In the Mining Valley, you can view some of the equipment used in the early mining operations. The large water spout is called a monitor or a giant. It was used to wash large amounts of soil and rock from the hillside to make it easier for prospectors to remove gold. Steam shovels, like those in the Valley, helped to reduce some of the backbreaking labor of those early days. Pioneer Park’s steam shovel was also used on the Panama Canal and in Hawaii before it was brought to Alaska during the Gold Rush.
Gold was discovered in Fairbanks in 1902 by Felix Pedro. Those who missed their chance in Dawson stampeded into the Tanana Valley to mine. The first year wasn’t very successful and many of the miners quit and left. The miners didn’t realize that gold lay 100 feet or more under the permafrost. Once discovered, output increased, and by 1913 $66 million dollars in gold was mined. Around 1910, gold mining began declining, not because of the lack of gold, but because of a decline in trees that were used as fuel to thaw the ground and provide the necessary water pressure for sluicing. The mining technique included clearing the land of brush and trees in the fall, digging shafts in the winter, using fires to thaw the ground and the dirt would be hauled to the surface, and repeating the process. Then, in the spring, they would use a sluice box with slats to catch the gold while water washed away the silt and gravel. (Gold is heavier than both silt and gravel.)