Explore Gold Rush History With Kids at Crow Creek Mine

Alaska is all about gold. The color, the mineral, and the makings of a territory, so chances are no matter where your family visits during a Last Frontier vaction, gold will factor in at one point or another. From Nome to Juneau, and just about everywhere in between, kids and parents can strike it rich together with a number of family-friendly destinations with “gold fever” in mind.

Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood is history. Pure, Alaska history.

Crow Creek Mine, located in Girdwood and about 35 miles south of Anchorage, is just such a place. Operating until September 15, Crow Creek is still welcoming visitors for a historical adventure into one of the most successful placer mines in the state; some 700 ounces a day during peak operation back in the early days. Claimed originally in 1896 by James Girdwood, a businessman who eventually became the name behind the community, the mine today is one of the most popular, and most accessible, recreational sites in Alaska for gold panning enthusiasts. Owned and operated by the Toohey family since 1969, Crow Creek Mine captures the imagination of kids, and provides a big check for those who think panning for gold is like a reality television show.

Phoning home was a lot more difficult back then, eh?

That sense of accessibility coupled with a vibrant, rich history is what greets the Crow Creek guest. Hikers can access the Historic Iditarod Trail via scenic Crow Pass, sightseeing and history buffs can explore the beautifully-preserved townsite, and kids can check out tools, gear, and materials left behind from non-mechanized times. Talk about a reality check – let kids see just how difficult it was to make a phone call, back then.

Private tours offer a more complete Crow Creek experience, but wandering on your own is perfectly wonderful, too.

AK Kid tries to figure out the possible uses of a small shack on the Crow Creek Mine property.

Take a private tour; Crow Creek staff can escort any number of guests around the property, and are knowledgable and well-dressed in authentic gear, useful for splashing around in an icy Alaska creek. Or wander on your own; a helpful map describes each building, artifact, and individual who lived here. Want to try gold mining? Ask about packages that allow anyone, child or adult, the opportunity to find some color among the pebbles of the rushing creek.

Visitors can even take a full weekend to truly explore the area from the Crow Creek campground. It’s part of the parking lot, really, and has no RV hookups, but tent campers or those with self-contained units will rest well among the spruce trees, moose, and stunning views of nearby hanging glaciers. Quiet, unique, and definitely very Alaskan, an overnight here is a nice respite from the usual, and as our readers know, we love the un-usual.

Imagine how this view has changed over the years....and the truck as well!

The Crow Creek Mine is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through September 15, so you’d best hurry. The mine is located along Crow Creek Road, a left turn off Girdwood’s main drag. The road takes you 2.7 miles up a well-maintained dirt road to the entrance. Admission prices vary according to your chosen activity, so check HERE for several options.

If you decide to visit Crow Creek with kids, bear in mind that panning for gold is dirty work; pack rain pants, rubber boots, gloves, and perhaps an extra jacket for those wet days of autumn. As always, bring snacks and drinks for a picnic at one of the tables provided, and be sure to say howdy to the duck family residing peacefully in the pond. They love quacking it up!

Even kerosene lights are art at Crow Creek Mine. Ask kids how they'd like to have a lantern in their room.

Take your time at Crow Creek. History shouldn’t be rushed if we are to truly offer our children an opportunity to understand it.

For more gold mining activities, and information about family fun near Girdwood, read a few previous posts:

Workin’ In a Gold Mine at Indian Valley

Hatcher Pass to Talkeetna 

Get Your Mountain High at Alyeska and Girdwood


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