Dredging Fairbanks’ Pioneering Past

Fairbanks was full of fun for us, with plenty to see and do. We met someone today who spent part of one day in Fairbanks (on their honeymoon). We asked them what they liked. Fortunately, they found Chena Hot Springs and loved it. Ironically, the hot springs are over an hour NE of Fairbanks. Every city and town has gems, neat things we want to find. Usually we miss a lot of things. In Fairbanks we also found a lot of gems.

University of Alaska Museum of the North has the most prominent site on not only the university campus but in the entire city. The museum sits high on the hill overlooking the city and the campus both.

We went to Pioneer Park for the salmon bake. The salmon, crab, and cod were all great. We heard the prime rib was good too but we had protein aplenty without it. Nice to sit with a different group of our caravaners, get to know some other folks.

Pioneer Park has a lot to see. Before dinner we walked around the old town, browsing inside some of the historic cabins and little galleries. Several of the cabins were attended by docents who explained the cabin’s significance in Fairbanks’ history and explained a little about the cabin’s previous owners.

Although not in Pioneer Park, this apartment balcony’s flowers are representative of the lush flower blooms we saw throughout Pioneer Park, our campground, the visitors center, and in other towns in Alaska so far. We’ll be showing more, but thought this was pretty neat to have so many at one balcony.

Fairbank’s Visitor’s Center was a treat for us. Outside is a very nice log cabin, original to its site and in great condition still. Inside the visitor’s center are displays representing life in Alaska in different seasons and several movies we enjoyed watching. Free wifi, a lot of information, and lots of interpretive ranger-types made it a very friendly, attractive, and accommodating visitor’s center.

It’s a matter of priorities — even if we had known then what we knew ten or twelve years later, we might have provided just the same aid. The USA provided immense numbers of planes, equipment, and ammunition to the Russians through the Lend-Lease program during World War II. Our priority was to help Russia defeat Hitler’s invading army. Fairbanks erected this gorgeous monument to honor the many men and women who piloted and otherwise assisted in the transfer of the war material to Russia.

Dredge #8 isn’t as immense or storied, perhaps, as Dredge #4 near Dawson City. But the overall presentation here was more fun and we enjoyed it. We carpooled to the attraction and filled up bench seats in open cars on a narrow gauge railway. Live picking and singing kept us occupied and less cold while we waited for a tour bus to deliver its participants to our train ride.

This train toured us around the old mining site and showed live examples of several different types of gold mining all in use at some time in Alaska. They showed us panning a claim, digging a drift mine, hydraulically blasting rock and dirt away to expose gold, and dredging.

After the tour we tried our hand panning from a small handful of gravel the tour company provided. Between us Deb and Jim found $28, or 1/57 of an ounce. It is apparently not really worth even this much because we lack a buyer for this small set of flakes. One more souvenir, eh?

We enjoyed Fairbanks, finding plenty to do and see. We weren’t finished but it was time to go. Next stop? Denali National Park. See you there!

Jim and Debbie
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3 responses to “Dredging Fairbanks’ Pioneering Past

  1. How could I forget to mention ProComm Alaska, the excellent two-way radio supply and service company in Fairbanks and Anchorage? We found ourselves seriously wanting for a good mobile CB antenna for our truck’s rooftop NMO mount. You can’t find these just anywhere, despite these being the very best type CB antenna for your truck. Finally I wised up, browsed for “two-way radio Fairbanks”. Number one hit = ProComm Fairbanks, just blocks from our campground. Called Lisa, she has the very antenna I want in stock. No sales tax and the lowest price anywhere. The same antenna available on the internet for ten dollars more plus $45 shipping to Anchorage.

    “Look honey, I saved $55 shopping today”

    And the antenna is great. Very good match, 1.2 : 1, and looks nice up there. Thanks, ProComm Alaska and Lisa!

  2. If I were a newspaper, I would hire you to be my travel writer/editor/photographer. Good coverage of your experiences in Fairbanks.

    • Funny, Richard, I just told Debbie yesterday I feel too much like a travel writer. “Go here and be sure to taste the blackened rockfish; go there and be sure to see Miss Hensley’s cabin, it’s so well done; go to this museum and you’ll love this and that and that.” Boring boring.

      The pictures are fun but I think I’ve started to let them dictate too much the prose. Will see if I can somehow break in something new, still with pictures. If I were really skilled, I could just use pictures. . .

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