The Petersville Recreational Mining Area has been set aside by the state of Alaska so people can experience some of the thrill of prospecting for gold. The site generally has smaller gold but some dredgers have done well at finding larger pieces. A nugget weighing just under 1/2 ounce was reported by a suction dredger in 2003. Bedrock around the bridge is a good place for the casual panner to find a little gold by scraping out pockets and crevices. The bedrock has streaks of iron mineral and there are graphite slate hot rocks here that make metal detecting a major challenge.
Steve's Mining Journal for details and photos of the area. The Matanuska-Susitna Convention & Visitors Bureau has an
Online Guide to the Petersville Road.
The following information on the Petersville Mining Area is courtesy of the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining.
From Fact Sheet Alaska Division of Mining Ė April 2004 Petersville Recreational Mining Area
A new state law designates two areas of public land near the Petersville Road (southwest of Denali State Park) for recreational mining and other general public recreation. The new areas were proposed by Senator Rick Halford as part of a bill sponsored by Representatives Tim Kelly and Gene Therriault. The Legislatureís action confirms an idea first proposed in 1993: to give Alaskans and visitors a place where they could find good "color" in their gold pans without worrying that they were jumping someoneís mining claim. Thatís a problem in most gold-rich areas because of existing mining claims staked under state or federal law. To prevent this conflict, both units of the Petersville Recreational Mining Area are closed to the staking of new mining claims. The new area will give the public a chance to gain first-hand experience in recreational mining, help celebrate the Gold Rush Centennial, and maybe take home a few gold nuggets.
Upstream and Downstream Views from Bridge at Recreational Site
How do I get to the new Petersville Recreational Mining Area?
Although part of the new area is still in the process of being acquired from the federal government, the north unit is already in state ownership and open to public use. Access is via the Petersville Road. Petersville Road leaves the Parks Highway at Trapper Creek, about 115 miles north of Anchorage. The mining area is a little over 30 miles from the highway. The last few miles of the access route are rough, recommended only for four-wheel drive vehicles, vehicles with high clearance, four-wheelers, mountain bikes, and the like. Peters Creek must be forded to reach the upper end of the Recreational Mining Area. Do not try to cross the creek with a passenger car.
How will the Petersville Recreational Mining Area be developed?
The new law requires the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a plan for the management, use, and development of the area, including the mining methods that can be used while still protecting important habitat such as for salmon in Peters Creek. The Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Transportation will participate in the management plan, with full public input. In the meantime, the unit is already open to use.
What facilities are there now?
There are no developed campsites, sanitation facilities, drinking-water supplies, or trashcans at present. Visitors should be prepared for self-sufficient, low-impact camping. Please donít leave any trash or litter, and be careful with campfires.
What kind of mining can I do?
Recreational gold panning, mineral prospecting, or mining using light portable field equipment, such as pick and shovel, pan, earth auger, or a backpack power drill or auger are allowed without any permit. Also, you can obtain a permit from the DNR Office of Habitat Management & Permitting (OHMP) to use a small suction dredge.
How can I get a Fish and Game permit for suction dredging?
Contact OHMP at 550 W. 7th Ave, Suite 1420, Anchorage, AK 99501; phone 907-269-8690 or fax 907-269-5673. Suction dredging in Peters Creek closes at midnight July 15th each year to protect salmon habitat.
Can I state a mining claim in the Petersville Recreational Mining Area?
No, new mining claims are not allowed.
Are there any mining claims already in the area?
There are no mining claims within the Petersville Recreational Mining Area, but plenty of them outside the boundary. The Department of Natural Resources clearly marked the upstream and downstream ends of the north unit during the summer of 1997, and is looking for a way to show the side boundaries too. In the meantime, you can avoid any conflict by doing your prospecting and mining only on the Peters Creek valley floor, not up Cottonwood Creek or on the higher ground where there are likely to be mining claims. Any minerals within the boundaries of these claims are the property of the claim owner. Please respect the mining locatorsí rights under the laws of the State of Alaska. Of course, you are free to walk across these mining claims or use them for camping, hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, and other recreation, but you canít mine on them without the claimantís permission.
What else can I do in the area?
The Petersville Recreational Mining Area and surrounding public lands are highly popular for hunting, fishing, hiking, four-wheeling, snowmachining, cross-country skiing, and dog mushing.
Where can I get detailed maps?
You can purchase topographical maps that show more detail on the area at the Earth Science Information Center, 4230 University Drive, Room 101. Ask for USGS Topographical map Talkeetna C2. If you like, you can research status plats showing the location of existing mining claims weekdays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the Department of Natural Resourcesí Public Information Center (see below).