Workin’ in a Gold Mine

AKontheGO Kid’s favorite movie is ‘Snow White’, not for the princess factor, of course (blech), but for the scene where the intrepid Seven Dwarves are dig, dig, diggety, digging away in their mine, where ‘a million diamonds shine’. Hi Ho, Hi Ho.

Giving into the child’s pleadings to stop at the Indian Valley Mine along the Seward Highway last weekend on our Saturday drive, AKontheGO Fam spent a lovely afternoon among other gold-seeking visitors. Located at Milepost 104, about 25 miles from Anchorage, the Indian Valley Mine is a quick left turn into a smallish parking lot with a sign proclaiming the Alaskan summer hours of 9 a.m.-9 p.m. For a mere $1 per person, visitors can peruse the grounds where Peter Strong, an old prospector who dug a gold mine in the early 1900’s fashioned his own tools and equipment to survive along Turnagain Arm. His tool shed was mecca to the boys in the family, as everything from cider presses to crampons to traps was available for looking and touching, not often found in a museum setting, and very welcome to boys who just have to know how everything works.

A short stroll up a weedy path leads to the original entrance to the mine; a hole set so deep in the ground you’d miss it if you weren’t careful. An interpretive sign describes in detail the history of the mine and a fence built out of tree branches keeps little ones safely corralled. We found a certain delight in peering into the dark hole, wondering who would have been brave enough to crawl into the dank space on a daily basis just to find a rich vein.

Back at the main building; a log cabin with gifts, snacks and a lovely deck area where rocking chairs just about beckon with words to get you to sit and while away an afternoon gazing out at the Arm and the eagles soaring above. Incidentially, we had to while away some time as a car accident northbound stopped traffic for at least a half-hour, but we were happy up on our little platform of paradise.

Three big metal tubs sit in the yard, along with several flocks of ducks and geese and a fair amount of Tonka trucks and cars (you’ll see why this is significant in a minute). Helpful family and friends of the owner, including a delightful gentleman named Dave, give short lessons on gold panning and offer loads of paydirt for costs ranging from $10-$100. We bought a little container for $10, which actually was plenty for two-and-a-half people, and followed Dave’s tutelage.

We swished, we slopped, we tilted and tipped, and after about three minutes of patient, studious gold panning, AK Kid was done, hence the value of ducks, geese, and trucks. AK Dad and I subsequently finished panning, however, showing dedication worthy of a sourdough. Our result was three vials of such things as gold nuggets, garnets, and jade. Not too bad for $10.

The day was sunny and enhanced by the squawk and quack of ducks, the shouts from other kids of “I found some!” and the whistle of an approaching Alaska Railroad train. We spent all told about two hours at the Indian Valley Mine, and we all enjoyed ourselves, even AK Kid, who by the end of the afternoon was filthy dirty but happy enough to have explored the grounds and been pecked by ducklings. Why not.

Who would enjoy this attraction most? ‘Tweens for sure; the allure of finding more gold than anyone else is strong, and kids will enjoy the funny stories of the sourdough miners. In fact, a summer birthday party at the Mine would be a stellar way to get outdoors and accomplish something. Plan on shelling out at least the $10 for a load of dirt, but parents, it is a great way to talk with your kids while not looking directly at them (you with ‘tweens and teens will know what I am talking about).

Not fancy, not showy, but definitely Alaskan; the Indian Valley Mine is a little diamond in the not-so-rough. Give it a chance and spend a great day with your family. Call 907-653-1120 or email for more information.

Posted in Big Kid, Day Trips, General Travel Info, Good Deals.