Independence Mine Historical Park
Independence Mine State Historical Park features the abandoned buildings and machinery of a 200-worker camp and hardrock gold mining operation which was one of Alaska's greatest gold producers in the 1930's. This park, less than a two-hour drive from Anchorage, is located in the rugged Talkeetna Mountains. The mine manager's house and Assay building have been restored and offer interpretive displays and visitor information. The historical spirit and a ghost-town flavor of the area can be experienced on a walking tour of the mining camp. Heavy winter snowfalls offer great cross-country skiing.
The manager's house, built in 1939, has been renovated and serves as the park's headquarters and Visitors' Center. There you can look into a simulated mining tunnel and view a hard rock display. Information and park maps are available at State Park Headquarters or the Visitors Center.
About Independence Mine
Gold! A magic word that time cannot tarnish; a soft metal with the strength to forge history. Gold was the magnet that drew thousands of adventurers to the last frontier. Though most Alaskans recognize that gold played an important part in Alaska's history, they normally think first of Nome, Fairbanks, or the Iditarod country. But even before a quarter-of-amillion gold seekers began their stampede into those famous areas, gold was discovered just southeast of Anchorage in 1886. From there prospectors spread into the Susitna and Matanuska river basins, testing the creeks in the nearby mountains.
They found hard rock (lode) gold scattered in quartz veins throughout the granite in the Talkeetna Mountains. These veins were created by hydrothermal action that filled fractures in the rock. Erosion loosened flakes of gold, and flowing water eventually washed the gold-bearing gravel into streams. Throughout the history of gold mining, placer mining has preceded lode mining, and this area was no exception. The rough-textured gold found in the bottom of pans and sluice boxes hinted at something more: a nearby source, or mother lode.
Robert Lee Hatcher discovered and staked the first lode gold claim in the Willow Creek Valley in September, 1906, and others soon followed. But lode mining was expensive for an individual operator; it required elaborate tunnels and heavy equipment, so companies merged to pool resources and reduce expenses.
What is now called Independence Mine was once two mines: The Alaska Free Gold (Martin) Mine on Skyscraper Mountain, and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain. In 1938 the two were brought together under one company, the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC). With a block of 83 mining claims, APC became the largest producer in the Willow Creek Mining District. The claims covered more than 1,350 acres and included 27 structures. In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men, blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels, and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560. Today 34,416 ounces of gold would be worth $17,208,000. Twenty-two families lived in nearby Boomtown, with eight children attending Territorial School in the new bunkhouse.
By 1942, the United States had entered World War II, and the War Production Board designated gold mining as non-essential to the war effort. Gold mining throughout the United States came to a halt, but Independence Mine continued to operate because of the presence of scheelite. Scheelite occurs in quartz veins along with gold, and is a source of tungsten, a strategic metal. But because Independence Mine's scheelite production was low, the exemption was short-lived, and in 1943 Independence Mine was ordered to close.
The wartime ban was lifted in 1946, but gold mining was slow to recover. After the war, gold could be sold only to the U.S. government at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce. Postwar inflation raged, and gold mining became an unprofitable venture. Finally, in January of 1951, after mining nearly 6 million dollars' worth of gold, Independence Mine was closed by APC, and a chapter of Alaska's gold mining history came to an end.
In 1974, Independence Mine was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, a list of cultural resources significant to American history. In the late 1970's, 271 acres of land were donated to the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation for establishment of Independence Mine State Historical Park. On January 16, 1980, title to the acreage was transferred to the State of Alaska.
Begin your tour of the Independence Mine Camp at the Visitors' Center, originally the mine manager's home. There you can look into a simulated mining tunnel and view a hard rock display. Follow the walking trails and you will see bunkhouses, warehouses, commissary and administrative offices, the "new" messhall, an apartment building, assay office, the now collapsed mill, and the tunnel entrance. Interpretive signs along the way will help you get the feel of the camp as it was in 1942.
Artifacts should be left for others to enjoy. It is against state law to remove or disturb them.
Road Conditions to Independence Mine State Historical park are subject to weather. Check conditions before attempting the drive between September 15 and April 30. The use of snow machines and off-road vehicles is prohibited within the park.
Winter Recreation Opportunities include sledding, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. The park is open to the public year-round, however, winter Visitor Center hours are limited to weekends.
Pets must be on a leash near developed facilities. Please remember, pets can be annoying to others and frequently harass wildlife.
Do Not Feed Wildlife It is unhealthy for them, and feeding ground squirrels can lead to serious bites; Squirrel Bites.
Discharge Of Firearms is prohibited at Independence Mine State Historical Park.
Private Property adjoins the park. Please respect private property, historical structures, and artifacts found throughout the area.
Friends of the Park
You are invited to join "Friends of Independence Mine", a volunteer non-profit citizens' group dedicated to the preservation, continued restoration, and interpretation of this historic area. For more information, write: P. 0. Box 91185, Anchorage, Alaska 99509-1185.