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Petersville Recreational Mining Area, Alaska

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.

Modified with additions from the Alaska Division of Mining, Land, & Water Fact Sheet October 2010 found here.

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 Legislature’s 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 someone’s mining claim. That’s 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     Downstream
Upstream and Downstream Views from Bridge at Recreational Site

How do I get to the new Petersville Recreational Mining Area?

Petersville Road leaves the Parks Highway at Trapper Creek, about 115 miles north of Anchorage and 243 miles south of Fairbanks. The first three miles are paved. The next 15.7 miles (to the Forks Roadhouse) are maintained gravel road with several outstanding view points of Mount McKinley. Beyond the Forks Roadhouse are another 14.9 miles of primitive road before reaching the downstream end of the Recreational Mining Area. It is recommended that the last 14.9 miles be traveled using a 4-whell drive vehicle or a vehicle with high clearance. Check at the Forks Roadhouse for road conditions, especially if it has been raining. There are no services beyond the Forks Roadhouse. Peters Creek must be forded to reach the upper end of the Recreational Mining Area. This ford and a second ford in the same area have been approved by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game as a vehicle crossing. Do not try to cross the creek with a passenger car. Stream crossings should follow the existing trail patterns. Do not drive either up or downstream in Peters Creek because it is important King Salmon rearing habitat. For more detailed information about stream crossing in other streams in the area, contact the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, AK 99518 or call 267-2342. The Matanuska-Susitna Convention & Visitors Bureau has a good Online Guide to the Petersville Road.

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 don’t leave any trash or litter, and be careful with campfires.

This sketch shows the approximate upper and lower limits of the north unit of the Petersville Recreational Mining Area. Recreational miners should stay within the valley floor as the higher elevations are under active state mining claims.

Petersville Recreational Mining Area Map 

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 Department of Fish & Game, Division of Habitat to use a small suction dredge.

How can I get a Fish and Game permit for suction dredging?

You need to contact Department of Fish & Game Division of Habitat at 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, AK 99518; phone 907-267-2821 or fax 907-267-2499. 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 locators’ 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 can’t mine on them without the claimant’s permission.

More information including detailed land status maps can be found at the Alaska DNR Case Abstract.

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.

What about camping in the area?


Generally allowed: Setting up and using a camp for personal, noncommercial recreational purposes, or for any non-recreational purpose (such as a support camp during mineral exploration), for no more than 14 days at one site, using a tent platform or other temporary structure that can readily be dismantled and removed, or a floathouse that can readily be moved. Moving the entire camp at least two miles starts a new 14-day period. Cabins or other permanent improvements are not allowed, even if they are on skids or another non-permanent foundation. The camp must be removed immediately if the department determines that it interferes with public access or other public uses or interests.

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. The recreational area is located within the Seward Meridian, Township 28 North, Range 7 & 8 West. If you like, you can research status plats showing the location of existing mining claims weekdays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the DNR Public Information Center (see below).

How can I get more information?

Contact the Department of Natural Resources:

Public Information Center
Robert B. Atwood Building
550 W. 7th Ave, Suite1260
Anchorage, AK 99503-5929
Phone: (907) 269-8400  Fax: 907-269-8901
TDD (Hearing Impaired): 907-269-8411
Business Hours: 10:00am to 5:00pm, M-F

Public Information Center
3700 Airport Way (Corner of University & Airport Way)
Fairbanks, AK 99709-4699
Phone: 907-451-2705  Fax: 907-451-2706
TDD (Hearing Impaired): 907-451-2770
Business Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm, M-F

Division of Mining, Land & Water
555 West 7th, Suite 1070
Anchorage, AK 99501-3579