Porcupine Gold Mine Tour

On this tour we had the chance to see an actual working gold mining operation.  This is no doctored up disneylandesque setup.  You will see the real guys doing the real thing.  A big front loader scoops up dirt and dumps it into a sluicing apparatus.  There are no chemicals used at this mine.  Just water and gravity is all it takes to find the gold as it tumbles through the machine.

We arranged our tour through Scott at the Alaska Adventure Center in Haines.  As one is headed through town on the Haines Highway toward the harbor hang a left on second avenue.  The Alaska Adventure Center is the first building on the right. 

A four wheel drive suburban with a soft top provides transportation up to the mine.  There are toilets at the mine.  The tour guide, Bill, also serves coffee, tea and cookies up at the mine.  The tour costs $75 per person.  Scott had coupons for $10 off on groups of four or more.  The tour departs from Alaska Adventure Center at 9:00 a.m. on weekday mornings.  The mine is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.  The tour lasts anywhere from three to four hours.

The trip begins with a drive up the Haines Highway.  Bill stopped in the famous eagle preserve and used his spotting scope to show us several nests along the Chilkat River.  Due to the warm springs that keep the water temperature above freezing, a winter run of salmon comes to spawn every year.  This allows hundreds of bald eagles to remain in Haines year round.  And because the preserve prevents human expansion into the area, the habitat remains prefect for eagles to make summer homes.  Some biologists number the summer inhabitants in the thousands.  For more information on the Bald Eagle Preserve, click over to the State's Website at www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/eagleprv.htm .

Continuing on our tour, Bill eventually left the highway and turned onto a jeep road.  Here he took a few minutes to roll off the soft top of the Suburban so we could enjoy an even better view of the breathtaking scenery.  The jeep road is definitely a 4x4 experience!  At one point Bill had to gently crawl through a washed out part of the road where the river had risen above the embankment.  The water was almost up to the running boards on the Suburban.

John Schnabel owns the mine.  Despite the fact that he is more than eighty years old he still gets out there every weekday and personally mines the claim himself.  We watched as Mr. Schnabel filled the sluice with his front loader.  We stood on the sluice and observed his assistant, Todd, working through the sediment.  He showed us the small gold nuggets that the process produced.

Bill walked us back over to “the vault” that contained pouches with dirt and gold.  Claimjumper just grabbed the first one offered, but I took my time to weigh several in my hand and pick the heaviest.  Bill demonstrated the proper technique for panning and we got busy. The nuggets on this trip are much larger and more impressive than those we panned on any other tour.   Sure enough, I panned out a nugget worth $42.00 according to Todd’s scales.  Claimjumper’s nugget?  About $28.00.

Last Visited: July 2000

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