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Bertha Creek Public Mining Area, Alaska

Most of the following information was derived from GOLD PANNING, A guide to recreational gold panning on the Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, Alaska (1997) found here  - See the full text for more information and details. Some of the information in the publication is out-of-date and so additional notes have been added when needed.

Bertha Creek Panning Area

An early prospector named this stream after his daughter. Hand placer and hydraulic mining began in 1902 and may have yielded up to 600 oz. of gold. Most gold came from the alluvial fan below the canyon.

Bertha Creek crosses the Seward Highway 2.6 miles south of Turnagain Pass. Lower Bertha Creek lies within a withdrawal that extends for 1,300 feet on either side of the Seward Highway from Turnagain Pass south to Petes Creek. Bertha Creek is available for recreational panning from its junction with Granite Creek upstream to the powerline crossing (see Figure 7). Granite Creek, however, is closed to recreational mining because of its salmon spawning habitat.

Map to Bertha Creek

Bertha Creek south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula

The upper portion of Bertha Creek flows through a glacier-carved valley. Slate bedrock is sporadically exposed for 850 feet along the creek starting 150 feet above the Seward Highway bridge. This stretch usually gives the best panning results. A rough trail can be followed up the east side of the creek. The tan-colored clay layer on bedrock is a good bet for gold that ranges from flaky to nuggety. Single pans have produced pieces up to 1/4-inch long. The rust-colored quartz float in the stream bed occasionally contains pyrite cubes and may be the placer gold source.

Gold has also been panned from nearby Spokane, Lyon, and Tincan Creeks; the withdrawal includes the lower portions. An informal pull-off where the Seward Highway crosses Spokane Creek provides parking for one or two vehicles. Lyon and Tincan Creeks are accessed from the Turnagain Pass rest area. Parking, camping, and picnic sites are available at the Bertha Creek Campground. Motorized vehicles are restricted to established roadways in this area.

Bertha Creek location map
Bertha Creek Public Mining Site

Mining rights and guidelines

Here are a few simple guidelines that all recreational gold panners should know.
  • Follow all national forest rules such as camping limits, discharge of firearms, use of trails, etc. These regulations are found in Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), with general prohibitions in part 261. Copies are available at Chugach National Forest offices in Anchorage, Girdwood, and Seward. Regulations may or may not be posted.
  • The Chugach National Forest defines recreational gold panning as the use of hand tools and light equipment including gold pans, suction dredges (4 inches or less), rocker boxes and sluice boxes.
  • Gold pans and manual-feed sluice boxes are allowed year-round in streams listed in this booklet. Four-inch nozzle or smaller suction dredges are allowed in salmon streams from May 15 to July 15 only with a permit from the Department of Fish & Game Division of Habitat 333 Raspberry Rd, Suite 2068 Anchorage, AK 99518 phone 907-267-2821 fax 907-267-2499. Dredges with larger than 4" nozzles may be used but require that the operator file a Notice of Intent with the District Ranger. Bertha Creek is not a salmon stream and so is open to dredging year-round.
  • Work only the active stream channel or unvegetated gravel bars. Do not dig in stream banks!
  • Recreational gold panning does not allow you to build structures, cut trees or dig up archaeological historical or paleontological objects. Nor does it give you the right to obstruct others in recreational pursuits.

Recreational gold panning on lands withdrawn from mineral entry is not a mining activity--it is a privilege. Be aware that panning, sluicing, and suction dredging can adversely affect water quality, thereby impacting vegetation, fish, wildlife, and ultimately people.

During the process of separating soil from minerals, silt may be washed into streams, creating turbid water. Fish, fish eggs, and the aquatic insects have difficulty living in heavily silted water because of its reduced oxygen supply.

Avoid washing soil and vegetation into streams, and do not dig in stream banks. This increases silt in the stream and is also dangerous. Many banks are unstable and can slide without warning.

To reduce silt, dig only in active stream gravels. Return rocks or boulders moved during your efforts to their original positions. Aquatic insects, an important food source for salmon, often make their homes under these rocks. A little care will help ensure a healthy water ecosystem for both miners and anglers.

 Good luck and good prospecting!