Alaska Gold Rush History and Genealogy




The Bristol Bay region includes the area drained by streams flowing into Bristol Bay from Cape Newenham on the west to and including Egegik Bay on the east and into Shielikof Straight from Cape Douglas on the north to Cape Kekurnoi on the south. The region is considered as one district.

The southeastern part of the region consists of rugged mountains, the highest peaks of which are mainly Quaternary volcanoes, some active in historic time, with summits 5,000 to 7,500 feet in altitude. The northwestern part is a lake-dotted area less than 1,000 feet above sea level; isolated hills rise a few hundred to slightly more than 2,000 feet. The Ahklun Mountains in the western part of the region make up a low, but rugged range that con¬tains large deep lakes of extraordinary scenic grandeur.

The mountains in the eastern part of the Bristol Bay region consist of rocks that range from possibly Permian metamorphosed volcanic rocks to Tertiary and Quaternary lava flows and frag¬mental rocks. The bulk of the bedded rocks are Mesozoic sand¬stone, shale, and conglomerate. Northwest of a major fault, the Bruin Bay fault, the older rocks were invaded and locally metamorphosed by the dioritic Aleutian Range batholith of Jurassic age and smaller younger felsic and mafic plutons and volcanic necks (Burk, 1965; Detterman and Reed, 1968).

In the western part of the region, bedrock is mainly Paleozoic and Mesozoic clastic and volcanic rocks and Tertiary felsic and maflc dikes, sills, and small plutons (Mertie, 1938b; Hoare and Coonrad, 1961). Between the eastern and western mountains, the region is a lowland underlain by thick glacial and alluvial deposits; bedrock is exposed only around its margins and in a few hills that protrude through the surflcial materials. Except for its north-central part, the region was glaciated and is now mainly in zones characterized by isolated masses of permafrost.

Lode deposits containing mercury, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, antimony, and iron are known in the Bristol Bay region, but little ore has been produced from them (Berg and Cobb, 1967, p. 9—16, fig. 4).

No rich placer deposits have been found in the Bristol Bay region and few were ever developed much beyond the prospecting stage. As records of mining activity are almost nonexistent, even the locations of many of the reported occurrences of placer gold are open to question. Undoubtedly gold has been found in many more places than shown on the map. The total production of the region was probably at least 500 fine ounces, but not much more than 1,000.
Most of the gold probably came from Cape Kubugakli (15) and Portage Creek (14). At Cape Kubugakli a small, steep stream drains an area of numerous small sulfide-bearing quartz veins in fine-grained igneous rock. The best values in the creek were found immediately downstream from the veins. Portage Creek is about 5 miles long and enters Lake Clark from the northwest. From 1910 to 1912 and for a few years after World War II, some gold was recovered, but the total amount was probably worth only a few thousand dollars. Desultory mining and prospecting have been reported from other streams in the same general area, but there has been no activity on them for many years.

Bonanza Creek and its tributaries, Pass and Scynneva Creeks, (12, 13) have been extensively prospected, but production probably has been less than 150 fine ounces of gold. Quartz veins, some containing a few sulfide minerals and a little free gold, are the probable source of the gold in the creek gravels. The valley of Bonanza Creek, though narrow, might be capable of supporting a small dredge or a dragline operation under favorable economic conditions. The Nushagak River and some of its tributaries, particularly the Mulchatna River, are known to be auriferous and to have been the source of very small amounts of gold in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There was, however, no commercially successful mining in the Nushagak basin. Farther west, on Trail Creek (7), a headwater tributary of the Togiak River, there are signs of placer mining, but the results are not known.

A reconnaissance study of the U.S. Bureau of Mines (Berryhill, 1963) of beach sands around Bristol Bay failed to discover major concentrations of valuable minerals. Although an atypical sample from a beach south of Egegik (9) contained nearly 250 pounds of iron per cubic yard of beach material. There were traces of flour gold in a few samples from this beach and similar deposits on the northwest shore of Hagemeister Strait (1- 6), where there was a small stampede in 1937 following overoptimistic reports by prospectors. Gold recovered from beach deposits around Bristol Bay was worth no more than a few hundred dollars. The beach gold probably was mainly reconcentrated from glacial deposits; some from Hagemeister Strait may have been derived from nearby sulfide-bearing veins.

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