many ways, providing a large number of jobs and infused Alaska’s government with a large amount of capital.

 

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum Sourdough RoadhouseFountainhead Antique Auto Museum

What do the Argo Limousine, the McFarlan Type 125 and the Heine-Velox Victoria automobile all have in common? They are all part of Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum’s incredible 85-plus vehicle collection showcasing the best of America’s automotive history prior to World War II. Several of Alaska's earliest cars are also on display, including Alaska’s first automobile built in 1905 by a man who had never seen a car.

Most of the vehicles date to Fairbanks’ gold rush era and as a result, vintage clothing and other exhibitions have been paired up with the automobiles giving visitors a portal into the past. The Valdez-Fairbanks trail that was followed by gold seekers in 1902 as they headed to Fairbanks for the big gold strike is featured in a popular display. Dress up in vintage fashions, climb into an antique automobile and have your photo taken using your own camera in front of a replica of the original Sourdough Roadhouse that was once situated along the Valdez-Fairbanks gold rush trail.

Golden Heart Alaskan
Dr. Vladimir Shpikerman
Dr. Vladimir Shpikerman
Golden Heart Alaskan

Over time, the Fairbanks mining district became Alaska’s largest producer of gold, earning it the title “America’s Klondike.” 15.4 million ounces of gold, or about one third of all the gold recovered in Alaska, were won from mineral deposits within 25 miles of Fairbanks. Beginning in the 1920s, the renowned USSR&M Company built a fleet of eight bucketline stacker dredges to mine the Fairbanks area. From 1928 to 1965, the USSR&M Company dredges produced 4.2 million ounces of gold, about equal to that won earlier by gold rush era miners. Large-scale mining development resumed with the startup of the Fort Knox mine in 1996, and through the end of 2016, more than 6 million ounces of gold has been produced there by mine operator Kinross Gold Corporation. Smaller-scale gold miners still mine gold in the area.

-Tom Bundtzen,
Alaskan geologist and mine historian