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Wagon Wheel Ranch


JUNE 2003


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 Prescott, AZ

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Turnagain Arm  
Alaska Factoid



• Alaska has 35 million acres - 586,000 square miles



• Alaska possesses glaciers the size of Rhode Island



• Alaska possesses school districts the size of California



• Alaska has twice the coastline of the lower 48 states



• Alaska has fewer miles of highways than Vermont and fewer people than Columbus, Ohio

• Alaska has 127 State Parks, many larger than Delaware



• Alaska's major parks equal 55 million acres



• Alaska is home to 3 million lakes, 3000 rivers, 1800 islands and more than 100,000 glaciers



• Mt McKinley, in Denali National Park, is 20,320 feet high (almost 4 miles)




Russian explorers had established themselves in southern Alaska by 1784, but the English explorer Captain James Cook is credited with first exploring and describing the Anchorage area in 1778 during his third voyage of discovery.  Mistaking one of the arms of the inlet for a river, Cook named it "River Turnagain", later renamed Turnagain Arm by a subsequent British explorer, George Vancouver.  Until the advent of the Alaska Railroad, gold-mining activity throughout the Turnagain Arm and Kenai Peninsula promoted a steady influx of new inhabitants to southcentral Alaska.

The area of Turnagain Arm is a photographers paradise.  Small groups of Dall sheep and mountain goats are found in many of the mountainous areas of the Kenai Peninsula.  Although these animals are usually high on the sides of mountains during the summer months, several opportunities for viewing are available from the road.



Crow Creek Mine

A short three miles from Girdwood lies a small rocky valley whose grounds have been shaped and molded with the advances of glacier movement.  A movement which brought gold in its trails, and miners to harvest the riches.

It's said the first claims at Crow Creek were staked in 1897.  Mining operations started thereafter, and the original buildings of 1898 — Blacksmith's Shop, Barn, Ice House, Commissary, Mine Owner's Cabin, Mess Hall, Meat Cache and Bunk House — which made up the camp, still stand today.

A group of eight partners known in the Valley as the "Crow Creek Boys" could be credited with starting it all.  During the early 1900's Crow Creek was the most productive camp in the Turnagain-Knik region.  The early mining methods quickly switched from pick and shovel to hydraulic operations.

The crews pushed the gold-bearing gravel through sluice boxes by using powerful streams of water from the  hydraulic giants.  Water from the flume was carried down the hillside in 22 inch steel pipes and fed to the giants under great pressure.  Streams of water from these hydraulic nozzles rolled large boulders through the boxes with great ease.  At the lower end of the boxes, a miner operating a 6 inch nozzle stacked the tailings to one side or the other.  The lower end of the boxes had to be kept clear and free running at all times to prevent a back-up of material.

The gold was removed from the gravels in a series of sluice boxes over 200 feet long.  Each box was about twelve feet long and four to five feet square.  The first three or four boxes were water tight, as gold, heavier than the associated gravel, would fall out in the initial washing.

There is no record of the total amount of gold taken from Crow Creek.  But since Arnie Erickson took over ownership and mined the claims until World War II, the mine yielded on average 700 ounces a month.  Today at $400 an ounce, that would equate to $280,000 per month.

Mountain goats or Dall sheep are a common site along the hills while driving the highway through the Turnagain Arm area

The first claims of gold at Crow Creek Mine were staked in 1897

The largest nugget ever found at Crow Creek Mine was the size of a chicken's egg and weighed four and a half ounces

This wonderfully preserved Blacksmith shop at Crow Creek Mine shows the many tools of the trade

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